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HORSE RACING

24-1 longshot delivers 'a Hall of Fame' ride

Rallying from 10th place in the $1-million Pacific Classic at Del Mar, Richard's Kid makes a winner of two Hall of Famers: jockey Mike Smith and trainer Bob Baffert.

September 07, 2009|Eric Sondheimer

It was a first for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, getting on his hands and knees in the winner's circle at Del Mar and bowing to another Hall of Famer, jockey Mike Smith, who rode the 24-1 longshot Richard's Kid to a neck victory over Einstein in the Grade I $1-million Pacific Classic on a picturesque, cloudless Sunday afternoon.

"He gave me a Hall of Fame ride," Baffert said.

Richard's Kid, a 4-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid running in only his third race for Baffert after being privately purchased by owner Arnold Zetcher from Maryland connections, rallied from 10th place to overhaul Einstein and 5-2 favorite Rail Trip. The final time for the 1 1/4 miles was 2:02.39.

"I don't think this is real," a stunned Zetcher said.

For a brief moment, Baffert thought his "other" horse in the 12-horse field, Misremembered, might win. The 3-year-old was battling for the lead at the top of the stretch before fading to 10th. But Einstein, the Santa Anita Handicap winner, grabbed the lead until Richard's Kid surged in the stretch to pull off the upset, returning $50.80.

"When I asked him heading for home, he really kicked," Smith said.

Smith had told Baffert before the race that if he won, Baffert should bow, and so he did. It was Baffert who recommended Zetcher purchase Richard's Kid, who finished second in his last race, losing by a nose in the Cougar II Handicap at Del Mar on Aug. 5. Strong workouts motivated Baffert to take a shot at winning the richest race of the 37-day Del Mar meeting.

"The horse was dropping way back in his races," Baffert said of his previous form. "We put some speed into him to let him know he's going to have to be faster if he's going to run in California. The horse fired."

What a memorable day it was for Baffert, whose 3-year-old, Zensational, won his third consecutive Grade I stakes, cruising to a 2 1/4 -length win over Noble Court in the $300,000 Pat O'Brien Stakes. He ran the seven furlongs in 1:22.31 in what will be his final start before the Breeders' Cup Sprint on Nov. 7 at Santa Anita.

Baffert, who had an Eclipse Award sprinter in Midnight Lute, said Zensational is the fastest horse he has trained.

"He's just an incredible animal, and I'm glad I don't have to run against him," he said.

Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Zensational has won five of his seven races. The son of Unbridled's Song was purchased for $700,000 at a 2-year-olds-in-training sale in Florida by Zayat Stables.

"I've ridden some very good, very fast horses," Espinoza said. "But I've never ridden one like him."

Baffert joked what would happen if Zensational were bred to the 3-year-old filly Rachel Alexandra.

"You wouldn't be able to find it in the pasture," he said.

Longshot triumphs

Rendezvous, a 22-1 longshot ridden by leading rider Joel Rosario, rallied in the stretch to win the Grade II $350,000 Del Mar Derby by a nose over 2-1 favorite Battle of Hastings, with another longshot, Acclamation, finishing third at 1 1/8 miles on the turf.

Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Rendezvous had lost six consecutive races and last won on Jan. 16 at Golden Gate Fields. But Rendezvous was coming off a strong second-place performance in the La Jolla Handicap on Aug. 15.

The 3-year-old son of Victory Gallop returned $46.

Battle of Hastings has made a habit of participating in close finishes, having won his last two races by a head.

Afleet Eagle, winner of the opening-day Oceanside Stakes and the third choice in the wagering, was pulled up after suffering a bowed tendon in his left foreleg.

Duo stays hot

The John Sadler-trained Third Dawn, ridden by Rosario, won the $100,000 Torrey Pines Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, defeating Music Magic by 2 1/4 lengths in the one-mile race. Sadler and Rosario have clinched the Del Mar trainer and jockey titles going into the final two days of racing today and Wednesday. Rosario rode four winners Sunday.

--

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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