The decision to ship a horse across the country is never easy unless you think you’ve got a good shot at a Grade 1 win.
And that’s how the plan worked for trainer Chad Brown on Saturday.
Coming off a third-place finish in the Belmont Oaks, Brown sent Cambier Parc out West and she came with a strong late finish to win the Grade 1 $300,000 Del Mar Oaks by 1 1/4 lengths.
The Oaks highlighted a strong undercard of four graded stakes races on Pacific Classic day. The other races were won by local trainers Bob Baffert, Phil D’Amato and Brian Koriner. However, East Coast jockeys John Velazquez, riding Cambier Parc for the first time, and Florent Geroux picked up a win each and Joe Talamo, based in Southern California, won the other two stakes.
For a lot of the 1 1/8 mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies, the focus on the front was Brown’s other shipper Dogtag. But as the horses entered the top of the stretch, with Cambier Parc in the middle of the pack, Velazquez took her six wide and won from the middle of the track.
“It sure is nice to ride one like this,” Velazquez said. “When you ask for it, they give it to you. … When we went past the three-quarters, I shifted her out to where she was comfortable. We had already saved enough ground and I wanted to get her going. She took care of it from there.”
Brown did not accompany his horse to Del Mar.
The Grade 3 $100,000 Torrey Pines Stakes, for 3-year-old fillies going a mile, was won by Baffert’s Fighting Mad. Like the winners that preceded her, she led almost the entire race and finished with a commanding eight-length win over Hollywood Hills and Into Chocolate. She was the favorite and paid $6.60 to win. It was Talamo’s second stakes win of the day.
“We were hoping she could get a mile,” Baffert said. “I’ve been taking my time with her, but the way she’s been working and the way she showed she loved this track, we were hoping it would turn out the way it did.”
Acclimate qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Turf by winning the Grade 2 $250,000 Del Mar Handicap, a 1 3/8-mile race. Under a patient ride by Geroux, the 5-year-old gelding went to lead and never gave it up, winning by a length over Oscar Dominguez and Ritzy A.P. Acclimate paid $16.60 to win. He is trained by D’Amato.
The Grade 3 $100,000 Green Flash Handicap was a mild upset as Mr Vargas was first out of the gate and first across the finish line in the five-furlong turf race. Trained by Koriner and ridden by Talamo, Mr Vargas beat a talented but small group of six. He paid $8.40 to win beating four-time winner this year Eddie Haskell by 2¼ lengths. Two-time Breeders’ Cup winner Stormy Liberal was third.