So the year is 2014 and I have had time to understand the greatness of the Seaside Oval. This was the third trip and I was still singing my spin-off of a Hank Junior song. If heaven ain’t a lot like Del Mar…I don’t want to go.

Goldencents was a Doug O’Neil trained colt that had captured my heart. This son of Into Mischief was a straight up speedster that liked to get out the gate and go. I liked him going into the 2013 Kentucky Derby, but things did not work out and he finished a distant 17th. His cunning conditioner realized his attributes and cut him back in distance for the Del Mar meet. He had finished second in the Pat O’Brien Stakes in 2013, but had used that as a springboard. Displaying an amazing turn of foot later in the year, he went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita and Goldencents had made both of us winners. Of course cashing a ticket makes for fondness, but in reality I think it was hair envy that drew me to him more than anything. Goldencents reminded me of my high school days in the 1980’s as his curly mane was eye-catching to say the least. Of course he was drawing way more looks than me…that’s where the envy comes in.

So now it’s Pacific Classic day and the O’Brien is one of the races on the undercard. A grade 2 event, the 7 furlong race would be a prep for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile for several of the entrants including the Cents. Eight others lined up against him including defending O’Brien champ Fed Biz. When the gates opened, Goldencents bolted to the front with his curly locks flowing in the breeze. Gliding over the polytrack in a swift 22.87 for the opening quarter mile, jockey Rafael Bejarno guided him to the rail and kept the pedal to the metal as he clipped past the half mile in 45.44. Opening up as they turned for home, Goldencents found an even higher gear as he pulled away with authority in the stretch. As I saw the jaw-dropping performance come to a finish in a polytrack record time at Del Mar (1:20.99), a little perspective hit me. I just saw a woodshed-type butt-whipping that was the stuff legends are made from. This was one of those Oscar-winning performances at the playground for the stars and the reason Bing Crosby opened the place back in 1937.Interviewing assistant trainer Leandro Mora in the winner’s circle was a real treat afterwards and I’m not sure who was cheesing it more as it was a real happy time for us both.

Goldencents went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November and enjoyed some great moments in his 18 race career. Seven wins and seven second place finiashes provided for an impressive career, but that day at Del Mar will forever be remembered as one of the greatest performances I have seen by a guy with a perm in his mane.