Key Takeaways from Pacific Classic Weekend

Maximum Security and Abel Cedillo (black jockey cap) take command at the top of the stretch en route to a three-length win in the Aug. 22 Pacific Classic. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Tom Pedulla presents five takeaways from the $500,000, Grade 1 TVG Pacific Classic Stakes on Saturday at Del Mar and other key developments this weekend:

VINDICATION: Questions about Maximum Security’s natural ability have abounded, but it would be hard to doubt him any longer after his emphatic three-length decision in the TVG Pacific Classic on Saturday.  The son of New Year’s Day broke sharply for jockey Abel Cedillo and never relinquished the lead despite heavy pressure from eventual runner-up Sharp Samurai, who weakened in the stretch. The Pacific Classic carried an automatic berth in the $7 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 7 at Keeneland. “I’ve got tears in my eyes, I’m so happy,” said co-owner Gary West. “He looked so comfortable out there.” West and his wife Mary have added Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith as partners.

Bob Baffert (Eclipse Sportswire)

RECORD-TYING TRIUMPH: Bob Baffert notched his sixth Pacific Classic victory, tying him with fellow Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel for the all-time lead. He has had Maximum Security in his powerhouse barn for two starts now, and his handiwork was readily apparent since the 4-year-old debuted for him with a taut win in the San Diego Handicap. Maximum Security settled beautifully for Cedillo in the Pacific Classic. “’Max’ was relaxing really nice,” Baffert noted. “He was a totally different horse.” In a testament to the late Bobby Frankel’s extraordinary training ability, his runners took six of the first 11 editions of the Classic, the centerpiece of Del Mar’s celebrated summer meet.

Tiz the Law on Aug. 23. (Susie Raisher/NYRA Photo)

TIZ “PERFECT:” Tiz the Law, in what trainer Barclay Tagg regards as his most important work leading to the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, produced a bullet five-furlong drill in 59.47 seconds with Heather Smullen aboard on Sunday at Saratoga Race Course. Tagg described the move, pushed back a day due to thunderstorms on Saturday, as “perfect.” Said Tagg: “It went fast enough, but not too fast. It was a little quicker than usual, but it wasn’t too quick for him. He’s a pretty fast horse. I told Heather I wanted a good work in him. I didn’t want to set any records out there. I wanted her to keep a good snug hold on him.” The Constitution colt had not worked since he dominated the Aug. 8 Runhappy Travers Stakes by 5 ½ lengths.

TACTICAL CHANGE: Halladay sat just off the pace in the Bernard Baruch Handicap when he finished fourth in his previous start on July 26 at Saratoga. In Saturday’s Fourstardave Handicap at the Spa, Luis Saez sent him to the front, and that made all the difference as the Todd Pletcher trainee maintained the lead throughout and registered his first Grade 1 triumph. “He likes to be on the lead and likes to run free and that was the key,” Saez said. Halladay gained automatic entry into the Nov. 7 $2 million FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile Presented by PDJF with his 1 ¼-length victory against Got Stormy. Pletcher eagerly looks to the future. “I think the real key is we’ve been able to get him to settle. We wanted to go to the lead (Saturday), but when he got to the lead, he relaxed and pricked his ears and turned off the bridle,” the trainer said. “Before, he would go to the front and continue to engage and never really settle.”

TURF KING: Italian veteran jockey Umberto Rispoli used aggressiveness he learned abroad to his advantage in piloting Red King to an upset victory in the Del Mar Handicap Presented by Japan Racing Association Saturday to gain fees-paid entry into the $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf on Nov. 7 at Keeneland. Rispoli got the jump on ground-saving United, and Red King barely withstood the heavy favorite’s late rush by a head in the 1 3/8-mile contest. “I didn’t like how slow they were going, so I decided to move earlier,” Rispoli said. “It takes a really good horse to do that, but I knew he had the stamina.” Rispoli earned his meet-leading 34th victory in the Del Mar Handicap, with 24 of those coming on turf. He picked up two more wins over the weekend to hold a two-win lead over Flavien Prat as of Aug. 24.

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