Updated on 09/05/2010 7:15PM

Richard's Kid, Smith, Baffert repeat in Pacific Classic

Benoit & Associates
Richard's Kid repeats in the Pacific Classic for trainer Bob Baffert.

BDEL MAR, Calif. - Reunited, and it felt so good.

Last year, jockey Mike Smith climbed aboard Richard’s Kid for the first time, and they won the Grade 1, $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar.
Not until Saturday, some 51 weeks later, did Smith get back on Richard’s Kid. He hadn’t ridden him in another race, not even been aboard for a workout. It didn’t matter.

Richard’s Kid, responding to Smith’s deft handling, rallied from well behind a slow pace to take the Pacific Classic for the second straight year, becoming only the third horse in the 20-year history of the race to win consecutive runnings of Del Mar’s elite event.

“I just want to ride him once a year,” Smith cracked in a post-race news conference.

Richard’s Kid ($11.60), the second choice, ran down Crowded House in the final furlong to win by three-quarters of a length. Dakota Phone, last early in the 10-horse field, rallied belatedly to finish third, a half-length behind Crowded House.

Battle of Hastings was fourth and was followed, in order, by The Usual Q.T., Temple City, Isle of Giant’s, Hold Me Back, Unusual Suspect, and Awesome Gem.

Richard’s Kid completed 1 1/4 miles on Polytrack in 2:03.27 for his eighth win in 26 lifetime starts.

The victory was filled with story lines:

* When Richard’s Kid won the race last year, he was owned by Arnold Zetcher, who had bought the horse privately and subsequently sold him to Sheikh Rashid al Maktoum’s Zabeel Racing International Corp., his current owner.

* Bob Baffert trained Richard’s Kid for both victories, but he was at Saratoga on Saturday, far from a track whose surface he dislikes, yet whose biggest race he has won the last two years.

* And for Smith, he won the Pacific Classic without having to rely on the best horse he rides, Zenyatta, who earlier this month won the Clement Hirsch Handicap for her 18th consecutive victory.

“To win these two races makes my meet,” Smith said. “The 18th with her, and back-to-back Classics.”

Richard’s Kid was in ninth place through the first half-mile as Isle of Giant’s led through fractions of 24.82 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 49.25 seconds for a half-mile. Smith let Richard’s Kid creep closer down the backstretch while following The Usual Q.T.

Smith said he worried for “about a fifth of a second” that Richard’s Kid might lose his punch if he moved too soon.

“The thought crossed my mind,” Smith said. “But I knew how slow they were going. He only won by three-quarters of a length. If I sit back, I might not make it up.”

As the field went around the far turn and into the stretch, Richard’s Kid was fanned five paths from the rail, but he was rolling. Isle of Giant’s had begun to fade, Temple City took over briefly, then The Usual Q.T. poked his head in front at the eighth pole before tiring.

Crowded House grabbed the lead, but only for a few yards before Richard’s Kid ran him down.