(Higher Power the day after winning the G1 Pacific Classic / Del Mar Photo)

From the Del Mar Media Team:


Dinner was later than usual Saturday night for trainer John Sadler.

The gates for the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic didn’t open until 6:46 p.m. and it took Higher Power 2:02.43 to cover the 1 ¼ miles, win by 5 ¼ lengths under Flavien Prat and make Sadler and Hronis Racing winners of the signature event of the meeting for the second year in a row.

Then there was the press conference and other congratulatory sessions to attend.

“Made for a pretty late night, but here we are again with horses to work,” Sadler, who’d been at the track at dawn, said Sunday morning. “We’ve still got some good ones to get ready for the rest of the meet.”

Prat went from the Pacific Classic winner’s circle to the jockeys’ room to change silks and ride in the Saturday finale, finishing fifth of 10 in a 1 1/16 mile turf allowance, then met press obligations.

“It has been a great year so far, and I’m really happy to win the Pacific Classic at (this) track. It means a lot to me,” was among the comments made by Prat, who won the Kentucky Derby and the Queen’s Plate, first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown as prior 2019 highlights.

Then it was home to his wife and baby, take-out Thai food, a few hours sleep and riding workouts as the sun rose Sunday on another racing day.

The victory by Higher Power was one for a Del Mar home team over four Eastern invaders in what was considered one of the most wide-open Classics in years.

Hronis Racing has been the leading owner of the summer season the last two years and, with the TVG Pacific Classic triumph boosting earnings to more than $1.1 million, has locked up another. The Hronis total is more than three times that of runner-up Reddam Racing entering the final two weeks of the meet.

Sadler, who won three training titles between 2008 and 2013, has become the dominant conditioner in stakes races, winning eight in 2018 and six this season. Prat, who won his first TVG Pacific Classic with his fifth mount,  has two summer season jockey titles on his resume and a current eight-win lead over  Drayden Van Dyke with two weeks to go.

Draft Pick and Mongolian Groom finished the trifecta of locally-based horses. Tenfold (4th) was the top finisher for shippers followed by War Story (6th), favored  Seeking the Soul (7th) and Quip (9th).

Not that a lack of success by invaders was all that unusual.

Prat’s agent, Derek Lawson, a student of racing history and statistics, pointed out that the only shippers to notch Classic wins, Student Council (2007) and Dullahan (2012) were during the Polytrack era.


Richard Baltas saddled four winners Saturday, none coming in the five stakes races, and extended a white-hot week into a fourth day. Since the start of Week 5 of the meeting on Wednesday, Baltas has sent out 18 starters that produced six wins, three second-place finishes and two thirds.

“It was a great day,” Baltas said Sunday morning. “We didn’t win a stake, but we had two 2-year-olds that won and a couple of other good wins. Horses are ready when they’re ready and I got some good rides from East Coast jockeys.

“I’m very happy with it,” Baltas continued. “I’ve had days where I had seven or eight horses in and didn’t win a race. I never go in thinking I’m going to win a bunch of races. I just hope to win the first one and go from there.”

The first one Saturday was with Paid Informant (Flavien Prat, $5.80) in the second race. From there the wins were produced by Succeedandsurpass (5th, John Velazquez, $6.80), Ginobili (6th, Florent Geroux, $41.40) and Super Patriot (9th, John Velazquez, $20.00).

The hot streak has vaulted Baltas past Peter Miller and into second place in the trainer standings with 14 wins, three behind leader Doug O’Neill.


A submission that the spirit of the late Mike Mitchell, No. 2 on the track’s list for training victories, was present for Saturday’s Grade II $250,000 Del Mar Handicap would be hard to dispute.

Before the race Mitchell’s daughter, Shea, sang the track theme “Where the Turf Meets the Surf” with her husband, jockey Julien Leparoux, sister McCall and Mitchell’s widow Denise in attendance. And, in Leparoux’s case, in jockey silks for his next assignment, taking a video.

Then the 1 3/8 mile turf race, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Turf, was run. Acclimate, trained by Phil D’Amato – a protégé of and successor to Mitchell – was a wire-to-wire $16.60 winner under Florent Geroux.

“When I win these long distance grass races, especially at Del Mar, I think of (Mitchell),” D’Amato said Sunday morning. “It was special to have so many members of his family there and then to win it.”

Acclimate had finished last in the $150,000 California Dreamin’ Stakes on July 26, but was a different horse in the Handicap.

“There was no perfect prep for this race,” D’Amato said. “If I didn’t get that in him, no matter how ugly it looked on paper, I don’t think he does what he did (in the Handicap).”

D’Amato said Sunday that the logical path for Acclimate would be the John Henry at Santa Anita and then the Breeders’ Cup Turf there.


Joe Talamo won two Grade III $100,000 stakes in similar fashion Saturday. The Louisiana native wired the field with Mr Vargas in the 5-furlong  Green Flash on turf and did likewise five races later in the Torrey Pines at one mile on dirt with Fighting Mad for trainer Bob Baffert.

“Mr Vargas is really doing well, he just skips over the turf,” Talamo said Sunday morning. “And Bob’s filly really impressed me in her works. I really thought she’d like a mile and she did. She wasn’t stopping at all, she was striding out really well.”

Talamo had his wife, two young sons, and some extra family members on hand for the day.

“My parents flew in from New Orleans for a week and they brought me some luck and got to go in the winners circle a couple times,” Talamo said. “It’s always good to win when they’re here watching.”


Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella provided an update on Omaha Beach and United, who have had recent setbacks due to illness. Plans for Omaha Beach to run in next Sunday’s Shared Belief Stakes were scuttled and United was scratched from Saturday’s Del Mar Handicap.

“The good news is that his bloodwork looks good, which means that it’s a virus and not infectious,” Mandella said of Omaha Beach. “He and United are in the same boat.

“They’ll both be back in a week, give or take a few days.”

The new target race for Omaha Beach is the Awesome Again and for United the John Henry Stakes on September 28 at Santa Anita.

Bombard, scratched from Sunday’s $200,000 Grade II Del Mar Mile, shows no signs of the virus, but has a bruised foot.

“No big deal, he’ll get over it,” Mandella said.

CLOSERS – A 2-year-old colt purchased for a record-setting $3.65 million by Coolmore and placed in the care of Bob Baffert has started training here and been named Cezanne. Baffert told Breeders’ Cup pedigree expert Ren Carothers the colt is on course for  a debut at Santa Anita and “I expect huge things from him.” … Selected works from 232 officially timed Sunday morning: Dirt – River Boyne (3f, :37.20), Selcourt (3f, :37.40), Cistron (4f, :49.60), Pure Xena (4f, :49.40), Air Strike (5f, 1:01.20), American Anthem (5f, 1:00.20), Core Beliefs (5f, 1:02.40), Improbable (5f, 1:00.00), Mo Hawk (5f, :59.80), Vasilika (5f, 1:01.40); Turf – Rijeka (4f, :48.20), Fahan Mura (5f, 1:02.00)



Jockey Standings

(Current Through Saturday, August 17, 2019 Inclusive)

Jockey Mts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% In-money% Money Won
Flavien Prat 96 27 10 16 28% 55% $2,151,717
Drayden Van Dyke 96 19 17 12 20% 50% $1,255,881
Rafael Bejarano 102 18 15 8 18% 40% $997,642
Joseph Talamo 78 16 11 13 21% 51% $1,095,434
Abel Cedillo 90 15 11 16 17% 47% $666,442
Ruben Fuentes 100 13 12 9 13% 34% $565,472
Jorge Velez 68 8 15 6 12% 43% $338,374
Victor Espinoza 58 7 11 7 12% 43% $618,181
Mario Gutierrez 62 6 10 14 10% 48% $555,553
Kent Desormeaux 46 6 5 5 13% 35% $496,660

Trainer Standings

(Current Through Saturday, August 17, 2019 Inclusive)

Trainer Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% In-money% Money Won
Doug F. O’Neill 78 17 14 10 22% 53% $932,777
Richard Baltas 71 14 11 9 20% 48% $909,730
Peter Miller 52 13 7 11 25% 60% $690,029
Philip D’Amato 56 9 9 6 16% 43% $839,172
John W. Sadler 52 9 7 4 17% 38% $1,495,170
Mark Glatt 44 9 5 11 20% 57% $520,901
Robert B. Hess, Jr. 25 9 4 0 36% 52% $254,291
Bob Baffert 30 7 5 5 23% 57% $461,164
Brian J. Koriner 28 6 5 5 21% 57% $319,448
Jeff Mullins 23 5 8 2 22% 65% $304,153

Winning Favorites Report

(Current Through Saturday, August 17, 2019 Inclusive)

Winning favorites — 74 out of 194 — 38.14%

Winning favorites on dirt — 47 out of 114 — 41.23%

Winning favorites on turf — 27 out of 80 — 33.75%

Winning odds-on favorites — 19 out of 38 — 50.00%

In-the-Money favorites — 137 out of 194 — 70.62%

In-the-Money odds-on favorites — 33 out of 38 — 86.84%