Being the Best of the West holds a special significance in a year when the Breeders’ Cup World Championships are held in California. Although the TVG Pacific Classic was a dress rehearsal for the Nov. 6 Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar, the Awesome Again Stakes will provide an important prep for the Breeders’ Cup and offer a barometer of how well the top finishers in the Pacific Classic have maintained their form.
1. Tizamagician (4-1 morning-line odds): He set the pace in the 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic and hung on for second. He’s versatile enough to sit just off the pace, but drawing the rail may force his hand and put him in a duel on the front end with Medina Spirit. Just how fast they go will play a big role in determining the outcome. He definitely loves this track with three wins and four seconds in 10 starts.
JOCKEY: Flavien Prat; TRAINER: Richard Mandella
2. Midcourt (12-1): He was third in the 2020 Awesome Again and usually takes home a check in the major California stakes for older horses. At his best, he’s a major threat. But his only race since December was an allowance win in June. This looks more like a prep than a setting for a big effort from him.
JOCKEY: Edwin Maldonado; TRAINER: John Shirreffs
3. Express Train (4-1): The 2-1 favorite in the Pacific Classic, he never fired and finished a dull sixth. That was his first poor race in a year, excluding a turf race, and that can be forgiven. He’s working sharply for this race and seems capable of a bounce-back effort in a big spot.
JOCKEY: Juan J. Hernandez; TRAINER: John Shirreffs
4. Stilleto Boy (20-1): He tried to play catch up with Medina Spirit in the Shared Belief Stakes and couldn’t do it, finishing third. He gets a longer distance and perhaps a better pace, but he’s unproven at the Grade 1 level and will need to take a huge step forward here to be a factor.
JOCKEY: Kent Desormeaux; TRAINER: Ed Moger Jr.
5. Medina Spirit (5-2): The controversial Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve winner passed up the richer Pennsylvania Derby for this spot, and it should suit him better. He’s never been worse than second in four starts on this track and the pace should be more manageable than it would have been at Parx. He’s facing older horses for the first time, but he had a nice comeback win in the Shared Belief and could be tough to catch in this field.
JOCKEY: John Velazquez; TRAINER: Bob Baffert
6. Azul Coast (12-1): This looks like a tough spot for him. He most recently won an allowance race at Del Mar Aug. 22 in fast time but has yet to show that he belongs in a Grade 1 stakes. With most trainers, he’d be a tossout. But if Baffert sees something to like in him, it’s worth taking a good look at him, especially at the price.
JOCKEY: Abel Cedillo; TRAINER: Bob Baffert
7. Tripoli (3-1): Much like Cigar, he’s become a much, much better horse since switching to dirt. He may not be as unbeatable as Cigar was in 1995, but he did win the Pacific Classic and should get a good trip here as well. Solid workouts for this race stamp him as a main threat in good hands with trainer John Sadler.
JOCKEY: Tiago Josue Pereira; TRAINER: John Sadler
8. Idol (5-1): Hasn’t run since winning the Santa Anita Handicap in March. He’s very dangerous on his best race, but his late-running style and seven-month layoff seem to indicate this is just a tune-up for the longer Breeders’ Cup Classic.
JOCKEY: Joe Bravo; TRAINER: Richard Baltas
THE PICK: Express Train
LIVE LONGSHOT: Tizamagician