Pacific Classic Quick Sheet: Get to Know the 2021 Pacific Classic Horses

Racing
Express Train, Tizamagician, and Dr Post (left to right) are part of a competitive field contesting the Pacific Classic Saturday at Del Mar, with a Breeders’ Cup Classic berth on the line. (Eclipse Sportswire/Eclipse Sportswire/Adam Coglianese-NYRA Photos)

This Saturday marks the headline race of the 2021 Del Mar season, when a field of nine top older horses will battle in the $1 million, Grade 1 TVG Pacific Classic Stakes. The race was inaugurated in 1991 as part of the defunct American Championship Racing Series, and has since become a key race on the national racing calendar.

This year’s renewal of the Pacific Classic is part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” series. The winner of the Pacific Classic will earn an expenses-paid spot in the starting gate for the $6 million Longines’ Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on Nov. 6. One horse has pulled off the Pacific Classic-Breeders’ Cup Classic double, Accelerate in 2018.

The race will be televised on TVG, with post time scheduled for 9:30 PM ET.

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Let’s take a look at this year’s Pacific Classic field.


Eclipse Sportswire

1. Tripoli (5-1 morning-line odds)

Jockey: Tiago Pereira

Trainer: John Sadler

Owner: Hronis Racing

Career record: 13 starts – 3 wins – 3 seconds – 3 thirds

Career earnings: $211,960

Earnings per start: $16,305

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 109

Pedigree: Kitten’s Joy – Love Train, by Tapit

Age: 4

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Hronis Racing and John Sadler have teamed up to win the Pacific Classic twice, winning with Accelerate in 2018 and Higher Power in 2019. They’ll try to win a third one with Tripoli. After many tries against first-level allowance horses, he finally broke through and defeated them on grass on May 1. Switching to dirt for his next start, he won a second-level allowance race on June 19. Most recently, he was second in the July 17 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar after a wide trip, rallying strongly in the stretch but just missing against Express Train. Tripoli is coming into this race in career-best form, and with a ground-saving trip, could make some noise.


BENOIT photo

 2. Tizamagician (5-1)

Jockey: Flavien Prat

Trainer: Richard Mandella

Owners: MyRacehorse and Spendthrift Farm

Career record: 18 starts – 5 wins – 7 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $427,851

Earnings per start: $23,770

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 106

Pedigree: Tiznow – Magic Union, by Dixie Union

Age: 4

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Pacesetter

Notable achievements and interesting facts: After showing some promise towards the end of his 3-year-old season, this Richard Mandella trainee has blossomed in his 4-year-old campaign. He’s won two graded stakes races this season, taking the Tokyo City Cup at Santa Anita Park by nine lengths going away, and most recently the Cougar II Stakes by 2 ¼ lengths at Del Mar on July 18. In between those two races, he was second in the Brooklyn Stakes Presented by Northwell Health at Belmont Park. Usually, Tizamagician sits right off the early leader, then makes his move and draws off. All of his wins have come at long distances, so getting 1 ¼ miles should be no problem at all. With his tactical running style, he should sit a great trip and will have every chance to run his best race. Tizamagician’s sire, Tiznow, finished second in this race in 2000 en route to winning the Horse of the Year title. Trainer Richard Mandella has won the Pacific Classic four times: with Dare and Go in 1996 (upsetting Cigar), Gentlemen in 1997, Pleasantly Perfect in 2004, and the great filly Beholder in 2015. Beholder was also owned by Spendthrift Farm. Flavien Prat, currently leading Del Mar jockeys in wins and earnings, won the 2019 Pacific Classic on Higher Power.


Chelsea Durand/NYRA Photo

3. Dr Post (4-1)

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owner: St. Elias Stable

Career record: 9 starts – 4 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $700,635

Earnings per start: $77,848

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 108

Pedigree: Quality Road – Mary Delaney, by Hennessy

Age: 4

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Dr Post had some “close but no cigar” moments in his 3-year-old season. He finished second to Tiz the Law in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets and then was third in the TVG.com Haskell Stakes. He concluded his 3-year-old season with a fourth-place finish in the Jim Dandy Stakes on Labor Day weekend. As a 4-year-old, Dr Post has won two graded stakes races, taking the Westchester Stakes at Belmont Park and most recently the Monmouth Cup at Monmouth Park on July 17. In between, he was fifth, beaten 8 ½ lengths, in the Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Mile. However, he faced a tougher field in the Met Mile than he’ll see Saturday. Recent Hall of Fame inductee Todd Pletcher has won just one graded stakes race at Del Mar in his career, but he’s decided to ship Dr Post to the West Coast, perhaps in search of an easier Grade 1 win. This Quality Road colt has run a lifetime-best Equibase figure twice already this year and looms as a serious contender in the Pacific Classic. Jockey Joel Rosario also goes West for the Pacific Classic but he has plenty of experience at Del Mar from his time based in California several years ago. Rosario has won this race twice, aboard Dullahan in 2012 and on Accelerate in 2018.


BENOIT photo

4. Royal Ship (7-2)

Jockey: Mike Smith

Trainer: Richard Mandella

Owners: Fox Hill Farms and Siena Farm

Career record: 14 starts – 6 wins – 2 seconds – 3 thirds

Career earnings: $293,305

Earnings per start: $20,950

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 113

Pedigree: Midshipman – Bela Val, by Val Royal

Age: 5

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: A multiple stakes winner in his native Brazil, Royal Ship made his American debut last August and ran third in the Del Mar Mile Handicap on turf. On April 17, he won his first graded stakes race in the United States when he took the Californian Stakes at Santa Anita Park by a neck after a long stretch battle with Country Grammer. That rival turned the tables next out in the Hollywood Gold Cup, with Royal Ship second by a head. Most recently, he was third in the San Diego Handicap behind two of his rivals here, Express Train and Tripoli. Royal Ship has run consistently good figures this year, and has shown a lot of heart on multiple occasions. He should get a good trip just off the leaders and should prove a tough customer down the stretch. He’s one of two contenders in the Pacific Classic for Richard Mandella, who, as noted above, has won this race four times. Jockey Mike Smith also has four Pacific Classic victories, and will break the record he shares with the late Garrett Gomez if he wins Saturday. He previously scored with Came Home in 2002, Richard’s Kid in 2009 and 2010, and Shared Belief in 2014.


BENOIT photo

5. Express Train (3-1)

Jockey: Juan Hernandez

Trainer: John Shirreffs

Owner: C R K Stable

Career record: 12 starts – 4 wins – 4 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $659,300

Earnings per start: $54,942

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 111

Pedigree: Union Rags – I’m a Flake, by Mineshaft

Age: 4

Color: Bay

Running style: Pacesetter/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This uber-consistent colt hasn’t missed the board in five graded stakes tries this year. He won the San Diego Handicap in a game effort last out, battling on the lead and holding off Tripoli to win by half a length. He lost the Santa Anita Handicap by just a half-length to Idol back in March, and won the San Pasqual Stakes in the start prior, defeating Tizamagician. Express Train has excelled over the Del Mar surface, with three wins and one second-place finish in four starts. He’s likely to go off as one of the betting favorites in Saturday’s race, and should fire a big effort if he sits his usual trip just off the leaders. Jockey Juan Hernandez has had success at Del Mar since moving from Northern California last year and currenly ranks second in wins and earnings for the summer 2021 meet. He made his Pacific Classic debut in 2020 and finished second on Sharp Samurai.


BENOIT photo

6. Magic on Tap (20-1)

Jockey: Abel Cedillo

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Owner: Summer Wind Equine

Career record: 7 starts – 3 wins – 2 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $233,800

Earnings per start: $33,400

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 106

Pedigree: Tapit – Aubby K, by Street Sense

Age: 5

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Originally, Magic on Tap had a hard time staying on the track. He broke his maiden on debut at Del Mar on Sept. 1, 2018, then raced just two more times in the next 2 ½ years. Since then, he’s managed to maintain a steady racing schedule, with four starts so far this season. Although he’s won twice, including a victory in the Triple Bend Stakes over Memorial Day weekend at Santa Anita Park, his speed figures are a cut below what he had been running at ages 2 and 3. He improved a bit in the San Diego Handicap last out, running a 96, but he was visually unimpressive and was beaten 6 ¾ lengths. It’s possible that he takes another big step forward, but even that might not be enough to defeat classy rivals in the Pacific Classic. Bob Baffert has won the Pacific Classic six times, tying him with the late Robert Frankel for the all-time record. He won with General Challenge in 1999, Richard’s Kid in 2009 and 2010, Game On Dude in 2013, Collected in 2017, and Maximum Security in 2020. Jockey Abel Cedillo was aboard Maximum Security last year for his first Pacific Classic win.


Joe Labozzetta/NYRA Photo

7. Independence Hall (5-1)

Jockey: Florent Geroux

Trainer: Michael McCarthy

Owners: Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Twin Creeks Racing Stables, WinStar Farm, Kathleen Verratti and Robert Verratti

Career record: 10 starts – 4 wins – 1 second – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $654,600

Earnings per start: $65,460

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 110

Pedigree: Constitution – Kalahari Cat, by Cape Town

Age: 4

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Independence Hall once looked like a promising Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve prospect. He started off his career a perfect 3-for-3, including two stakes wins. However, an injury sidelined him for most of his 3-year-old season. Since coming back last November, he’s won just once from five starts, with that victory coming at Del Mar against allowance horses in his first start off the layoff. He’s making his first start since April 17, when he was a well-beaten fourth in the Californian Stakes at Santa Anita Park as the 3-5 favorite. His most high-profile performance came in January, when he was third in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational. Independence Hall has plenty of name recognition thanks to his high-profile exploits, but he might be up against it Saturday in his first start off the layoff and will likely get overbet.


Coady Photography

8. Sheriff Brown (30-1)

Jockey: Edwin Maldonado

Trainer: Todd Fincher

Owner: Joe Peacock

Career record: 21 starts – 6 wins – 5 seconds – 3 thirds

Career earnings: $232,811

Earnings per start: $11,086

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 107

Pedigree: Curlin – Rose’s Desert, by Desert God

Age: 5

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Earlier this year, Sheriff Brown found himself in career-best form. He won three allowance optional claiming races in a row between Delta Downs, Sam Houston Race Park, and Lone Star Park. The gelding has not found the same success in his last two starts against graded stakes company. He finished fifth in the Steve Sexton Mile at Lone Star Park and then was a non-threatening seventh in the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar. Usually, Sheriff Brown sits well off the pace in the early stages and then makes a big run turning for home. That strategy worked well against Midwestern allowance horses, but so far, it has not succeeded against better competition. We’ll see if that changes in Saturday’s Pacific Classic.


BENOIT photo

9. Cupid’s Claws (15-1)

Jockey: Umberto Rispoli

Trainer: Craig Dollase

Owners: Flawless Racing, Masino Racing Stable, Brian Flanagan and Michael Jarvis

Career record: 22 starts – 4 wins – 4 seconds – 3 thirds

Career earnings: $216,940

Earnings per start: $9,861

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 110

Pedigree: Empire Maker – Class Will Tell, by Bernardini

Age: 6

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This gelding earned his biggest career win to date last September when he won the Tokyo City Cup at Santa Anita Park by 7 ¼ lengths. Off that effort, he was the slight favorite in the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Stakes at Keeneland on Breeders’ Cup 2020 weekend, but he was well-beaten. So far this year, he’s earned two stakes placings, finishing second in the All American Stakes at Golden Gate Fields and the Cougar II Stakes at Del Mar (won by Tizamagician). Cupid’s Claws has been a plodding, consistent sort who has hit the board in five of his last seven races but has only one win during that stretch. He’s a good candidate for another in-the-money finish, but he’ll have to take another step forward to win the Pacific Classic. Trainer Craig Dollase has finished second twice in the Pacific Classic, most recently with Awesome Gem in 2007.

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