If you’ve gone over the field for Saturday’s $200,000, Grade 2 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar, then you’re probably well aware that this race offers a little bit of everything and could be rather challenging to handicap.
Sprinters stretching out in distance? A turf horse trying dirt? A graded stakes winner coming back just two weeks after a disappointing run some 3,000 miles away? A newly gelded stakes runner making his first start since November? You’ll find all this and more in the San Diego, a 1 1/16-mile race that serves as a prep for the prestigious Grade 1 TVG Pacific Classic Stakes later in the Del Mar meet.
The one certainty is that Accelerate (#7) will be favored. The 5-year-old by Lookin At Lucky has established himself as one of the best older horses in training this year by virtue of his decisive victories in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap and the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita, both going 1 ¼ miles. Furthermore, Accelerate loves Del Mar (he won last year’s San Diego by 8 ½ lengths), and in terms of Beyer Speed Figures, he’s the fastest horse in the field with seven triple-digit numbers dating back to last summer, including a career-best 111 that he earned in the Gold Cup.
Still, Accelerate occasionally comes up short when you would least expect it, and he’ll be carrying top weight of 125 pounds in the San Diego, conceding from four to 10 pounds to his opposition. Since the San Diego is merely a prep for the Pacific Classic, I think there’s a chance that Accelerate can be beaten at a short price on Saturday.
Perhaps the most likely candidates for an upset are Dr. Dorr (#2) and Two Thirty Five (#4). Dr. Dorr, trained by Bob Baffert, is one of the trickier horses to analyze. He kicked off 2018 with three straight wins, including a powerful 7 ¼-length romp in the Grade 2 Californian Stakes going 1 1/8 miles at Santa Anita, earning a 108 Beyer. He also ran well when finishing second behind Accelerate in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita, but subsequently performed well below expectations when finishing ninth in the 1 ¼-mile, Grade 2 Suburban Stakes on July 7 at Belmont Park.
Why did Dr. Dorr falter so badly? It’s hard to say, but he did race wide throughout the Suburban, never seemed to settle into a rhythm, and wasn’t asked for much late, so I’m tempted to just draw a line through this effort and judge him on his previous form. Baffert appears to be doing the same, wheeling Dr. Dorr right back just two weeks after the Suburban, so I’m expecting a rebound on Saturday.
As for Two Thirty Five, this former claiming horse has improved sharply under the care of trainer Richard Baltas. He posted a career-best 104 Beyer while winning a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Santa Anita last month. Two Thirty Five gets into the race assigned just 116 pounds, and the way he’s progressing as of late, it’s not hard to imagine him taking another step forward to challenge for supremacy in the San Diego.
Let’s make Accelerate our key horse in the exacta, primarily betting him on top while also playing a backup ticket with Dr. Dorr and Two Thirty Five in the first slot:
Wagering Strategy: Exactas on a $20 Budget
$6 exacta: 7 with 2,4 ($12)
$4 exacta: 2,4 with 7 ($8)
Good luck, and enjoy the race!