Once again, Arlington Park does not have a weekend stakes scheduled. That leaves the “Picks & Ponderings” team to once again hit the road, and we’re on another three-day weekend trip. Here’s the line-up, with pieces, authors, and their corresponding links to be added once handicapping materials are available.
Friday Aug. 22: Personal Ensign Stakes (PM)
Saturday Aug. 23: Travers Day (NN)
Sunday Aug. 24: Pacific Classic Day (PM)
For the Sunday piece, we head to Del Mar.
As Bing Crosby (himself a stakes namesake and initial shareholder) sang in the Youtube video above, it’s where the Turf meets the Surf. Although the Picks and Ponderings team isn’t making the trip to old Del Mar, the selections below are for three stakes on the Sunday August 24 card: the G2 Del Mar Mile, G2 Pat O’Brien Handicap, and G1 Pacific Classic. Each race is an automatic “win and you’re in” Breeders’ Cup qualifier, with the Del Mar Mile victor getting a berth in the Mile, the Pat O’ Brien Handicap winner getting a free pass to the Dirt Mile, and the Pacific Classic champion earning a spot in the gate – should they choose – in the Classic.
NBC Sports Network will show the Pacific Classic live from 8:00 to 9:00 pm ET, corresponding to 5:00 pm to 6:00 PT.
Morning line selections were not available at original publish time for the Del Mar Mile or O’ Brien Stakes.
Del Mar — Race 5 — G2 Del Mar Mile — One Mile on Turf — post time 3:00pm PT
Two turns on the grass for the older open company. There appears to be only two runners with genuine front speed in this event, OBVIOUSLY and ALPHA BULLET. OBVIOUSLY’s rail draw and faster cadence should allow him to go to the front, dictate the terms, and score the Del Mar Mile for the third straight time. He sprinted clear going :22 for the opening panel over a parched Santa Anita course last out in the G1 Shoemaker. OBVIOUSLY got the lead, held it from start to finish, and didn’t disappoint as the 17-10 favorite. Good enough to get a check in the BC Mile two years back. In the land where the Pick Six is king, the fact this race is carded before it signals an obvious favorite that won’t disappoint. ALPHA BULLET may pull back off of OBVIOUSLY, as he’s more of :23-type speed. He could have a nice stalking two-wide trip on the outside or a pocket trip tucked behind OBVIOUSLY and be able to sustain the speed, like he did two back at Los Alamitos on the dirt. Yet, he broke horribly last time and was turned into a rallying closer and used that kick to clear the twice-other-than condition. Elvis Trujillo quietly has ridden well in his first summer in Southern California and he accepts the mount. While Trujillo quietly has ridden well, the press has been given to Kent Desormaeux. This doesn’t like the Desormeaux that was at Arlington, but rather the one at Keeneland. Back in Southern California, he gets a leg up on HE BE FIRE N ICE. A one run closing type, he got his set-up two back in the local Breeders’ Cup when OBVIOUSLY was hassled on the front and he got second that October Day. Not seen since last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile, he does have a string of steady works since July at San Luis Rey Downs. Trainer Sise is one of five on the year, but that win came with a horse coming back off a long layoff, and HE BE FIRE N ICE is a similar situation.
#5 ALPHA BULLET
#8 HE BE FIRE N ICE
Longshot: Although the trainer on record is Phil D’Amato, he’s the longtime assistant to Mike Mitchell. And it’s D’Amato who now pulls the strings. Mitchell claimed #7 LIL BIT O FUN last fall for forty grand and then proceeded to put him in mothballs, bringing him back at Del Mar in a first-level allowance. He worked his way out during the Spring and summer, winning that a-other-than and the restricted Wickerr. He’s also one of two in here trained by D’Amato, the other being OBVIOUSLY. If the rail-drawn favorite gets pressured, this one could pick up the pieces, and OBVIOUSLY’s cadence won’t likely be that far off from what he saw in the Wickerr.
Del Mar — Race 9 — G2 Pat O’Brien Stakes– Seven Furlongs on polytrack — post time 5:00pm PT
The namesake of this sprint race is the actor of the golden age of film and building block of Del Mar’s formative years. The namesake of this race is not the former CBS Sports and Access Hollywood/The Insider reporter.
The older male sprinters take the stage in this race at seven-eighths. GOLDENCENTS had to wheel five-wide in the stretch of the G1 Bing Crosby at seven panels, and GOLDENCENTS does his best running when he’s closer to the lead, as seen by him wiring the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile last fall or him still hanging around after a :45 half in the Met Mile. When GOLDENCENTS had to pull back and make a rally, it took him off his game and yet he still closed to be second, losing to fellow entrant BIG MACHER. GOLDENCENTS also may be a better horse closer to a mile, as he was second in this race last year and nearly pulled the wire-to-wire job. Second off the layoff, his only seven furlong race was last year’s O’Brien when second to FED BIZ. GOLDENCENTS should be closer to a slightly slower pace, and that plays into his hand. BIG MACHER had the inside path on the polytrack in the Crosby late, and that may have been the difference between the top two positions. Although BIG MACHER was a slight bit of a surprise last time at nearly 10-1, he doesn’t appear to be a flash in the pan, as he won the G2 Protero Grande two back and was second at seven panels to Sahara Sky three back. BIG MACHER gets to see INDEXICAL again and the pair did go around the track in tandem. Perhaps at seven furlongs they’ll tire each other out. FED BIZ is the defending champion in this event, having passed GOLDENCENTS in the late stages last year. He’ll make his second start off the layoff, and turns back after wiring the G2 San Diego. However, we’re not endorsing him – or BIG MACHER – as the polytrack in the early stages of the meet was a carousel. While FED BIZ does like the polytrack with three starts and three wins, he will be closing in this event off the turnback and it’s also possible the carousel that spun for him in the San Diego isn’t spinning this time around.
#7 BIG MACHER
#2 FED BIZ
Longshot: #4 SYNDICATED gets the services of Kent Desormaeux to ride. Expoused above how this is more like the Kent D. of the 1990s as opposed to the Kent D. at Arlington. He climbs aboard a runner that, like FED BIZ, is going second off the layoff. During this meet and the Los Alamitos meet, the jockey/trainer team (Desormaeux/Michael Pender) have two wins and two podium finishes in eight outs together. SYNDICATED won two back at six-and-a-half upstate at Santa Anita, and was freshened for Del Mar where he got a podium finish in a two-other-than allowance optional claimer. It’s obviously a huge step in class, but if the front speed melts down, this one could have a nice position to rally in the lane. His last start was also his first start on the polytrack, so maybe he likes the surface more than he let on last time.
Del Mar — Race 10 — G1 TVG Pacific Classic — 1 ¼ miles on polytrack — post time 5:30 pm PT
The richest race of the Del Mar meet, to air live on NBC Sports. The handicap division is in the spotlight. This space is going to take a swing against both of the favorites – GAME ON DUDE and SHARED BELIEF. The thinking here is that the pace upfront could get wicked quick, with runners like GAME ON DUDE, MYSTERY TRAIN, and ICE CREAM TRUCK all wanting the early lead. While GAME ON DUDE can pull back and sit if needed, he’s not a fan of getting pressured and may not be able to get into his rhythm. That potentially fast pace, or even honest at worst should connections get cute, leads to MAJESTIC HARBOR in a mild upset. Winner of the Gold Cup at Santa Anita that used to be run at Hollywood Park, he won that afternoon with aplomb. He’s danced the dances in this division, and he’s also a victor at twelve furlongs in the G3 Tokyo City upstate. MAJESTIC HARBOR should get the same type of three-wide or four-wide trip off of speed, and Tyler Baze has been aboard while the form has trended up. He retains the mount in this seven-figure race. I held a candle during the early part of the three-year-old campaign for SHARED BELIEF after his stylish win in the G1 CashCall Futurity. After being ouchy during the first half of the year, he reappeared in Northern California and defeated elders going six panels. Next came a win in the Los Alamitos Derby against sophomores, a G2 that was more or less a gussied up Swaps Stakes where he dispatched Candy Boy. He’s tackling elders for the first time and gets Mike Smith to ride. I respect him, I still think he’s a nice horse. And he’ll get a weight concession for being three. But from the outside-most post SHARED BELIEF could he forced wide or forced to be on the lead (when he’s shown an affinity to press the pace) in this ten furlong event. Plus, Candy Ride – while a winner at ten furlongs – hasn’t exactly been the best sire of ten furlong runners. If the pace does get wicked quick, one-paced IRISH SURF could clunk up. Allowed to walk on the front end in the G3 Cougar II going twelve furlongs, he won that day but while he had the lead on a carousel-like oval, that’s also due to him getting into rhythm and plodding. And Giant’s Causeways are good at that (hint: the acceleration-challenged Giant Oak or his brother A Step Ahead), namely, being one-paced. Trujillo did take him off the pace two back on the weeds in the G2 Whittingham at Santa Anita, and he did have a moderate closing rally. However, the switch to polytrack might also have woke up his stagnant form. Second time off the summer freshening and staying on the polytrack in this Grade One.
#7 MAJESTIC HARBOR (9/2)
#11 SHARED BELIEF (5/2)
#2 IRISH SURF (8/1)
Longshot: All aboard the #10 MYSTERY TRAIN (20/1). MYSTERY TRAIN caught some surfaces with moisture in them in his Argentine races and won the ten furlong races down there by blitzing to the lead and holding it. The issue will be if he can handle North American racing and polytrack – both are wild cards in this event. But if he does take to the polytrack, he could be the speed of the speed. Sorry, GAME ON DUDE. And he was able in his Argentine races to go wire-to-wire at ten furlongs. And he showed gameness. And did it in G1 races there. G1 races in Argentina aren’t always up to the caliber of North American G1s, but South American imports have been successful in SoCal before. And it’s possible he may be the quickest of them all from bell to tape.
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