By Emily Shields
This Saturday at Del Mar Racetrack will be the 30th running of the $500,000 TVG Pacific Classic. The 1 ¼-mile contest features some of the top horses in the country competing for a place in history, as some of the previous editions have produced one superstar after another.
Just two years ago, Accelerate won the Pacific Classic en route to taking the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs. John Sadler then wheeled right back to win again with Higher Power in 2019; that runner is slated to be in the gate this weekend.
Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Dubai World Cup (G1) winner California Chrome also added the Pacific Classic, turning back the great mare Beholder to romp home in 2016. California Chrome earned over $14.7 million with 16 wins in 27 starts. He won four of five starts at Del Mar, including the Hollywood Derby (G1) on the grass as a three-year-old.
Three-time Breeders’ Cup heroine Beholder is the first and only filly to win the Pacific Classic. The daughter of Henny Hughes won 18 of 26 lifetime and won the Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch before taking the Pacific Classic by 8 ¼ lengths. That was a record margin until Accelerate won by more than 12 lengths three years later. Richard Mandella trained Beholder, who was his fourth Pacific Classic winner.
Mandella’s other Classic winners include Breeders’ Cup Classic hero Pleasantly Perfect, Gentlemen (Arg), and Dare and Go, who snapped Cigar’s 16-race win streak in 1996. Longshot Dare and Go was able to streak past Cigar after that runner was caught in an early speed duel, much to the shock of the assembled crowd.
Jockey Mike Smith has won the Pacific Classic four times, which ties the record with the late Garrett Gomez. Smith’s most recent Pacific Classic win came on Shared Belief, a brilliant runner who won 10 of his 12 starts. He was a five-time Grade 1 winner in California before his untimely death in 2015.
Shared Belief’s sire, Candy Ride, won a four-horse Pacific Classic in 2003, and went on to be one of the top stallions in racing. The Argentinian sensation could win on dirt or turf, short or long, and was unbeaten in his six starts. He was retired to stud after the Pacific Classic win.
Lava Man, Free House, General Challenge, and Game On Dude are just a few more of the great California-based runners who took the Pacific Classic. Best Pal was the first in 1991; his owner John Mabee was involved in creating the classic race. The only horses to win the Pacific Classic twice are Tinner’s Way and Richard’s Kid. Catch the 2020 Pacific Classic live on TVG this Saturday.
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