Updated August 16, 2018 - 5:56 pm
The eight-horse field for Saturday’s 28th running of the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar is not, as some English bard once put it, so deep as a well, but certainly ‘twill serve.
The main drawback of the Grade 1 race for 3-year-olds and up at 1¼ mile from a betting standpoint is that 8-5 morning line favorite Accelerate appears to be a standout on paper.
The John Sadler-trained 5-year-old, campaigned by Hronis Racing, is a multiple Grade 1 stakes winner and is coming off a victory in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita on May 26. He’s also been a model of consistency of late, earning Beyer figures in his last three starts better than any earned by his rivals in their recent races.
That’s not to say his speed figures tower over those of the opposition, but one of those foes will have to take a substantial step forward or he will have to fire a dud if they are to beat him.
If there is an upset, it most likely will be sprung by Pavel (7-2), also coming off a Grade 1 victory in the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on July 25, or newcomer Roman Rosso (5-1), a Bob Baffert-trained Argentine-bred colt who is working a blue streak in the mornings and brings a gaudy five-of-eight record with him for his first start outside South America.
Baffert’s other runner, Dr. Dorr (6-1), also could make a house call to the winner’s circle, but he seems to do his best running at Santa Anita and is 0-3 at Del Mar.
Wynn Handicapping Challenge update
And as was the case in “The Princess Bride,” that means the multiday $200,000-guaranteed summer tournament at Wynn Las Vegas could reappear as soon as next year, according to race book director John Avello.
“I lost a couple key personnel who helped me do the tournament, and it just didn’t seem like the right time so I put it on hold this year,” he said, adding that he anticipates the tournament will resume next year.
#RJhorseracing featured races
The #RJhorseracing handicappers are happiest when the competition runs deep, which is why I steered them toward the $250,000 Del Mar Handicap, a Grade 2 stakes for 3-year-olds and up at 1⅜ mile on the turf course, and the $300,000 Del Mark Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at 1⅛ mile on the lawn.
In the former, the crowd ’cappers are going to forgive 7-2 morning line favorite Itsinthepost’s recent dull performance in the Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar on July 22, with Kenjisstorm (9-2), Colonist (8-1) and Ritzy A.P. (20-1) in a three-way tie for the second spot.
I agree that Itsinthepost will be tough to deny if that last race was an aberration, but his 0-for-10 record on the Del Mar turf persuades me to look elsewhere. I’ll go with Multiplier (8-1) over Fashion Business (6-1) and Kenjisstorm.
In the Del Mar Oaks, the crew is siding with 9-2 second choice Ollie’s Candy off her solid runner-up effort in the Grade 2 San Clemente in her turf debut. They like Paved (6-1) and Ms Bad Behavior (6-1) to fill out the trifecta.
“Ollie’s Candy has strong turf breeding on both sides and looks ready for the next step after just missing here in her first loss,” wrote Joe “Ponypicker” Mainardi of the group’s choice.
Regular readers of this space know I am a big fan of Paved and won’t be surprised that I think she can rebound from her disappointing effort in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks. I’ll use Ollie’s Candy and Animosity (8-1) underneath.
Interestingly, we are all steering clear of the 7-2 morning line favorite, the Graham Motion-trained Colonia. We’ll see how that works out for us.
Ellis Starr’s Pacific Classic analysis
Prime Attraction may be an appealing horse for wagering purposes in the Pacific Classic as it may appear he is not as good, or as fast, as others in the field. However, Prime Attraction is as good as likely favorite Accelerate (who has finished in front of him three times previously) based on the 123 Equibase Speed Figure earned last month when beaten by a neck and a head in the Eddie Read Stakes on turf. Prior to that, Prime Attraction had been rested 4½ months so he will likely be stronger physically for the Classic and to put that 123 figure in perspective, Accelerate has earned 119 and 120 figures in his last four races, whereas the next best figure of any runner in the field is 117. Prime Attraction may have an edge in the area of pace, as Kent Desormeaux can use the horse’s tactical speed to lead from the start.
Accelerate has run consistently in four races at the top level since finishing second in the San Antonio Stakes in December, finishing first three times and second by a neck in the other. Earning 120, 119, 119 and 120 speed figures in his last four races and winning both starts at the distance of the Classic, Accelerate has proven himself to have no dents in his armor. However, it must be noted that after winning the 2017 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar last July, Accelerate finished a disappointing third in last year’s Classic. Trainer John Sadler took a slightly different approach this year, scratching Accelerate from the San Diego Handicap (won by Sadler trainee Catalina Cruiser) to run in this race off an 84-day rest.
Roman Rosso (ARG) has won five of eight career starts including three in a row, all in South America. He imported to the U.S. recently and began serious training for Bob Baffert in July, putting in a series of six workouts in preparation for this race. With Del Mar’s leading jockey Flavien Prat in the saddle, Roman Rosso (ARG) may be first or second along with Prime Attraction in the early stages and if he is ready to run off a five-month layoff, as his workouts suggest, he could be a very strong factor in the race.
Ellis Starr is the national racing analyst for Equibase. Visit the Equibase website for more on the race or to purchase handicapping products.