Saturday will mark the 28th edition of the Pacific Classic, Del Mar's marquee race for the handicap division.
The race has always been contested at a mile and a quarter over the Del Mar main: polytrack from 2007 through 2014, and dirt otherwise. The race offers a $1,000,000 purse, as well as a Win and You're In berth into the Breeders' Cup Classic for the winner. Thus far, no winner of the Pacific Classic has gone on to win the BC Classic in the same year. Pleasantly Perfect (2004), however, had already won the BC Classic the year before. Bertrando (1993) finished second in the Breeders' Cup Classic that same year, overtaken late by 133/1 longshot Arcangues. Recent winners have, like Bertrando, come close in the Breeders' Cup Classic. 2016 winner California Chrome finished second behind Arrogate in that year's Classic; the next year, Collected finished second behind Gun Runner in the same race.
Race 10: TVG Pacific Classic (GI), three-year-olds and up, one and one quarter miles on the dirt, post time 6:15 PDT
ACCELERATE has been the marquee figure in the west coast handicap division this year. He has won both mile and a quarter Grade 1 races out west this year, the Santa Anita handicap and the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. His record at Del Mar suggests he is one of those horses who can be just as effective in San Diego as he is in Arcadia, however; in five tries over the course he has three wins, as well as a third-place finish behind Collected and Arrogate in last year's Pacific Classic. With tactical speed, proven mile and a quarter stamina, and affinity for the distance, ACCELERATE would be no surprise in this year's edition.
But, ACCELERATE is not without questions. He is usually a little better second off a layoff than first-up. He also has to get accustomed to at may be worth looking elsewhere if there's a horse with enough upside. That horse is THE LIEUTENANT.
THE LIEUTENANT comes out of a second-place finish in the Suburban (G2), run at a mile and a quarter just like the Pacific Classic. The Suburban form carried well to the Spa, as the 1-3 finishers in that race (Diversify and Discreet Lover) returned to go 1-3 in the Whitney (G1). Though THE LIEUTENANT is five, he just seems to be coming into himself this year: he made his first graded stakes attempt in February, won his first graded stakes in May, and tried a mile and a quarter for the first time in the Suburban. He also has some form at Del Mar; though he was off the board in his first try over the track, that came at a sprint, and he came back to post a comfortable allowance win in his two-turn try over the course. The one thing THE LIEUTENANT needs is pace -- and with ROMAN ROSSO and DR. DORR likely to be forward, and PRIME ATTRACTION, ACCELERATE, and TWO THIRTY FIVE possible to show some pace as well, THE LIEUTENANT should get enough to run at. He will be running on late, and has every right to get all the way there.
Though PAVEL might take some interest off a big effort in the Stephen Foster (G1), his mile and a quarter form (0-4 lifetime, with only one money finish) has questions looming over it. DR. DORR appeals a bit more at that distance., as he didn't disgrace himself chasing Accelerate home in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita last year. DR. DORR's trip east for the Suburban did not go well, but in his California races this year? He has been that sort who musters useful efforts in the west coast handicap races. DR. DORR isn't flashy, but you know what you're going to get. He'll race relatively forward, and he'll keep trying -- and, in this stratified edition of the Pacific Classic, that's going to be good enough to get him a piece.
#1 THE LIEUTENANT (6/1)
#5 ACCELERATE (8/5)
#2 DR. DORR (6/1)
Longshot: #3 PRIME ATTRACTION (8/1) has muddled form, but the most relevant bits of it bode well for his chances. Though he comes in off a turf race, and his classiest form has come on the grass, he has found his better dirt races at Del Mar. He is a perfect two-for-two on the Del Mar dirt, including a win in the Native Diver (G3) last fall. A mile and a quarter on the dirt is a question, but again, that may be a question of finding the right track -- both his mile and a quarter dirt starts have come at Santa Anita, where he is not quite as good. It's also a positive to see rider Kent Desormeaux back in the irons; Desormeaux rode PRIME ATTRACTION last out in the Eddie Read (G2), where he finished beaten a head. That was also PRIME ATTRACTION's first race off a layoff; if he steps forward second-up, he could surprise some people in the Pacific Classic.
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