Tripoli wins the Pacific Classic, giving Brazilian jockey Tiago Pereira his first Grade 1 victory in North America
The owner-trainer team of Hronis Racing and John Sadler picked up their third victory in the last four runnings of the Grade 1, $1 million TVG Pacific Classic at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in Del Mar, Calif., on Saturday when Tripoli scored by 1 1/4 lengths from just off the pace under jockey Tiago Pereira.
Pacesetter Tizamagician – one of two runners for trainer Richard Mandella – finished second under leading rider Flavien Prat, 1 1/4 lengths behind the winner, with Todd Pletcher-trained East Coast invader Dr Post rallying to be third under Joel Rosario in the field of nine older runners. Sheriff Brown was fourth, followed by Independence Hall, 2-1 favorite Express Train, 5-2 second choice Royal Ship, Cupid’s Claws and Magic on Tap.
Tripoli, a 4-year-old colt by Kitten’s Joy out of Love Train, by Tapit, covered 1 1/4 miles on a fast track in 2:02.37. He paid $15 for his fourth win in 14 starts and first added-money victory.
The Pacific Classic is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series Win and You’re In race, giving the winner automatic, fees-paid entry into the Breeders’ Cup Classic, to be held at Del Mar on Nov. 6.
Sadler saddled his first Pacific Classic winner, Accelerate, in 2018, and won the 2019 edition with Higher Power. Both were owned by Kosta and Pete Hronis in the name of their Hronis Racing.
“It feels great to win it again, and you’ve got to give all the credit to the barn,” said Kosta Hronis. “Tiago rode a great race. It’s the only race he rode today because he wanted to focus on it. This horse has matured and just keeps coming along and today he proved himself. We didn’t know if he could go a mile and a quarter, but today we found out.”
The victory was the first in a North American Grade 1 race for Pereira, a 44-year-old native of Brazil who came to the U.S. in 2014. Winner of more than 2,000 races prior to his arrival in the U.S., his biggest win came in the $10 million Dubai World Cup in 2010 aboard Gloria De Campeao.
“(Trainer) John (Sadler) told me before the race to be careful, because there were a lot of runners who had a similar style of running, Pareira said. “So, I was okay running right behind the leaders. When it was time to run, I had plenty of horse. But once we got in front, he started looking around, waiting on other horses. I looked around and knew we were not going to get caught. This was my only mount today, so I was really focused. I am so happy.”
A $450,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale graduate, Tripoli raced on the turf for his first 11 starts, winning a maiden race at Del Mar last August and adding a Santa Anita allowance victory in May of this year.
Sadler put the colt on dirt for the first time in June at Santa Anita and Tripoli responded with a half-length victory going 1 1/16 miles. He ran a close second to Express Train last out in the G2 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar, beaten just a half length.
In the Pacific Classic, Tripoli tracked Tizamagician from the outset, following the Tiznow colt through fractions of :23.52, :46.98 and 1:11.73 for the first six furlongs. Independence Hall applied some pressure to Tizamagician, setting up a perfect trip to the eventual winner. Pereira shifted Tripoli to the outside into the far turn, engaged the front runner at the quarter pole after a mile in 1:36.88, then took command with a furlong to run.
“He looked good all the way,” said Sadler. “He broke on his feet so (jockey Tiago Pereira) was able to tuck him in there and he looked comfortable all the way around. When (Independence Hall) started to slow up we were in a good spot. He had a perfect trip, give the rider a lot of credit. He rode him perfectly.”
Tizamagician was 4 1/2 lengths clear of Dr Post, who came to the Pacific Classic of a come-from-behind victory in the G3 Monmouth Cup at Monmouth Park on July 18 in what some thought was a scouting mission for the Breeders’ Cup Classic by Pletcher. The Quality Road colt had just won horse beaten for the opening mile of the Pacific Classic and closed well in the stretch to be third.
“Yeah, he ran a strange race today,” Rosario said of Dr Post. “He kind of lost interest on the backstretch, so I thought I had no horse. But when I wheeled him outside, he gave me a strong finish. I don’t know how to explain it.”
Neither of the two favorites, Express Train or Royal Ship, offered a serious challenge.
Buoyed by a Pick 6 mandatory payout that included nearly $1.9 million carried over into a jackpot and drew $8,876,771 in new wagers on Saturday, Del Mar smashed its all-time, non-Breeders’ Cup day handle record. A total of $36,005,613 was bet at Del Mar or on the 11-race card via simulcasting, bettering the old mar of $25,870,431 by more than $10 million. Attendance was 12,655.
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