Updated on 08/29/2012 2:26PM

Del Mar: Dullahan runs down Game On Dude in deep stretch of Pacific Classic

Benoit & Associates
The 3-year-old Dullahan, ridden by Joel Rosario, sets a track record for 1 1/4 miles winning the Pacific Classic.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Just when it looked like this year’s crop of 3-year-olds was going to slink quietly into the background, Dullahan struck a blow for the division on Sunday by defeating a top group of older horses in the Grade 1, $1 million Pacific Classic before a crowd of 34,482 at Del Mar.

Dullahan was visiting California for the first time, and was taking on the likes of Game On Dude, Richard’s Kid, Rail Trip, and Suggestive Boy on their home court, but he responded to a return to a synthetic surface, and came charging down the lane to defeat favored Game On Dude by a half-length.

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How much does Dullahan like Polytrack? The Pacific Classic win was his third lifetime victory, the previous two also coming on Polytrack, at Keeneland. Those also were in Grade 1 races -- the Breeders’ Futurity last year, and this year’s Blue Grass Stakes. Dullahan loved Del Mar’s surface, too. He set a track record for 1 1/4 miles of 1:59.45, a full second faster than the record of 2:00.61 set by Acclamation in last year’s race. The track was producing times far faster than par all day Sunday.

Dullahan, the third choice in the field of 10, paid $12.60 for $2 to win.

Along with a first-place check of $600,000, the victory gave Dullahan a fees-paid berth into the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 3 at Santa Anita. But that race is on natural dirt, a surface over which Dullahan is winless in six starts. He is 3 for 3 on synthetics, and 3 for 12 overall.

Game On Dude, the 6-5 favorite, and Richard’s Kid, who finished another 2 3/4 lengths behind Game On Dude in third as the 9-2 second choice, both did not have unblemished trips. Chantal Sutherland, riding Game On Dude, lost her left rein with about a sixteenth of a mile to go. Richard’s Kid, under Victor Espinoza, got stopped behind the tiring Riveting Reason on the far turn. Both Sutherland and Espinoza maintained that the incidents did not cost them the victory.

Rail Trip finished fourth and was followed, in order, by Suggestive Boy, Amani, Jaycito, Where’s Sterling, Akkadian, and Riveting Reason.

Joel Rosario, who first achieved national recognition in California before relocating to New York, rode Dullahan to the win for trainer Dale Romans, who added the Pacific Classic to a glittering 2012 resume that also includes the Blue Grass, the Arlington Million with Little Mike, and Met Mile with Shackleford.

“That was very exciting,” Romans said when reached by telephone at his summer home in Saratoga. “This ranks right up there with the best, like Shack’s Met Mile, and winning the Arlington Million.”

The Donegal Racing partnership, headed by Jerry Crawford, owns Dullahan. Crawford, who works in politics in Iowa, started campaigning for Dullahan for an Eclipse Award.

“Coming out here and beating Game On Dude and Richard’s Kid stamps him as the 3-year-old horse of the year,” Crawford said, saying Dullahan has as many Grade 1 wins as I’ll Have Another, who won three Grade 1 races this year. Dullahan has two this year, and one last year.

I’ll Have Another has been retired, along with other top 3-year-olds from this year such as Bodemeister, Union Rags, and Hansen.

Dullahan shipped in a week before the Pacific Classic and had trained sharply all week under Tammy Fox, Romans’s partner, but this was one of the deepest, strongest fields of older horses ever assembled for the Pacific Classic. By winning, though, Dullahan joined Came Home, General Challenge, and Best Pal as 3-year-olds to win the race. He carried 118 pounds, six fewer than Game On Dude under the weight-for-age conditions of the race.

Dullahan was ninth in the 10-horse field after a half-mile. Rosario took him outside horses on the final turn, and he finished resolutely to get the win.

“He doesn’t stop,” Rosario said. “He’s a nice horse, a very nice horse.”

Game On Dude broke a tad slowly, and was fourth going into the first turn while three paths wide. He got aggressive turning up the backside and engaged the hopeless 76-1 shot Riveting Reason, then put that horse away after six furlongs in 1:11.08. But after opening a clear lead at midstretch, Game On Dude could not deny Dullahan, and Sutherland lost her left rein late.

“When I went for my left-handed stick, my rein went with it,” Sutherland said. “It was a little sloppy to lose my left line. My right line was still tight.”

Richard’s Kid was near the back of the pack with Dullahan for the first half of the race. But Espinoza tried to save ground on the far turn, and had to wait for clearance when Riveting Reason stopped in his face.

“It didn’t bother me that much, maybe for about one or two strides,” Espinoza said. “I had to wait a couple of jumps.”

Romans said Dullahan would return to Churchill Downs this week, and plans for him would be determined later.

Crawford said because of Dullahan’s aptitude on synthetic surfaces, a long-range goal is next year’s Dubai World Cup.





silver_charm More than 1 year ago
The video shown today is not the one of the actual race! What happened?
Richard More than 1 year ago
It is a shame that Dullahan just seems like he is not going to fit in at Santa Anita. Since he is a three year old it might be best to wait for next year. He beat a great horse, Game On Dude, but it is apparent he is a polytrack horse. The thing with the Classic it is a 5 million dollar race. I cannot see him coming in the superfecta with the class of horses that seem to be interred. The four horse’s that came in the Travers are true dirt horses and there could be a spot for any of them to have a chance!
HandicapperErni More than 1 year ago
Chantal Sutherland didn't do anything wrong with Game On Dude. Ran better than I thought. But Del Mar is not Game on Dude's best surface to run on. It's just that Dullahan the winner was a better horse. Loved polytrack and his lone wins were on polytrack. That was it. Come Santa Anita, Game On Dude will be back to where he was once at. A contender for the Breeders Cup Classic still. Great ride by Joel Rosario on Dullahan. Been critical of him since him being in NY. But last couple days he's improved seems more consistent and making more of the right moves. Seems like he's riding better now than when he got started out in NY. Nice to see him win a couple today at Del Mar including that Pacific Classic. Yeah but he's top 5 though right now. But Rosie Napravnik is firing with winners again and will be a competiton soon, and the same with Junior Alvarado as well.
Perl More than 1 year ago
I'm kind of in the middle when it comes to Chantal. I know she is not considered a "great" jockey and I do think Game On Dude was a bit slow from the gate and then made a somewhat premature move to the lead on the backstretch. Tough to get home after surging to the lead at the half mile pole of a grueling 10f race. Then again, Game On Dude is probably not the easiest horse to ride. He has always been ornery and headstrong and determined to get ahead of other horses. As a jock it must be tough because you don't want to strangle a horse like this and who knows what Baffert's instructions were to her - he might be saying just let the tough dude run. Also, it took an incredible effort from a synth freak to run Game On Dude down in the final sixteenth. Overall, I think Chantal is being scapegoated a bit here, and I'm not saying that because she's a total hot babe (although she is that). It's possible a horse like Game On Dude could use a stronger handler, like a Gomez, but it's also possible the horse just wants to get to the lead. These are difficult decisions for his connections. Either way, he's a very tough horse and I would have a tough time taking a strong stand against him when he gets back on the dirt on the first Saturday in November.
ron breton More than 1 year ago
I watched the replay,,when chantal came up beside flores,,you could see he looks over at her,then he looks back behind him to see what was going on....thinking...ARE YOU KIDDING ME....REALLY ! ! !.....I,m 75 to 1...what,s your hurry
Derek More than 1 year ago
Oh dear.....all the armchair jockeys on here who are no doubt talking through their European men's hold alls! Mike smith on zenyatta in 2010 (he was surely brilliant in 2009!). The same jockey in the kentucky derby this year.....the winner proved that a different ride made no difference! Elliot on smarty jones at Belmont .......kinane on rock of Gibraltar.....now that was a shocker!!!! But they all are great jocks and they do their best in the moment.....you and i are all just pundits and punters without any real appreciation for what it takes to get a horse home in front.
Ponies Payme More than 1 year ago
PACE gets them home. That easy
noocheroni More than 1 year ago
not a fan of the jock or connections but clearly she moved way to early that cost her the race
Ponies Payme More than 1 year ago
Do you really think Game On Dude could have held off Gullahan? What race were you watching. If Dullahan was really let go, he would have run a hole into the wind. He Dominated and whatever Game On did, would have been fuirtless that day.
Entrepreneuring More than 1 year ago
It"s my expectation that a professional jockey would be well aware of his or hers in-race competition along with the other conditions, biases and circumstances of a particular race long before the race itself begins. Why you might ask? It's called strategy. Mapping out a race or visualizing its running before the gate opens is a key skill for all successful riders. With that being said, I couldn't help but wonder why Chantal found it necessary to have Game on Dude engage a couple of long shots as they traveled down the Del Mar backstretch during the running of the Classic. As I watched the race unfold I couldn't help but whisper the words "patience" as Chantal continued to make the pace in front of these two over- achievers. Laying just behind these two or slightly off to their flanks probably would have produced the win results that the connections were expecting. Sometimes a horse can be a little too much for a rider and as a result, the rider can't get the horse to relax or to obey his or hers commands when requested. Unfortunately, there are no redo's in racing (other than those that are subject to the steward's review) and Sunday's results will stand as well as my perception that the Dude was a little too much horse for this particular jockey and lost a race he should have won.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Thats bull. Watch Dudes style of running. He ran exactly as he has in, past efforts. WS chantal supposed to choke him. She rode him like she had in past victories. He just got caught by a better horse that day.
Entrepreneuring More than 1 year ago
No, that's not bull. Choking a horse does little to get a horse to relax or to encourage its best efforts. The point is that Game on Dude was compromised by the pace reducing his chances of victory - a pace that was created by his rider.. It might surprise you to know that Game on Dude actually possesses tactical speed but it's up to the jock and the trainer to use it when it gives their horse an edge. Also, considering that Dude is older and more experienced than his younger rival it's amazing that the only conceivable plan was to outgun his opponent(s) because that's the way he runs. Nonense, race horses are creatures of habit and can be taught to rate so there's really no excuse for Sunday's performance except for a lack of patience that created a race flow that favored a poly track specialist with an excellent late kick. The name of the game is to play to your horses strengths and exploit your opponents weaknesses. That didn't happen Sunday. And lastly, as one of the many ranking members of the "masters of the obvious club," I'm sure that the simple remark of getting "beat by the better horse" will have to do for now.
Perl More than 1 year ago
Horses are not cars. I suspect they have worked very hard to get this horse to rate, but he has shown over and over again that he wants to go to the lead.
Perl More than 1 year ago
I agree Thomas. This is probably a very tough horse to control. He likes to mix it up with other horses and assert his dominance on the backstretch, if not sooner. It's possible a different jock could get the horse to rate better behind horses, but I also have my doubts.
Ponies Payme More than 1 year ago
You only see the great jocks "walking" the course in the afternoon before the races to see where the best spot is. No on ehas done it in 4-5 yeatrs now and I am there most days.
[removed] More than 1 year ago
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chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
What is it that tells me Romans has a better idea about that than you, I, or anyone else?
Lenny Mamola More than 1 year ago
I personally did not like the ride by Sutherland..And not being a feminist.. I thought her start was very feminine, A horse like Game needs to be pushed more from the start let him know hes being asked especially from the outside Would Pincay let him gallop out of the gate???? Must have lost 2 lengths right there...