This Saturday we return to where the surf meets the turf at old Del Mar for the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic. This Grade 1 affair is a Breeder’s Cup Classic win-and-you’re-in event for 3yr olds and up going a distance of 1-1/4 miles over Del Mar’s beautiful 2-turn dirt course.
A competitive field of 10 is expected to enter the starting gate and since there is no headliner in the group it should make for a superior betting race. Del Mar’s dirt course has been running fairly with 17% wire to wire winners, 22% deep closing winners, and the remainder being won from everywhere in between.
The pace of the race looks to be a bit subdued as there is only one speedball in the group, Bob Baffert’s For the Top, and a questionable entry of Higher Power, trained by John Sadler. For the Top, with Martin Garcia in the irons, is an Argentinian bred who has battled for the lead in both of his U.S. starts but has been unable to clear or hold on in either effort. Maybe Baffert can work his magic, but he will have to prove it before I can back him with my wagering dollars.
Three of this week’s rivals are coming in off of the Stephen Foster on June 15th at Churchill Downs where Seeking the Sol came along to pick up the pieces after Quip and Toms d’Etat battled gamely to finish 2nd and 3rd respectively. In that race, the two embattled leaders ran side by side for over a mile at a modest pace and pulled away from the entire field except for Seeking the Sol who was able to parlay an easy trip behind that speed into a trip to the winner’s circle. Tenfold, who will break from post 7 was an absolute no-show in that race but gains the services of Mike Smith for the Classic.
While Seeking the Sol cashed the check, I was much more impressed with Quip’s run as he broke very sharply out of the gate and was able to settle in while battling until being nipped at the wire by Seeking the Sol’s perfect trip. Seeking the Sol is this week’s 3/1 morning line favorite.
Just behind him in the morning line at 7/2 is Pavel. Pavel last raced in the Suburban Handicap at Belmont where he encountered the widest trip in the field, covering 54 feet more than the winning Preservationist and 38 feet more than 2nd place Catholic Boy. With a return to his west coast home and the highest last race speed rating in spite of the extra ground, is this the week that Pavel stopes disappointing his backers and improves on his 17-3-1-2 lifetime record?
John Sadler trains two entrants this week and they will run as separate betting interests. Campaign is the slightly more competitive of the two and is 6/1 in the morning line. Campaign has been dead last at some point in 8 of his last 9 events and has won 5 of them. For Campaign to have a legitimate shot he will need pace to run at, so savvy Mr. Sadler has also entered Higher Power in the race to ensure an honest pace. I am not a fan of the horses running as separate betting interests but they do have different ownership and that’s all the California Horse Racing Board requires.
From the rail, War Story will be looking to make it 2 in a row. Coming off of a hearty 1-1/8 battle in the G3 Monmouth Cup, War Story may finally be getting back to his 2018 form where he had three 2nd place finishes in graded stake events.
The horse I landed on for the win this week is Quip. Quip’s performance in the Stephen Foster was a step forward in terms of speed figures and while he was outclosed by Seeking the Sol, he was not shortening up and galloped out well. Seeking the Sol will need another perfect trip to repeat and I can’t find value in his 3/1 morning line. Also from the Stephen Foster, it should be noted that 3rd place finisher and the horse who battled Quip and faded in deep stretch, Tom’s d’Etat came back to win a stakes race at Saratoga on August 2nd.
Let’s take Quip for the win and hope for better than his 9/2 morning line.