Horse racing fans had a difficult decision to make in Saturday’s TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar. Which superstar to cheer on? Richard Mandella’s mare Beholder, whose eight race winning streak was broken July 30 when Stellar Wind passed her by a mere half a length? Or, California Chrome, winner of 2014’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes and this year’s $10 million Dubai World Cup? Or, Bob Baffert trained Dortmund, winner of 2015’s Santa Anita Derby? Not an easy decision, like choosing one favorite child out of three.
Chrome left the gate as the 1 to 1 favorite, immediately taking the lead. He was followed by Beholder in second, Dortmund in third and Baffert’s other entry, Hoppertunity, in fourth. And that was how it stayed all the way to the finish line. Chrome set the pace and remained in front, winning by five lengths. Beholder, last year’s Pacific Classic champion, was second by 2¼ lengths over Dortmund. The victory won California Chrome an automatic spot in November’s Breeders’ Cup.
All the skeptics who scoffed at California Chrome after he failed to win 2014’s Triple Crown should be eating their words this year. The 5-year-old has won all five of his 2016 races, prompting Del Mar track announcer Trevor Denman to call Chrome “the idol of the world.”
And, as Denman noted, runner-up Beholder was “certainly not disgraced in second.” At 6, she was one of the oldest horses in the Pacific field and the only female. Beholder entered the Classic after barely losing to Stellar Wind in July 30’s Clement Hirsch, a race in which she was the oldest entrant and carried the top weight. It remains to be seen if the three time Eclipse Award winner will be aimed for a Breeders’ Cup race later this year.
Meanwhile on the east coast, Jerry Hollendorfer’s unbeaten Songbird raced Saturday in the Alabama Stakes at New York’s Saratoga. At the start of the race, rider Mike Smith was content to place Songbird in second, letting Go Maggie Go set the early pace. Songbird and Go Maggie Go began to jockey for the lead along the backstretch. At the final turn, Songbird took off, winning her 10th straight victory by seven lengths (Go Maggie go ended up out of the money in 6th).