8:11 PM EDT, August 24, 2013
A stumble and a jockey spill on the other side of the country Friday has scrambled the landscape for Sunday's $1-million Grade I Pacific Classic at Del Mar.
When jockey Joel Rosario's ride in the seventh race at Saratoga, Casual Elegance, lost her footing past the finish line, it unseated Rosario, who landed left foot first and fractured that foot.
Rosario, a longtime rider in the Southern California jockey colony who moved to the East to ride last year, is the leading rider in the country, with 237 wins and nearly $17 million in purses.
This weekend would have likely added greatly to those numbers. Saturday at Saratoga, Rosario was to ride Orb in the prestigious Travers Stakes. He won the Kentucky Derby aboard Orb this year.
Then Sunday, after a cross-country flight, he was to ride another star horse, trainer Bob Baffert's $5-million cash cow, Game On Dude, in the Pacific Classic. Saturday morning, during a public seminar at Del Mar, Baffert worked the drama well and named Martin Garcia to replace Rosario on Game on Dude. Garcia, part of the seminar program, was standing next to Baffert and shouted, “Yes! It's about time!”
Garcia, who has ridden, and won with, Game On Dude in the past, has also worked the horse in the mornings for Baffert. He was to ride Baffert's other entry in the race, Liaison, but Baffert scratched Liaison.
Jose Lezcano substituted for Rosario on Orb and finished third.
Game On Dude, age 6 and winner of 14 of 26 starts, can become the second horse to win Southern California's calendar Triple Crown. The first was Lava Man, who won the Santa Anita Handicap, the Hollywood Gold Cup and the Pacific Classic in 2006. Game On Dude already has the Big 'Cap and Gold Cup in his saddle this year.
There was an opportunity for Lava Man to be on track when Game On Dude goes to the gate. The retired Lava Man has been the parade pony for several of trainer Doug O'Neill's star horses, most recently during Goldencents' Triple Crown entry.
O'Neill has a Pacific Classic entry, two-time winner Richard's Kid, but the trainer said Lava Man will probably stay at home. “He is kind of a tough shipper,” O'Neill said. “Maybe if I thought of it sooner, but he can get a bit unruly if he isn't settled.”
O'Neill joked that a big flat-screen TV could be set up in Lava Man's stable at Hollywood Park.
It would be no joking matter if Richard's Kid won. He would become the only three-time winner in the race's 23-year history. Tinners Way won in 1994 and '95 and Skimming in 2000 and '01.
Richard's Kid, age 8, shares the fourth-favorite spot on the morning line odds at 8-1 with Delegation. Game On Dude is at 5-2, Dullahan at 7-2 and Kettle Corn at 6-1.
Dullahan, with a victory, can become one of those two-time winners. He won last year with Rosario on board. Dullahan will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano, the current leading rider at Del Mar.
The Pacific Classic is 1 1/4miles, the ninth of 11 races, with a opening post time of 1 p.m.
Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times