This Saturday some of the best older horses will gather where the surf meets the turf at old Del Mar in Southern California. The fabled track will host the 28th running of the G1 $1,000,000 TVG Pacific Classic, where a field of 8 contenders will battle for purse money and a win-and-you’re-in spot in the Breeder’s Cup Classic. The race will be run around 2 turns over Del Mar’s dirt course at the classic distance of 1-1/4 miles.
The Del Mar strip has been running fairly in terms of running styles with 21% wire to wire winners and several others winning from far back. Post positions are a different story as the rail is winning at 25% and there have been no winners from farther out than the 7 post.
The field will be headlined by 8/5 morning line favorite Accelerate. Accelerate will be looking to sweep the 2018 California triple crown which consists of the SA Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, and Pacific Classic. This John Sadler trainee has a $1.7million bankroll to his credit and will surely influence the pace setup.
While Accelerate has plenty of early foot, he is not a need-the-lead type. The same can be said for the rest of the field as well. I expect a modest pace as Accelerate, Pavel, Beach View, Prime Attraction, and Dr. Dorr all want to sit 2nd or 3rd. So who gets the lead? The answer is the South American invader, Roman Rosso.
While Brisnet and DRF do not show detailed running lines for foreign horses, we are lucky that replays of Roman Rosso’s recent races are available. Roman Rosso has had the lead in 3 of his last 4 South American races, winning the last 3 rather easily. All of these races were at distances of at least 1-1/4 miles. He has shipped north and will now be under the tutelage of Bob Baffert. He is a definite front runner and will provide the pace in the TVG Pacific Classic, but I don’t expect him to hold it. The biggest takeaway from watching his races is that he runs greenly in the stretch, even when uncontested. He has scraped the rail when whip-tapped, and he has drifted towards the grandstand when whipped. That’s not gonna cut it in Southern California.
Accelerate will be tough to beat. He has posted consistently high speed figures and has been in the money 17 of 19 starts. Over the past year he has made a habit of beating many of today’s foes. But being the favorite, I will have to take a shot at beating him.
The horse I landed on is a Michael McCarthy trainee, the #1 The Lieutenant. The Lieutenant has made a big step forward with a win and a 2nd in his last two, both graded stakes affairs. In the G2 Suburban he was beaten only by the highly regarded Diversify at Belmont while covering more ground than anyone else in the race. In these last two tries his pace figures were big advancements and he was able to stay on even at today’s 1-1/4 mile distance. He gets the benefit of the 25% winning rail post position and should be up closer and be able to save ground.
Let’s take the 6/1 morning line and play The Lieutenant for the win.