08/20/2012 1:10PM

Del Mar: Richard's Kid deal came together just in time for Pacific Classic

Shigeki Kikkawa
Richard's Kid was moved across the Del Mar backstretch on Saturday for trainer Bob Baffert's stable to trainer Doug O'Neill's.

DEL MAR, Calif. – The sale of top Pacific Classic contender Richard’s Kid by Zabeel International to a partnership led by Paul Boghossian’s Triple B Farms took less than 24 hours on Friday and Saturday and surprised many of the participants because of its rapid completion.

By Saturday evening, Richard’s Kid had been moved across the Del Mar backstretch, from trainer Bob Baffert’s barn to trainer Doug O’Neill’s stable. Richard’s Kid will be trained for Sunday’s Pacific Classic and through late September by O’Neill’s top assistant, Leandro Mora, while O’Neill serves a 40-day suspension for a total carbon dioxide overage in 2010. The suspension began Sunday.

The new partnership has acquired a 7-year-old horse who likely will be the second betting choice in the $1 million Pacific Classic. The winner of the Pacific Classic in 2009 and 2010, Richard’s Kid was second to Pacific Classic favorite Game On Dude in the Hollywood Gold Cup last month and won the Grade 3 Cougar II Handicap here July 27.

Discussions about a potential sale of Richard’s Kid began Friday, according to Jack Sisterson, another of O’Neill’s assistants.

Sisterson was approached by Southern California trainer Adam Kitchingman, who was negotiating on behalf of owner Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed al-Maktoum, the son of Sheikh Mohammed, the ruler of Dubai.

[Pacific Classic at Del Mar: Top stories, video]

Initially, Sisterson said he was surprised that Richard’s Kid was available for purchase a week before the Pacific Classic.

“We didn’t know if it was true or not,” Sisterson said. “Adam was the middle guy, putting the people together. You’re thinking, not before the Pacific Classic. Baffert had done such a good job with him.”

By Saturday morning, the discussions had intensified, Sisterson said.

O’Neill was not at his stable, having traveled to Arlington Park for the Arlington Million program. Along with Steve Rothblum, a bloodstock adviser to O’Neill, Sisterson met with owner Dave Kenney, who said he wanted to be involved in owning Richard’s Kid.

“We sat down and started kicking it around,” Rothblum said of potential partners. “It didn’t take long for a horse of his caliber.”

Eventually, a partnership was formed led by Triple B Farms, which will have a majority share. Kenney was joined as a minority partner by Dan Kramer, Steve Keh, and Mark Verge. Verge is the chief executive officer of Santa Anita.

By early afternoon, veterinarians had been summoned to inspect Richard’s Kid.

“We got him vetted quickly,” Sisterson said.

When Saturday’s 10-race program ended shortly before 7 p.m., Sisterson returned to the stable to find Richard’s Kid already in his new stall.

“When we came back after the last, he was here,” Sisterson said. “It came about so fast.”

Baffert said Sunday that he learned about the transaction after the process was well under way. Even though he trains Game On Dude and another Pacific Classic contender in Jaycito, he said he was not pleased with the way events unfolded.

“I feel like I got my pocket picked,” Baffert said. “It was handled unprofessionally, basically, by the seller. I knew the horse could be bought. The way it was done was strange. It’s part of the game.

“He’s been good to me. It was sad to see him go.

“I was thinking they would sell him after the race. It’s over and it’s done. You have to move on. I’ve got to worry about Game On Dude and Jaycito.”

Kitchingman did not return a phone call Sunday.

Sisterson said he planned to reach out to Baffert.

“We want to show respect to him,” Sisterson said.

Sisterson, 27, said that Richard’s Kid will not have a workout in advance of Sunday’s race, but will have daily gallops. He galloped Sunday.

“He looks good,” Sisterson said. Baffert “has done a good job. We probably won’t work him. With these fit horses, you have to maintain them. I think he’s got massive ability.”

When Richard’s Kid starts Sunday, he will be racing for his third different owner in as many Pacific Classics.

A winner of 11 of 35 starts and $1,986,360, Richard’s Kid won the 2009 Pacific Classic for owner Arnold Zetcher and Baffert. Zabeel acquired Richard’s Kid privately in the winter of 2009-10 and left him with Baffert. After a win in the 2010 Goodwood Stakes at Hollywood Park, Richard’s Kid was sent to Dubai, where he raced in 2011 and earlier this year, going winless in five starts. Richard’s Kid rejoined Baffert’s stable earlier this year.

The sale offers a subplot to an already intriguing running of the Pacific Classic. After Acclamation was sidelined last week with inflammation below an ankle, Richard’s Kid was considered a leading threat to Game On Dude. Now, they will be racing for different barns.