Five Set To Race Six Furlongs In Del Mar’s Best Pal
OXO Colt Stands Out After Maiden Score
By Margaret Ransom
Saturday’s $200,000 Best Pal Stakes (G2) at Del Mar is the first main graded stakes event for 2-year-olds in Southern California and also a first glimpse into the future star quality of the juvenile crop racing in the Golden State and, perhaps, a first look at an eventual Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) runner or even Kentucky Derby (G1) winner.
Like its filly counterpart, the Sorrento Stakes (G2) run last week, the distance of the Best Pal has been cut back in distance to six furlongs from the previous multiple-year stint at 6 1/2 panels, mostly thanks to the lack of races run in progressive distances and a changing racing climate in Southern California.
Regardless of distance, whoever wins will claim the title as the circuit’s division leader and early favorite for the Sept. 3 Del Mar Futurity. The Best Pal was run as the Balboa Stakes for more than 20 years and over varying distances until 1995, when it was re-named for eventual Hall-of-Famer Best Pal, who won the race in 1990 on his way to victory in the Del Mar Futurity and a runner-up finish in the Kentucky Derby the following year.
The fan-favored gelding Best Pal still ranks as the third-richest California-bred of all time with $5,668,245 in earnings, sitting only behind two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome, who was the richest racehorse in history when he retired in early 2017 with more than $14 million in earnings, and 2000 Horse of the Year TIznow.
In addition to the Balboa, Best Pal won the inaugural running of the Pacific Classic (G1) in 1991, and also the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) and Santa Anita Handicap (G1) during the course of his 47-race career, sweeping the three big events for handicap stars in Southern California. He won 17 stakes races overall, nearly all of which were contested in the Golden State.
Best Pal was sent to his birthplace, Golden Eagle Farm in Ramona just miles from Del Mar, upon his retirement in 1996 after a six-year career. After two years of well-earned rest and relaxation followed by a happy job accompanying young 2-year-olds to and from the track, Best Pal laid down and died unexpectedly at age 10 while on the job. The cause of death was reported to be a heart attack, but anyone who saw him run knows there was nothing ever wrong with the big brown gelding’s heart. The humbly bred son of Habitony currently rests under a 600-year-old oak tree, where what remains of Golden Eagle is located today.
None of the five headed postward in the Best Pal this year are… (more)