08/23/2012 2:37PM

Del Mar: Dullahan taking first shot at older horses in Pacific Classic

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Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Dullahan ran third in the Kentucky Derby, but followed with a seventh in the Belmont and a fifth in the Haskell.

DEL MAR, Calif. – The winner of the Kentucky Derby has been retired, so too the runner-up, but the third-place finisher, Dullahan, soldiers on, and on Sunday at Del Mar he will attempt to raise his game to a new level when he takes on elders for the first time in the Grade 1, $1 million Pacific Classic.

On Wednesday night, Dullahan landed post 5 in a field of 10 when post positions were drawn for the Pacific Classic. Joel Rosario will ride him for the first time. Dullahan is 6-1 on the morning line of Del Mar’s Russell Hudak, who made Game On Dude the 5-2 favorite.

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Dullahan was sent west last weekend by trainer Dale Romans, who is having the best year of his career, with victories in major races like the Metropolitan Mile with Shackleford and Arlington Million with Little Mike. Dullahan has been part of that wave of success in 2012, having captured the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland earlier this year.

Dullahan is winless in three starts since – after finishing third in the Derby, he was seventh in the Belmont Stakes and fifth in the Haskell – but Romans believes Dullahan can return to his best form at Del Mar, which has a Polytrack surface, similar to Keeneland’s.

“He likes those synthetics,” Romans said Thursday morning from Saratoga, where he will remain this weekend. His partner, Tammy Fox, is here with Dullahan. “We tried our best to make a good dirt horse out of him. He ran well at Churchill, but that dirt is a little different from the others. He didn’t do as well in the Belmont or the Haskell, but he deserves another chance on a surface he’s done well over.”

Dullahan’s task will not be easy, because this Pacific Classic field has a deep field of top-class older horses. In addition to Game On Dude, who has won four of his last six starts, the race includes two-time Pacific Classic winner Richard’s Kid, South American hotshot Suggestive Boy, and the hard-hitting veteran Rail Trip.

“It’s a good field,” Romans said. ”You’ve got the best handicap horse in the country. But it’s time to shift the 3-year-olds over and run against older. He’ll have to run his best race, better even than the Blue Grass, but he acts like he’s capable of doing it.”

Under the weight-for-age conditions of the race, Dullahan gets in with 118 pounds, six fewer than his older rivals. The 4-year-old filly Amani carries 119 pounds.

The focal point of the race will be on the Game On Dude and Richard’s Kid, who is the second choice on Hudak’s morning line at 7-2. Until last weekend, both were trained by Bob Baffert, but Richard’s Kid was sold last weekend and moved to the barn of Doug O’ Neill, where assistant Leandro Mora is supervising the on-site operation while O’Neill sits out a suspension.

At the draw party Wednesday night at a local restaurant, Baffert and his wife, Jill, got into a heated argument with Mark Verge, one of the new co-owners of Richard’s Kid, during which intemperate words flew from both sides, according to several witnesses. Earlier this week, Baffert said he was displeased with the way the sale was handled.

Baffert and Verge had a pleasant exchange during training hours on Monday right after Game On Dude worked, but it is apparent there is still some lingering hostility between the two camps over the sale of Richard’s Kid.

Both Baffert and Verge on Thursday morning politely declined to comment on the incident. But Mora, who was part of a group with Verge at the party Wednesday, said, “I think we deserve an apology. We didn’t steal the horse. He was for sale.”

jttf More than 1 year ago
who ordered the second milkshake ?
Keith More than 1 year ago
I have no doubt that it was most likely Jill Baffert that started the argument! LOL! She seems to feel compelled to take on jockeys and other trainers, as in her shouting match with Victor Espinoza, for example. With the PPs up for Dullahan, it sure looks like it was a case of this 3 year old Dullahan going off form after his efforts in the KY Derby off a two race prep to me. Sure looked like he was coming back strong after his flub in the Belmont, where the horse was visibly shaking before going to the gate, and his non effort on Monmouth's speed favoring track. Those three bullet works at 5f on Churchill's Main Track over the past three weeks seemed to me to indicate that he could certainly make an impact on the field of the Travers Stake, facing 3 year olds, rather than traveling cross country to take on some heavy hitting older horses. I hope they bring him back to try the Jockey Gold Cup and the Clark at Belmont and Churchill again in the Fall! Keith L.
Wesley White More than 1 year ago
Here is a question for some of you to ponder: When was the last time we saw the wives of well known trainers like, Michael Matz, Todd Pletcher, Dale Romans, Steve Asmussen, Bill Mott or Graham Motion make news of this nature. Jill Baffert has become an embarrassment to her husband and California Racing in general. I recognize that there are some serious issues and personal vendettas that arise from time to time. But at some point, people have to show a level of maturity and class. Thus far we've not seen that from Mrs. Baffert and its unfortunate, because her husband is one of the top 3 trainers in the U.S. and for him to be in the news because of his wife getting into altercations with jockeys and the connections of rival horses that recognize that the game of horse racing is a business and there will be times when a horse is moved to a rival barn due to a sale. Hopefully Mr. Baffert will politely ask his wife to cool her jets and discontinue causing his barn to look as if its run helter skelter.
Platano Lajara More than 1 year ago
dullahan willnt beat this field willnt b in the trifectas either
john More than 1 year ago
Lol thanks for the tip,
John Flynn More than 1 year ago
Kent won two Grade 1's on this Horse. Not to mention 3 KY Derbys!!! I know he has had his problems. But, Is there any Loyalty in this game? Jill Baffert gets Very Verbal!! Who is Running the show her or Bob?
Alyssa Forster More than 1 year ago
There is something about Mark Verge that just bugs me...he really has that shady affect. AI don't understand why people are picking on Baffert, he handled the whole situation pretty well if you ask me...
Guy More than 1 year ago
Props to the DRF staff for removing the comments that were disgusting at best.
Kyri Freeman More than 1 year ago
I keep thinking Dullahan clearly hated the track at both Belmont and Monmouth and can rebound on polytrack, but on the other hand, when they get to hating their job they can sometimes just go off form, and there's not much pace here for him to run at. I see Game On Dude as an uncreative but logical single here as lone speed. I guess Riveting Reason might try to go with him but I doubt he can. It would be a great story if either Rail Trip or Amani sprang an upset but I see both as more likely to finish 3rd or 4th. Suggestive Boy has never run off turf, so it's hard to say what he will do. Richard's Kid ought to be coming late, but I will be rooting against him. I think his sale was tacky, not that he was sold, but the timing of it. I think it's questionable to take a horse from a trainer who has done well with it unless you're taking the horse to a different circuit -- it doesn't matter if it's a big-time trainer like Baffert or someone less well known. I have no opinion on whatever argument happened yesterday or on Baffert in general other than I often bet his horses due to his high win percentage (I've never really understood why Baffert is so polarizing; if this had happened to someone else I don't think we would have seen the many very hateful comments and occasional angrily supportive ones). I have no particular opinion on Doug O'Neill either. I do think the whole Richard's Kid contretemps will be quickly forgotten, as these things tend to be.
Eric Singer More than 1 year ago
nice analysis. Rail Trip could show some speed too - in his last in a shorter trip he was able to make all the running. I like Amani as the upsetter - loved the way she finished up last out. Game On Dude is the most logical winner. if there is pace pressure on him - a # of these could have shot - Dullahan included - he liked synthetic and is a quality animal and the price could float up to 10-1 - as I think Game On dude will be 4-5 or even money.
TEDK215 More than 1 year ago
wonder why they took Kent D off him? he was doing so well with him!
Perl More than 1 year ago
What about this horse Amani? He sure looks like a runner. Always hard to gauge the form of these South American imports but this one looks legit and is trained by a legend. Game On Dude is a bet-against on this surface.
Kyri Freeman More than 1 year ago
I agree she has a shot, but do note she is a mare. I believe that no mare has ever won the Pacific Classic.
Perl More than 1 year ago
Indeed, she is a mare. My bad. Or a filly. I forget how old she is. The fact that a female horse has never won the Pacific Classic is of little interest to me. I think either her or Dullahan win. It's too bad Dullahan is such a name horse, having been in the triple crown. He won't be much value at the windows, but he is most definitely crying out for a return to the unconventional racing surface. He could very well run past them all for the money!