In one of the best performances on American soil this year, Dullahan swept to victory in the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic over favored Game On Dude with a powerhouse rush to win in track record time. There is only one small problem with that statement … the race may have been run in the good old United States, but it was certainly not run on anything that could be confused with soil … it’s actually more of a polypropylene fiber, recycled rubber, silica sand, and wax blend.
Now don’t get me wrong, I mean to take nothing away from Dullahan or his accomplishment of yesterday at Del Mar; it was topnotch all the way. The strapping son of Even the Score now has three Grade 1 wins in less than 12 months for trainer Dale Romans, which remarkably make up all of his career victories. He also became the first three-year-old in ten years to win the Pacific Classic, and only the fourth in the history of the race. With the win, Dullahan earned some awfully attractive perks from the Breeders’ Cup, as they will pay the $150,000 entry fee for Dullahan to start in the Classic and provide a $10K travel allowance to Santa Anita. Good news … or is it?
You see, the Breeders’ Cup Classic will be run on the dirt of Santa Anita Park this year, and Dullahan is not a dirt horse. He’s 0 for 6 on dirt, with his only strong performance (3rd in the Kentucky Derby) coming over a main track at Churchill Downs notorious for being friendly to horses that are best suited for turf or synthetic surfaces.
Is he a synthetic horse? Absolutely, those three impressive grade 1 wins leave zero doubt. Unfortunately for Dullahan, there is no BC race scheduled to be run on a synthetic surface anytime soon.
Is he a turf horse? I suppose it is yet to be determined, but I really think so. His races on turf, a surface of course which translates much more closely to synthetic ones, while yet to produce a big win, have been nothing but promising. His last race on turf was way back in March, and it was the first race where I really started believing that he was a very good horse. With one of the best sophomore turf horses alone and setting moderate early fractions, Dullahan needed to close ridiculously fast just to get within a length of Howe Great in the Grade 3 Palm Beach.
You see where I’m going with this … Dullahan should be pointed to the Breeders’ Cup Turf, and not the Breeders’ Cup Classic. I feel strongly about this.
Perhaps I’m a little hypersensitive to this decision, because we are less than two years removed from my disappointment to find out that Paddy O’ Prado, the horse I thought that was one of the most talented American turf horses in many years, would be running in the Breeders’ Cup Classic rather than the Breeders’ Cup Turf. To this day, no one can convince me that Paddy O’ Prado would not have been anything but a strong winner in the BC Turf.
So if Dullahan was my horse, we know where he would be headed, but as part of the Team Donegal Racing, the decision of which Breeders’ Cup race to run in is very much up in the air. Not so coincidentally, Paddy O’ Prado was also a Donegal runner.
Ok, time for another disclaimer … I’m not sure there is a current owner in racing that I respect more than the man behind Donegal Racing, Jerry Crawford. This is a man who has dedicated himself to identifying and buying for his partnership horses that can run a classic distance, with winning the Kentucky Derby the ultimate goal. What could be more fun for a group of partners than winning the Derby? And fun is exactly what Crawford and his Iowa based partnership brings his partners. Yesterday, the Donegal group was a little over 60 in number at Del Mar, and if you’ve ever been around the group at the track, you’d know that they are most certainly enjoying themselves. Crawford is obviously talented at selecting good horses, and even better, they are horses that American racing so desperately needs. I simply love everything that he and Donegal represent on the racing landscape.
As much respect as I have for Mr. Crawford, I am willing to disagree with his decisions, such as the Paddy O’ Prado choice. As far as the impending Dullahan decision, I have little idea which way he is leaning. As the Vice Chairman of the Breeders' Cup Board of Directors, I could see why he might be even more inclined to accept the benefits of the “Win and You’re in” program and point for the Classic, although I saw it as a good sign that Crawford would not say the Classic was the goal during the afterglow of victory yesterday. On the other hand, his post-race statements have me worried that Dullahan might be headed down the same uncomfortable road as Paddy O’ Prado.
“I think every (racetrack) needs to have the surface they want. The great news from today is obvious. People are going to insist that this is a synthetic horse because he has won three Grade Is on synthetic. But there’s no one else in the country that has won three Grade Is on any surface and placed in graded stakes on the turf and finished third in the Kentucky Derby,” said Crawford.
He went on to say, “I would respectfully submit that the question with Dullahan is not what surface can he run on, but what surface can’t he run on?
He is 0 for 6 on dirt, sir. I would say the answer to your question is as simple as that. Bottom line, I simply hope that such a fine individual as Dullahan runs in a race that he can win on Breeders’ Cup Day.