DUEL AT DEL MAR WAS DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN
The 24th running of the Pacific Classic at Del Mar had all too familiar ring for this particular sports scribe on August 24, but in the end it was all good.
Let’s set the table here and establish the combatants for the 2014 duel. Coming into the signature race on the Del Mar calendar, Game On Dude was the defending champ in the seaside oval’s million-dollar event and had questions surrounding him. At the age of seven, the Dude was coming off a disappointing attempt at winning a third consecutive Gold Cup. Asking about his age, many wondered how much the front-running speedster had left in the tank. Others, however looked at his resume with all those grade 1 wins in the Golden State and knew he was still Game. On the other hoof you had an unbeaten youngster in Shared Belief that had dazzled in his five previous wins. As a three-year old and the son of former Pacific Classic winner Candy Ride, his amazing balance and turn of foot caused many to be believers in the youth movement.
Now, here comes the déjà vu part. As a dedicated and very fortunate turf writer I have been lucky enough to have visited the surf and turf of Del Mar. At last year’s Pacific Classic my family came along for the ride and we witnessed a gate to wire win by Game On Dude that was very inspiring to say the least. One of the family members happened to be my rather swift running and baseball playing son, Beauregard. Having been timed at 6.5 seconds in the 60-yard dash, to say God has blessed him with a good turn of foot too would absolutely be accurate. I, on the other hand, have lost a bit of my giddy up, but would never admit it to that seventeen year-old whippersnapper. Having done a few things in my day on the playing field, there was a bit of reputation there.
Following the 2013 tour de force at Del Mar by the heroic Dude, the family and I went to the lovely sands of Moonlight Beach. There we reflected on the domination of Game On Dude as we strolled through sand and surf. As the testosterone rose a bit between my son and I the challenge of a foot race was thrown down and of course I accepted. We set the distance of about 100 yards or so and he agreed to give me about a 25 yard head start as the race was a handicapped much like that for Thoroughbreds.
When the gates opened I burst forward with a blast, or so I thought. Early speed would widen my lead and then I could hold him off at the wire. Churning with everything I had, I dare not look back and lose momentum. Attempting to kick in my high cruising speed, suddenly I realized 100 yards is a long way to be sprinting when you are half way up the hill of life. About 30 yards out, I heard footsteps and the young speed flew past me. As I labored home well-beaten and way out of breath, I knew the family torch had been passed on the playing field.
Fast forward to 2014 and Del Mar. the whippersnapper was not with us this time as college classes kept him. But there was young versus old in the starting gates, only this time on the turf and not in the surf. Of course, I had sentiments for Game On Dude because he was the veteran still trying to prove he was the best, much like me. When the gates opened, the Dude immediately broke to the front and refused to give up the lead to the rabbit-running long shot Mystery Train. The youthful Shared Belief, on the other hand got a little sideways coming out of the gate and found himself shuffled back in the pack early on. At the quarter mile mark, Shared Belief had moved up to mid pack and was cruising while Game On Dude was hammer down and began to leave Mystery Train in his wake. Stubborn and full of himself, the Dude was determined to be on the lead. Setting fractions that were unbelievably fast for a mile and a quarter race (22.49 ¼, 45.75 ½), the old guy was getting his Game On. As he opened up a huge lead on the back stretch, my emotions were churning and I couldn’t help but believe the veterans were going to be vindicated with a victory. But on the far turn, reality set in and those fast early fraction took a toll as Shared Belief and two others rolled past. In fine gladiator fashion, Game On Dude finished, but it was a good six lengths behind the stretch running and very impressive Shared Belief.
As I stood there and witnessed what could be another passing of a torch, it perpetuated a few preponderances. As Shared Belief overcame adversity and ran very impressively, you had to figure it was a good thing he won the race. Game On Dude is a hero, but he can’t run forever and if someone is going to take his place, shouldn’t it be one that is worthy. Yes, Shared Belief has a lot to do before he could ever be on the same level as a horse like Game On Dude, but he certainly proved he has the potential to carry the torch as tops in the Golden State for sure. For me, I figured out it was good my son beat me. Never one that likes to accept defeat, in the end it was better to be beaten by an aspiring college baseball player. So if the torch has to be passed, and we all know it does, it should be done to a worthy successor.