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Favorites End Up at Bottom of Heap

You want to know how shrewd an analyst of horseflesh I am?

I looked at the field for Sunday’s Pacific Classic and shook my head. Del Mar’s infield pond had to be much deeper than the seven-horse field for the $1-million race which highlights the summer season.

Three horses had a chance, and it was a matter of whether the mare, Paseana, could survive against Another Review and Eastern import Jolie’s Halo. The others were going along for the ride like children in the back of a station wagon.

Trainer Bobby Frankel conceded as much earlier in the week when he said Missionary Ridge, one of two horses he had entered, might be able to sneak in for third or fourth money. When you consider third was worth $150,000 and fourth $75,000, it could be a very worthwhile Sunday stroll.

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The bettors had things figured pretty much the same way, making Paseana an 8-5 favorite followed by Another Review at 5-2 and Jolie’s Halo at 3-1.

All that smart money and all those smart people were in for one gigantic shock. It might have been one of the most stunning reversals in the history of stakes races.

Could anyone beat The Big Three?

What happened was that everyone beat The Big Three.

No kidding.

It wasn’t just that Missionary Ridge paid $51 to win. Longshots sneak through in the very biggest of races, and this ranks among the very biggest in purse if not tradition. But it’s rare that the three favorites in such a race finish at the very bottom.

That was what happened in the Pacific Classic.

Had Jolie’s Halo been a starting pitcher rather than a racehorse, he would not have been credited with as much as one-third of an inning. All he got out, or out from under, was his rider, Edgar Prado. The poor guy flew all the way from Maryland for one race and ended up on his ear in the shadow of the starting gate. He came 3,000 miles for a five-yard ride.

Jolie’s Halo ran off on his own and was last seen ordering a Chardonnay at Jake’s.

That left it for Another Review to do battle with the mare and uphold the manhood of the species, so to speak. He was there, seemingly in striking distance, for much of the race. He had the confident look of an athlete who just knows that what’s ahead of him won’t stick.

In reality, Another Review ran much of the race in fourth place . . . but he didn’t stick. The only competitor he beat was Edgar Prado. No one knew for sure where Jolie’s Halo was at this time, but rules mandate that horse and rider must both reach the finish line.

So there you have two of the three favorites, one of them done at the start and the other done by the finish.

Of the favorites, the survivor was the mare. Paseana could win not only for her gender, and likely wrap up the horse of the year award, but she would also be a “local” winner for the second year in a row. Best Pal won a year ago for John Mabee and Paseana was owned by diet tycoon Sid Craig, who had to be thinking chances were slim any of the others could beat his mare.

Fat chance, Sid.

Trainer Bobby Frankel ganged up on that mare with his entry, Missionary Ridge and Defensive Play.

Before the race, Frankel had said: “Looks like no one wants to lead. We’ll take it if no one wants it. We’ll take it with Defensive Play or Missionary Ridge. They both have speed.”

All Frankel was talking about was taking the lead, not the whole darn race. Missionary Ridge went out on top with Paseana second and Defensive Play third. It kind of went back and forth like that, while fans waited for Paseana to move up and Another Review to make a run.

Paseana, as it turned out, faded to fifth, giving the three favorites fifth, sixth and seventh out of seven. Missionary Ridge, the longest price on the board, never did surrender the lead. Defensive Play held on for second.

“I thought (Missionary Ridge) might beat a few horses and pick up third or fourth money,” Frankel said afterward, “and he picked up first money instead.”

Nice pickup.

Missionary Ridge earned $550,000 for the win. What’s more, Defensive Play earned $200,000 for finishing second . . . and $225,000 for finishing third in the American Championship Racing Series.

For those of you counting, such as the IRS, that gave Frankel-trained horses a nice $995,000 payoff for 2:00 4/5 of a Sunday afternoon. The man came for a piece and ended up with the whole pie.


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