Coming off the track at Del Mar on Sunday, trainer Richard Mandella had just finished talking to his jockey, Kent Desormeaux, after their Soul Of The Matter ran second to Tinners Way in Sunday’s $1-million Pacific Classic.
“We were second best, that’s all,” Mandella said. “My horse looked good all the way and we had no excuses. Bobby Frankel, that’s the excuse.”
The fifth running of the Pacific Classic was just like the fourth: Tinners Way again took home the winner’s share of the purse. And the fifth running of the Del Mar race was also a lot like the second, third and fourth: Frankel saddled the winners all of those years, and Sunday he became the first trainer to win the same $1-million race four consecutive times.
In 1991, Frankel couldn’t win the Pacific Classic because he didn’t have a starter in the race. But once Frankel discovered the Classic the following year, it became his private preserve. Missionary Ridge and Defensive Play gave him a 1-2 finish in 1992. Bertrando, Missionary Ridge and Marquetry gave the Frankel barn 1-2-4 finishes in 1993. Now, Tinners Way’s second $550,000 payday has brought Frankel’s overall Pacific Classic purse total to $2.675 million. In the last four years, he’s saddled horses that have earned almost 67% of the total purse money.
Tinners Way’s 4 1/2-length victory came in a time of 1:59 3/5, which missed by a fifth of a second Bertrando’s 1 1/4-mile track record in 1993. Frankel, 54, who was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame a week ago today, was more touched by this victory than the others here.
“I got more excited this time,” he said. “I had faith in the horse and I didn’t want to be wrong. The other horses, I was just hoping they’d win, but this one, I thought, had a very good chance. It’s nice to be right for a change, after the 200,000 times you thought they’d win and they got beat.”
Frankel said that for thrills, his fourth Pacific Classic victory ranks with Pay The Butler’s 1988 win in the Japan Cup and with Marquetry’s victory, at 27-1, in the 1991 Hollywood Gold Cup.
None of Frankel’s Pacific Classic winners has been favored. Tinners Way, ridden by Eddie Delahoussaye, paid $7.40 as the second choice Sunday. The 8-5 favorite, Concern, never threatened and finished fifth, beating only Cleante. Blumin Affair finished third, beaten by almost six lengths, and he was a head better than Slew Of Damascus, who set the pace for six furlongs.
Tinners Way stayed close to Slew Of Damascus through ordinary early fractions. Soul Of The Matter, finding room inside Slew Of Damascus, took the lead nearing the quarter pole. But Delahoussaye opened up with Tinners Way in mid-stretch and they drew off with a sixteenth of a mile to go.
“Bobby told me to ride the race the way it came up,” Delahoussaye said. “There was only one speed horse in the race [Slew of Damascus], so I lay just off the pace. I waited until the quarter pole to take off.”
Desormeaux smelled victory at the quarter pole.
“When Eddie let the hammer down with his horse, I pushed the button on my horse,” he said. “My horse found another gear, but then Eddie just ran away with it. My horse gave me the thrill of victory, but it was only for a short while.”
Gary Stevens was riding Concern for the first time.
“He was never comfortable with the track,” Stevens said. “It would have taken a miracle for us to win from the half-mile pole. This was just a sub-par performance for a horse that’s of a much better caliber.”
Tinners Way represents one of Frankel’s best training jobs. From Secretariat’s last crop, he was a grass horse, and not much of one, when his breeder and owner, Prince Khalid Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, sent him to Frankel in October of 1993. At Santa Anita, Tinners Way had two respectable but non- winning starts on grass before Frankel sent him to the dirt to stay early in 1994.
Tinners Way had only a minor stakes win on dirt before last year’s Pacific Classic victory. After a sixth-place finish against Holy Bull in the Woodward at Belmont Park, Frankel was planning on the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but Tinners Way underwent surgery to remove a chip in his right knee. He was away for about nine months, emerging this year with a third in the Californian and a second to Cigar in the Hollywood Gold Cup.
Horse Racing Notes
The on-track crowd of 29,906 was the second highest in Del Mar history, behind the attendance of 34,697 on opening day last year. There were baseball-cap giveaways both days. . . . Because Tinners Way doesn’t run well on dirt at Belmont Park, Bobby Frankel will move him back to the grass, with either the Breeders’ Cup Mile or the Breeders’ Cup Turf as an objective. Tinners Way is expected to run next in the Arlington Million on Aug. 27. The Breeders’ Cup races are at Belmont on Oct. 28. . . . Track Gal, winning her fifth in a row, beat Desert Stormer by two lengths in the Rancho Bernardo Breeders’ Cup Handicap. Lakeway, sidelined because of a lung infection, made her first start in a year and ran third, beaten by 4 1/4 lengths. . . . R.D. Hubbard, chairman of Hollywood Park, said his track will probably drop out of the Thoroughbred Racing Assns., the trade group that’s lost several important members this year. “I see where Tom Meeker [president of Churchill Downs] is withdrawing Churchill because he doesn’t like the direction the TRA is taking,” Hubbard said. “Meeker is one of the best thinkers racing has, and if that’s the way he feels, then Hollywood Park will go the same route.” Hollywood Park will save about $500,000 a year by quitting the TRA.