Del Mar Main-Track Challenge Races Back on Dirt

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With three Breeders’ Cup Challenge races this weekend, Del Mar will be in the spotlight.

Two of those three races will be on the main track, which for the first time since 2006 offers a dirt surface after an eight-year run for Polytrack.

While the track record of those two main-track races, the TVG Pacific Classic Stakes (gr. I) and Pat O’Brien Stakes (gr. II), was not especially impressive in terms of Breeders’ Cup success by the race winners in the eight years the races were conducted on Polytrack, it’s also fair to say the winners of the two races didn’t fare especially well in the eight years on dirt before 2007.

In fact the lone winner from either Del Mar race in that 16-year stretch to go on and win a Breeders’ Cup race came in the Polytrack years. Last year Goldencents won the Pat O’Brien and then went on to win the Dirt Mile.


Goldencents wins last year's Pat O'Brien Stakes. Benoit Photo

The Pacific Classic carries a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) and the Pat O’Brien Stakes (gr. II), ensures the winner a spot in the Dirt Mile (gr. I). The Pacific Classic is contested at 1 ¼ miles while the Pat O’Brien is seven furlongs.

In the eight seasons before the Polytrack era, the top Breeders’ Cup finish following a win in the Pat O’Brien was registered by Kela, who won the 2004 Pat O’Brien and finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I).


2004 Pat O'Brien winner Kela. Benoit Photo

In the eight seasons from 2007 through 2014, the best Breeders’ Cup Classic finish by a Pacific Classic winner from that season was the fourth registered last year by Shared Belief. In the eight seasons from 1999-2006, the best Breeders’ Cup Classic finish by a Pacific Classic winner of the same season was the third registered by Pleasantly Perfect in 2004. Pleasantly Perfect's Pacific Classic win came a year after his 2003 Breeders’ Cup Classic score.

Interestingly enough, there’s never been a Pacific Classic winner to go on and win a Breeders’ Cup race in that same season. The Pat O’Brien boasts Goldencents, who went on to win the Dirt Mile; 1996 winner Alphabet Soup, who stretched out to win the Classic; and 1995 winner Lit de Justice, who that year followed with the first of his two Sprint victories.

Saturday’s other Breeders’ Cup Challenge race at Del Mar is the Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT), a 1 3/8-mile turf race that carries “Win and You’re In” status to the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT).

Breeders’ Cup Challenge 2015 results and schedule

Breeders’ Cup Challenge 2015 winners by where they were bred

Breeders’ Cup Challenge 2015 leading sires


Back to Dirt for Pair of Del Mar Challenge Races
Del Mar switched from dirt to Polytrack after the 2006 season. During those eight seasons with a synthetic surface at Del Mar, two Breeders’ Cup World Championships were conducted on a synthetic surface, 2008 and 2009 at Santa Anita Park.

Year TVG Pacific Classic Stakes winner Breeders’ Cup race, finish
2014 Shared Belief Classic, 4th
2013 Game On Dude Classic, 9th
2012 Dullahan Turf, 9th
2011 Acclamation did not start
2010 Richard’s Kid did not start
2009 Richard’s Kid Classic, 6th
2008 Go Between Classic, 5th
2007 Student Council did not start
2006 Lava Man Classic, 7th
2005 Borrego Classic, 10th
2004 Pleasantly Perfect Classic, 3rd
2003 Candy Ride did not start
2002 Came Home Classic, 10th
2001 Skimming did not start
2000 Skimming did not start
1999 General Challenge Classic, 10th

Year Pat O’ Brien Stakes winner Breeders’ Cup race, finish
2014 Goldencents Dirt Mile, 1st
2013 Fed Biz Dirt Mile, 6th
2012 Capital Account Sprint, 12th
2011 The Factor Dirt Mile, 8th
2010 El Brujo did not start
2009 Zensational Sprint, 5th
2008 Lewis Michael Dirt Mile, 7th
2007 Greg’s Gold Sprint, 8th
2006 Siren Lure Sprint, 8th
2005 Imperialism Sprint, 8th
2004 Kela Sprint, 2nd
2003 Disturbingthepeace did not start
2002 Disturbingthepeace Sprint, 7th
2001 El Corredor Sprint, 12th
2000 Love That Red did not start
1999 Regal Thunder Sprint, 8th

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