Run at 1 ¼ miles on dirt, Saturday’s $1 million, Grade 1 TVG Pacific Classic Stakes at Del Mar is a Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” qualifying race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
To recap the Arlington Million from last Saturday, Robert Bruce proved best getting the right trip under Irad Ortiz Jr. for Chad Brown and his connections. He connected as the second choice among the betting public, paying $7.20 to win. The favorite, Oscar Performance, was unable to finish the race and was pulled up cautiously by Jose Ortiz in the late stages with just a minor injury. Minor injuries to horses are part of racing, just as they are with human athletes in any other sport.
This week we head to the West Coast for the Pacific Classic. Many Breeders’ Cup winners have competed in this race on their quest to be honored as champion older male at the Eclipse Awards. This year’s edition is a very interesting race, and the more I look at it, it should provide a real betting opportunity. Once again, I really appreciate the variety of opinions this week provided on Twitter and all of the feedback from readers.
Here are five questions raised by reader comments that are worth considering when analyzing this year's TVG Pacific Classic:
1. “Hot Take: Accelerate will win the Pacific Classic.” – @HorseGuyMike
I like a bold take in horse racing, right or wrong, and while I personally might land elsewhere, I’ll grant that Saturday’s race goes through Accelerate. On speed, class, and especially pace he is a standout. He has multiple wins on the Del Mar main track and at the 1 1/4-mile distance. Horses that are forwardly placed have done very well in recent years in the Pacific Classic, and he has that going for him as well. One thing that I haven’t seen brought up about Accelerate is his current layoff of nearly three months. He has run well off of this type of layoff, but he’s yet to win. Even after bringing that up, I have a hard time thinking that this slight concern will be enough for most people to confidently leave him off their tickets. But considering that he will be the solid favorite and a very short price in this race, any doubts are worth considering.
2. “I can’t trust Pavel to run a career race again.” – @VIPvinnyD
Pavel is the second choice on the morning line, and I also have some concerns about him. He did run a career-best race last out in the June 16 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs. He earned a similar OptixFIG (speed figure) in both the Smarty Jones Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup last year, winning the Smarty Jones and coming in third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. The way the Stephen Foster played out, it set up as the perfect race for him to win. He was coming into that race off of a wide (slightly against the track bias) trip in the May 26 Gold Cup at Santa Anita, where he finished a distant fourth behind Accelerate. Even though both the Gold Cup at Santa Anita and the Stephen Foster are classified as Grade 1 stakes, in my opinion the Foster field came up on the soft side. Horses exiting the Foster have not done so well in their following races, which is another reason to question the field quality. Finally, Pavel is winless in four attempts going a mile and a quarter – and I think the Pacific Classic’s distance is a bit beyond his ideal.
3. “Roman Rosso una incognita!” – @tardesdeturf
For many of us, Roman Rosso is a mystery. Last week we had an Argentinian winner in Robert Bruce, and it would be very cool to see another South American horse win a major graded stakes race. The most recent horse from Argentina to run in the Pacific Classic was Catch a Flight for Richard Mandella in 2015. Unlike Roman Rosso, who is making his U.S. debut on Saturday, Catch a Flight had been racing locally prior to the Pacific Classic when he finished second behind another Mandella trainee, the champion mare Beholder.
As for assessing Roman Rosso, since I could not find a recent video of a workout, my analysis is based just on replays from his two most recent races in Uruguay and Argentina. While he belongs in the Pacific Classic field, he has some quirks that give me serious reservations. The biggest one I can see is the way he reacts negatively to the whip. He gets distracted and flashes his tail. If Saturday’s race becomes a “dogfight” late, that behavior is a legit concern. On the positive side, he has been under the handling of Bob Baffert for the last couple of months. It is interesting that Baffert did not choose to prep Roman Rosso in another race and instead decided to wait and run here. Baffert is one of the more accomplished trainers in the game for a reason – he gets his horses to perform. That said, he will need to move Roman Rosso forward off of his previous form for the horse to be a threat in the Pacific Classic.
4. “Prime Attraction as the upset!!!!” – @mustbethepencil
If you are looking outside of Accelerate and for a horse that also has multiple wins on the Del Mar main track, then Prime Attraction is worth a look. He is 2-for-2 on the main track, including his maiden win and a stakes win in the Grade 3 Native Diver during the fall meet last year. He ran very game in his most recent start on Del Mar’s turf, the Grade 2 Eddie Read Stakes on July 22, contesting the pace and holding third as the closer Catapult lived up to his name by running on late to grab the win. Prime Attraction will have to pass the distance test on Saturday, as his more competitive efforts have come in races shorter than 1 ¼ miles. He has a favorable forwardly-placed running style for the Pacific Classic, as the last two editions were won wire-to-wire by both Collected and California Chrome. In 2015, Beholder was just off the pace at the first call, but took over the lead at the half-mile pole and never looked back as she won with authority.
The most recent horse to win the Pacific Classic from off the pace was Shared Belief in 2014. A horse in Saturday’s renewal like The Lieutenant that has a late running style could be up against it as far as winning is concerned, but considering he lacks distance limitations, he’s capable of getting a minor share. The pace is likely to come from Dr. Dorr and longshot Two Thirty Five (and possibly Roman Rosso). Prime Attraction does not look as fast as that group, and can track just off of them. He will need some things to unfold and play just right Saturday evening, but under the right circumstance he is in there with an upset chance.
5. “Saturday’s G1 Pacific Classic … who do you like?” – @ThoroInsider
While I recognize that Accelerate is the one to beat, I like a longshot in the Pacific Classic that looks to be on the improve, is lightly raced, has some upside, and is coming into this race the right way: Beach View. I really like how he won the Grade 3 Cougar II Handicap last month on this track. He beat a solid, professional racehorse, one that is very familiar on this circuit, Hoppertunity. If Hoppertunity were to run in Saturday’s Pacific Classic it is not likely he would be anywhere near Beach View’s 15-1 morning-line odds. Beach View has shown he can handle the Del Mar main track, and the Pacific Classic’s 1 ¼-mile distance is not any concern for him as he won going a mile and a half last time out in the Cougar II. I really like the way jockey Rafael Bejarano has been riding lately, especially on horses who have a stalking type of running style. He fits this horse perfectly, and I can see Bejarano giving the exact same ride on Beach View as he did when winning the Cougar II. The only major question is whether Beach View can step up against Grade 1 competition.
Good luck to everyone involved this weekend!