It’s Post Time by Jon White: Higher Power Crushes Pacific Classic Foes

Revenge is sweet, even when it takes 16 years to get it.

Back in 2003, Medaglia d’Oro was sent away as the 3-5 favorite in Del Mar’s Grade I Pacific Classic on Aug. 24 following a win in the Grade I Whitney Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 2.

Medaglia d’Oro, with Jerry Bailey riding for trainer Bobby Frankel, ran quite well in the 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic that year. In fact, he ran well enough to be credited with a 118 Beyer Speed Figure.

A 118 Beyer would be good enough to win the vast majority of Pacific Classics. But it was not good enough to get the victory in the 2003 edition. Actually, Medaglia d’Oro did not get close to winning. Candy Ride trounced Medaglia d’Oro that day.

Off at 2-1 in the field of four, Candy Ride won the 2003 Pacific Classic by 3 1/4 lengths for trainer Ron McAnally. Ridden by Julie Krone, Candy Ride posted a final time of 1:59.11 to break the track record, a mark that still stands. Candy Ride recorded a 123 Beyer Speed Figure. It was the highest Beyer of 2003.

Candy Ride began his racing career with three wins from three starts in his native Argentina before coming to the United States. When he took the Pacific Classic, he remained undefeated in six career starts. But the Pacific Classic would be the final start of his racing career.

Medaglia d’Oro had to settle for second in the 2003 Pacific Classic. But he gained a measure of revenge when his son Higher Power won the 2019 Pacific Classic last Saturday with authority by 5 1/4 lengths in 2:02.43. Settling for second this time was Draft Pick, a son of Candy Ride.

Higher Power was not the only Medaglia d’Oro offspring to win a Grade I race at Del Mar last Saturday. In the race just prior to the Pacific Classic, the Medaglia d’Oro filly Cambier Parc unleashed a furious late kick to win the Grade I Del Mar Oaks going away by 1 1/4 lengths at 1 1/8 miles on the grass. John Velazquez rode Cambier Parc, an East Coast invader conditioned by Chad Brown.

Flavien Prat was aboard Higher Power in the Pacific Classic for trainer John Sadler. Earlier this year, Prat won the Kentucky Derby in a huge upset aboard 65-1 Country House, who was elevated to first when the stewards disqualified Maximum Security and placed him 17th for veering out sharply nearing the five-sixteenths marker to cause interference to War of Will, Bodexpress and Long Range Toddy.

Higher Power made it back-to-back Pacific Classic wins for his owner-trainer team of Hronis Racing and Sadler. The same owner-trainer team took the 2018 renewal with Accelerate, who romped to a 12 1/2-length win in 2:01.83. That’s the biggest margin of victory since the Pacific Classic was inaugurated in 1991.

The Pacific Classic was one of six wins by Accelerate last year. His 2018 campaign was highlighted by a one-length triumph in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs. Accelerate’s other wins last year came in the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes, Grade I Santa Anita Handicap, Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita and Grade I Awesome Again Stakes. His splendid campaign netted him a 2018 Eclipse Award as champion older male.

In Higher Power’s most recent start prior to the Pacific Classic, he finished second in Del Mar’s Wickerr Stakes at one mile on the grass July 21. The 4-year-old colt then trained smartly on the dirt at Del Mar leading up to last Saturday’s race on the main track.

Higher Power was assigned a career-best 107 Beyer Speed Figure for his Pacific Classic performance. His previous top had been a 96 when he finished fourth in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita this year on May 27 in his first start for Sadler.

These are the Beyer Speed Figures for the winners of the Pacific Classic going back to the first running in 1991:

2019 Higher Power (107)

2018 Accelerate (115)

2017 Collected (115)

2016 California Chrome (113)

2015 Beholder (114)

2014 Shared Belief (115) synthetic footing

2013 Game On Dude (113) synthetic footing

2012 Dullahan (111) synthetic footing

2011 Acclamation (105) synthetic footing

2010 Richard’s Kid (96) synthetic footing

2009 Richard’s Kid (107) synthetic footing

2008 Go Between (104) synthetic footing

2007 Student Council (99) synthetic footing

2006 Lava Man (109)

2005 Borrego (113)

2004 Pleasantly Perfect (112)

2003 Candy Ride (123)

2002 Came Home (116)

2001 Skimming (119)

2000 Skimming (118)

1999 General Challenge (119)

1998 Free House (117)

1997 Gentlemen (121)

1996 Dare and Go (116)

1995 Tinners Way (112)

1994 Tinners Way (111)

1993 Bertrando (117)

1992 Missionary Ridge (110)

1991 Best Pal (118)

TRAVERS STAKES SELECTIONS

This Saturday’s 150th running of the Grade I Travers Stakes at Saratoga has attracted a dozen 3-year-olds. Here are my selections for the 1 1/4-mile event:

  1. Looking At Bikinis (10-1 morning line)
  2. Mucho Gusto (6-1)
  3. Code of Honor (4-1)
  4. Tacitus (5-2)

Perhaps morning-line favorite Tacitus will step up and win this race. If he is the horse many think he is, he should get it done Saturday without Maximum Security or Game Winner in the field. But I will go for a better price than Tacitus in Looking At Bikinis.

Looking At Bikinis has been the favorite in each of his three lifetime starts. Off his defeat in Saratoga’s 1 1/8-mile Curlin Stakes on a muddy track last time out, now he is a juicy 10-1 on the morning line. With only three races under his belt, I’m willing to forgive his defeat as the chalk in the Curlin. I’m thinking the Lookin At Lucky colt just might rebound in the Travers. With Javier Castellano riding for trainer Chad Brown, 10-1 is too tempting to resist.

I came very close to going with Mucho Gusto. He’s the only one of the 12 entrants to ever post a Beyer Speed Figure of 100 or higher. Mucho Gusto was credited with a 100 Beyer last time out when he finished second, 1 1/4 lengths behind Maximum Security, in Monmouth Park’s Grade I Haskell Invitational at 1 1/8 miles on a sweltering July 20. Mucho Gusto ended up eight lengths in front of Spun to Run, who finished third.

My main concern about Mucho Gusto is that it was an 11th-hour decision by trainer Bob Baffert to send him to the Travers. I would have preferred for this race to have been the target for the Mucho Macho Man colt all along. Baffert called an audible to run Mucho Gusto after announcing that Game Winner would be skipping the Travers after he came down with a virus. Still, a 6-1 morning-line has appeal for the lone Travers entrant to have a triple-digit Beyer to his credit.

Trainer Shug McGaughey seems confident that Code of Honor is going to run a big race Saturday. The Noble Mission colt is coming off a sparkling 3 1/4-length win in Belmont Park’s Grade III Dwyer Stakes at one mile on July 6. Code of Honor was moved up to second in the Kentucky Derby through the aforementioned disqualification of Maximum Security.

Tacitus, trained by Bill Mott, is racing with blinkers for the first time Saturday. The hope, according to Mott, is for the blinkers to help Tacitus to focus a little better. The Tapit colt is due for some good luck after finishing second as the favorite in both the Grade I Belmont Stakes on June 8 and Grade II Jim Dandy Stakes on July 27. He raced wide in the Belmont and stumbled badly at the start in the Jim Dandy. Tacitus was elevated to third in the Kentucky Derby via the DQ of Maximum Security.

Owendale is another who might have a big say in what shapes up as a wide-open Travers. His third in the Grade I Preakness Stakes in May was sandwiched between victories in the Grade III Lexington Stakes in April and Grade III Ohio Derby in June for trainer Brad Cox.

MAXIMUM SECURITY’S ABSENCE HAD BEEN PREDICTED

I wrote this on July 17: “I will not be surprised if it turns out that [trainer Jason] Servis ultimately will want to give Maximum Security more time before his next race rather than run him in the Travers. If Maximum Security does skip the Travers, a logical next race would be Parx Racing’s Grade I, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at 1 1/8 miles on Sept. 21.”

Servis announced last week that Maximum Security will not be entered in the Travers and would be pointed for the Pennsylvania Derby.

ESTEEMED BROADCASTER JACK WHITAKER DIES

For those of us who watched it all unfold on television in 1973, Jack Whitaker was an integral part of Secretariat’s Triple Crown sweep.

Whitaker masterfully anchored the CBS broadcast, joined by Heywood Hale Broun, Frank Wright and Chic Anderson.

Anderson is most famous for coming up with the phrase “he is moving like a tremendous machine” when calling Secretariat’s astonishing 31-length Belmont Stakes victory.

Whitaker died from natural causes in his sleep last Sunday at his home in Devon, Pa., according to CBS Sports. He was 95.

“There will never be another Jack Whitaker in sports broadcasting,” CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said in a statement. “His amazing writing ability, on-air presence and humanity are unmatched. His unique perspective on sports ranging from horse racing to golf to NFL football was extraordinary.”

A native of Philadelphia, Whitaker began his broadcasting career in radio. He became a network television sportscaster at CBS in 1961. He joined ABC in 1982, covering both news and sports for that network. Whitaker was part of ABC’s Olympics coverage in 1984 and 1988.

Inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame in 2001, Whitaker won an Eclipse Award for national television achievement in 1977. He was honored with the Jim McKay Award for excellence in broadcasting by the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters in 2013.

E.S. “Bud: Lamoreaux III was a longtime broadcasting colleague of Whitaker’s at CBS.

“It ranks as one of the greatest sporting events in history -- Secretariat’s Belmont that broke a long Triple Crown drought and gave Americans something to root for in a time of Watergate and Vietnam,” Lemoreaux wrote in a tribute to Whitaker posted by The Paulick Report. “What is lost in all those feel good moments is the performance of the CBS broadcast team headed by Jack Whitaker. He was the silver-tongued orator from Philadelphia who could turn a phrase as quickly as Secretariat could get to the wire.”

Indeed.

ANNIVERSARY OF TURBULATOR’S FIRST VICTORY

I recently wrote about Maxwell G., a Washington-bred gelding who became a claiming legend by winning 47 of 234 career starts.

Those 47 wins by Maxwell G. are even more impressive when taking into account that he did not race at 2 or 3. The final victory of his remarkable career occurred early in 1977 at Turf Paradise. At the advanced age of 16, Maxwell G. won a $2,000 claiming contest at one mile.

Pacific Northwest racing legend Turbulator, like Maxwell G., was a Washington-bred gelding who did not race at 2 or 3.

It’s hard to believe that it was 50 years ago this week that Turbulator visited the winner’s circle for the first time. It happened on Aug. 22, 1969, at Playfair Race Course in Spokane, Wash. I still have my program from that day. The program cost 35 cents.

Turbulator was the No. 7 horse in the second race. He was the 2-1 morning-line favorite. Ten competed in the six-furlong maiden special weight contest. The purse was $800.

My program for Turbulator’s Aug. 22 race shows that he was owned by Farnsworth and Crawford. T.O. Crawford was listed as the trainer, Frank Inda as the jockey. Crawford was Tom Crawford, who also bred Turbulator.

Turbulator won that Aug 22 race by 1 1/2 lengths while posting a final time of 1:12 3/5. He paid $6.30 to win as the betting favorite, $3.20 to place and $2.60 to show. Vudda finished second. Song’s Fashion came in third.

From Aug. 22 to Oct. 26, Turbulator reeled off seven straight wins at Playfair.

Turbulator was named the 1969 Horse of the Meeting at Playfair. He also was honored as the Horse of the Meeting in 1970 at Yakima Meadows in the spring, Longacres in the summer and again at Playfair in the fall. No other Thoroughbred was ever acclaimed Horse of the Meeting at all three of those Washington tracks.

On Aug. 16, 1970, Turbulator broke a world record. He ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14 flat to win the Governor’s Handicap at Longacres by a half-length. He clipped two-fifths of a second off the world mark.

All told, Turbulator won 11 stakes races at distances ranging from 6 1/2 furlongs to two miles.

A head bust of Turbulator can be seen these days at the Washington Racing Hall of Fame exhibit located in the Emerald Downs grandstand. It’s the same head bust that for many years greeted horses, trainers and visitors to the Playfair paddock.

Turbulator was inducted into the Washington Racing Hall of Fame in 2004.

A CONNECTION TO MARYLOU WHITNEY

Turbulator was a son of Cold Command and the By Zeus mare Fur Piece. Racing for C.V. “Sonny” Whitney, Cold Command finished ninth in the 1952 Kentucky Derby won by Hill Gail. The owner’s wife at that time was Marylou Whitney, who just recently passed away on July 19 at the age of 93.

At 3, Cold Command finished second in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. At 4, he won the Westchester Handicap in New York. At 5, he won the Saratoga Handicap.

Cold Command was a son of War Admiral and the Mahmoud mare Monsoon.

War Admiral, the 1937 Triple Crown winner, was by Man o’ War. Many, including yours truly, consider Man o’ War to be the greatest Thoroughbred of all time.

Cold Command’s dam, Monsoon, won three stakes races, including the 1947 Santa Margarita Handicap at Santa Anita.

As a multiple stakes winner with an attractive pedigree, Cold Command had much appeal as a prospective sire. Penny Farms purchased him from Whitney to race him and then stand him at stud in Washington.

At 8 in 1957, Cold Command won the British Columbia Handicap at Longacres. It was the first stakes victory of Jim Penny’s highly successful training career. Penny, who died in 2017 at the age of 82, won the Longacres Mile -- the biggest race in the Pacific Northwest -- a record five times.

Cold Command’s first crop consisted of just six foals. Yet from that small crop came Sparrow Castle, who won six stakes races at the 1961 Longacres Mile meeting, highlighted by a victory in the Longacres Mile.

But of Cold Command’s 123 foals, none accomplished more than Turbulator, who 50 years ago this month registered the first of his 21 victories.

THIS WEEK’S NTRA POLL

Higher Power cracked the Top 10 in this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll following his impressive win in the Pacific Classic.

Here is the Top 10 in the NTRA poll for this week:

Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

  1. 387 Bricks and Mortar (36)
  2. 337 McKinzie (3)
  3. 276 Sistercharlie
  4. 272 Midnight Bisou
  5. 166 Mitole
  6. 156 World of Trouble
  7. 116 Imperial Hint
  8. 75 Maximum Security
  9. 73 Elate
  10. 42 Higher Power

It’s Post Time by Jon White: Higher Power Crushes Pacific Classic Foes

It’s Post Time by Jon White |