Sunday, September 6, 2009

Richard’s Kid collars Einstein in Pacific Classic

Photo: Richard's Kid (outside) scores an upset win in the Pacific Classic (G1) over Einstein (Brz).

With the benefit of a strong pace to run at and a well-timed ride by Racing Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, Richard’s Kid powered from well off the pace to post a 24.40-to-1 upset in the $1-million Pacific Classic Stakes (G1) on Sunday at Del Mar.

Smith reserved the four-year-old Lemon Drop Kid colt in 11th early in the 12-horse field behind a solid pace in the 1 1/4-mile race. Richard’s Kid surged into contention with a sweeping bid off the final turn and lengthened his stride gamely in the stretch to reel in multiple Grade 1 winner Einstein (Brz), who appeared to have the race in his back pocket at the sixteenth pole.

Richard’s Kid completed 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.39 on the synthetic Polytrack surface to halt a five race winless stretch.

“I said to Mike when I put him on this horse, ‘Give me a Hall of Fame ride and we have a chance,’ “ said winning trainer Bob Baffert, who conditions Richard’s Kid for owner Arnold Zetcher. “I bought this horse specifically to run on synthetic [tracks]. He’s been getting stronger and stronger and training better and better.”

Zetcher purchased Richard’s Kid privately after he finished fourth in the William Donald Schaeffer Handicap (G3) on the May 16 BlackBerry Preakness Stakes (G1) undercard. With only a minor stakes victory at Laurel Park in February to his credit, Richard’s Kid was overlooked in a deep field that included hard-hitting veteran Einstein, TVG/Betfair Hollywood Gold Cup Handicap (G1) winner Rail Trip, and 2008 Travers Stakes (G1) winner Colonel John.

But entering the race, one advantage for Richard’s Kid was that the 1 1/4-mile distance would not be an issue. He entered off a runner-up finish, beaten by a nose, in the 1 1/2-mile Cougar II Handicap on August 5 at Del Mar. In the final furlong of the Pacific Classic, that stamina kicked in as Richard’s Kid steamrollered past game runner-up Einstein.

“You look at who we beat today—we beat Einstein and Rail Trip—it’s hard to believe,” said Zetcher, who celebrated in the winner’s circle with his wife, Ellen, one day after their 27th wedding anniversary. “This last year has just been a great year for us.”

Tres Borrachos controlled the pace through fractions of :23.16, :47.42, and 1:12.53 through six furlongs with Einstein stalking from fourth and Rail Trip tracking in sixth then fifth. Smith reserved Richard’s Kid near the back of the field, rationing his energy for a sustained rally.

Einstein and Rail Trip made their moves near the top of the stretch and battled for command near the eighth pole, but Richard’s Kid unleashed his winning bid to pull off the upset.

“It’s a great win,” said Baffert, who last won the Pacific Classic in 1999 with General Challenge. “It’s a great feeling to win this race, it’s been a while since I’ve won it.”

Einstein confirmed his affinity for synthetic racetracks in his second start on a synthetic surface. He won the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) in his only other synthetic start. Trainer Helen Pitts-Blasi said she was thrilled with the seven-year-old Spend a Buck horse’s effort.

“How can you knock a horse that gives you 110% all the time,” she said of Einstein, who was making his first start for new owner Stronach Stables. “He ran his heart out and in my opinion; he ran a winning race.”

Einstein finished three-quarters of a length in front of third-place finisher Rail Trip, who finished willingly as the 2.70-to-1 favorite under Jose Valdivia Jr. Colonel John encountered traffic on the final turn and in the stretch and finished a nonthreatening fifth as the 2.80-to-1 second betting choice.

Richard’s Kid improved to six wins in 19 starts and boosted his bankroll to $759,370 with the $600,000 winner’s share. Bred in Maryland by Fitzhugh LLC, he is out of the multiple stakes-winning Broad Brush mare Tough Broad.