When it was announced that injury will keep last year’s Pacific Classic Stakes (G1) winner, Acclamation, from defending his title, it appeared that Bob Baffert had the 21st edition all-but won with the talented duo of Game On Dude and Richard's Kid, or even the B-string contender Jaycito.
However, Richard’s Kid was sold a week before the race to a partnership that includes Santa Anita Park executive Mark Verge, and the horse was transferred into the care of the red-hot Leandro Mora barn. This will be Richard’s Kid’s third Pacific Classic appearance, having won the 2009 and 2010 editions before spending an unsuccessful year in Dubai. The dark bay son of Lemon Drop Kid has never been off the board on the Del Mar strip and is in solid form with a near-miss in the Hollywood Gold Cup Handicap (G1) earlier this year and a win in the 1 ½-mile Cougar II Handicap (G3) already at this meet.
Baffert will saddle Game On Dude, whom many consider to be the best horse in the country. The front-running Awesome Again gelding will again have Chantal Sutherland in the irons, as they look for their sixth graded stakes victory together. The pair is undefeated in two starts since returning from an uncharacteristically bad run in Dubai on the synthetic surface at Meydan. Reports are that the gelding is training better this year than last, but if he vulnerable it is because his best races have come on dirt not synthetic surfaces.
Another horse who is finicky about which surface he runs best on is Dullahan. The chestnut half-brother to 2009 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mine That Bird was himself third in this year’s ‘Run for the Roses’ and will be making his first start against older horses. A son of Even the Score, the Dale Romans trainee is undefeated (in fact, his only wins have come in Grade 1 races) on Keeneland Race Course’s synthetic Polytrack surface.
Aptly named Rail Trip, who drew the rail in this event, is another who prefers synthetic tracks. The multiple Grade 2 winner has run well on the Del Mar strip and is seeking back-to-back victories while getting back to his best distance.
There are two recent South American imports in the filly Amani, who Neil Drysdal will send out after a strong-closing third in the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1) at Del Mar earlier in the month in her U.S. debut; and Suggestive Boy, a Group 1 winner at the distance in his native Argentina who has yet to try past a mile since shipping to the States.
The longshots from the rail out are Calder race Course shipper Where's Sterling; the ultra-consistent allowance runner Akkadian, who has been training incredibly well of late; Jaycito for Baffert, who has a tendency to run second; and the hard-trying Riveting Reason.
Game On Dude
$1 Million TVG Pacific Classic (G1)
Sunday, Race 9, Del Mar, 8:05 p.m. EDT
3-year-olds and older, 1 1/4 Miles (All Weather)
PP., Horse, Jockey, Trainer, Odds