Updated on 09/17/2011 11:08PM

Borrego breaks through in Pacific Classic

Lava Man leads into the stretch as Borrego (second from left) makes a wide sweeping move after the leaders under Garrett Gomez in Sunday's Grade 1, $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar.

DEL MAR, Calif. - For the last 18 months, trainer Beau Greely had faithfully started Borrego in some of the nation's major stakes, always coming away with a loss. Along the way, Borrego placed in eight stakes, including a second in the Hollywood Gold Cup last month and a 10th in the 2004 Kentucky Derby.

Sunday, all those frustrations came to a sudden halt. Dismissed at 11-1, Borrego rallied from ninth to win the $1 million at Del Mar, the colt's first stakes win in his 18th start.

"We'd always hoped he would develop later in his career," Greely said. "This was special. A horse that tries you have got to love."

Ridden by Garrett Gomez, Borrego rallied wide on the final turn to win by a half-length over Perfect Drift. Lava Man, the 3-2 favorite, set a quick pace and held third. He was later vanned off because of soreness, according to track stewards.

Borrego ($24.40) finished 1 1/4 miles in 2:00.71. A closer throughout his career, Borrego had an ideal trip in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic.

Gomez had Borrego in ninth for the first mile, as many as 12 lengths behind pacesetter Lava Man, who set fractions of 22.68 and 45.90 while being pressured by Surf Cat. It was not until midway on the final turn that Borrego reached contention. With a six-wide rally, he closed in tandem with Choctaw Nation to be within 3 1/2 lengths of Lava Man at the eighth-pole.

As Lava Man tired, Borrego and Perfect Drift rapidly closed ground. Borrego reached the front in the last 50 yards.

"We had some momentum going," Gomez said. "I think Choctaw Nation helped my horse. When he got close, my horse buckled down and kept going.

"I knew he had it in him and Beau knew he had it," Gomez said of Borrego winning a stakes. "We had a lot of confidence in this horse. We knew it was a matter of time before he broke through."

Perfect Drift finished second in the Pacific Classic for the second consecutive year.

"He came with a big run and then Borrego came with a bigger run," trainer Murray Johnson said.

Choctaw Nation, seven-wide on the final turn, finished fourth, missing by a length. Musique Toujours, an outsider who finished last, was vanned off because of unsoundness in his left foreleg, stewards said.

Borrego is on the trail of the Breeders' Cup Classic at Belmont Park on Oct. 29. A colt by El Prado, Borrego has won 4 of 18 starts and $1,452,090 for a seven-couple partnership led by Jon and Sarah Kelly of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

"He's just grown into himself in the last six months," Kelly said.

The 13 losses that Borrego had suffered in stakes since November 2003 had humbled Kelly, who enjoyed his biggest win on Sunday.

"You learn to be a good loser in the Thoroughbred business," Kelly said. "You don't have a choice."

* Imperialism, who finished third in the 2004 Kentucky Derby, revived his career by using his familiar late rally to win the $280,000 . The victory ended a nine-race losing streak that stretched over 17 months.

A multiple stakes winner, Imperialism won the Grade 2 Pat O'Brien by three-quarters of a length over a game Gotaghostofachance, a 15-1 outsider.

Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Imperialism ($14) finished seven furlongs in 1:21.70. Last on the backstretch, Imperialism rallied wide on the turn to reach contention in mid-stretch, and overtook Gotaghostofachance in the final furlong.

"I had a good trip," Espinoza said. "I didn't want to get in a big crowd inside."

Taste of Paradise, the longest shot in the field at 17-1, finished third. Unfurl the Flag, the even-money favorite, finished sixth of eight.

The Pat O'Brien was Imperialism's first win since the Grade 2 San Rafael Stakes in March 2004. Owned by Steve Taub and trained by Kristin Mulhall, Imperialism, 4, has won 6 of 24 starts and $868,605. The Pat O'Brien was his first start since a seventh in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap in March. He emerged from that race with a pulled muscle in his hind end.

"I thought we'd see the old boy again today," Mulhall said. "He'd only had five works in the last five months. He definitely wasn't 100 percent. We weren't sure if he'd make it back. It took two months to get him right."

Mulhall said Imperialism would be pointed for the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park on Oct. 1, a prep to the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 29.

* She's a Jewel ($40.40) pulled an upset in the $76,600 Aladdin Resort and Casino Handicap for 3-year-old fillies with an improbable trip.

Ridden by Jose Valdivia, Jr., She's a Jewel raced a few lengths behind pacesetter Brooke's Halo for the first half-mile through a quick pace of 22.28 and 45.03 seconds. She's a Jewel caught Brooke's Halo entering the stretch, showed no negative effects of the quick pace, and held off a late run from Conveyor's Angel to win by a neck.

Conveyor's Angel finished a half-length in front of Brooke's Halo in the field of 10 3-year-old fillies.

Owned by Mercedes Stable and trained by Jay Robbins, She's a Jewel has won 4 of 11 starts and $207,270.