- Saturday’s Pacific Classic is the biggest race and top day of the year at Del Mar
- The Pacific Classic is not only a $1 million Grade 1 event, but it is a competitive strong betting race
- Where can we find betting value throughout Saturday’s stacked card in San Diego?
When Best Pal won the inaugural $1 million Pacific Classic in 1991, it was clear big-time horses would cater their schedules around running in what has turned into Del Mar’s marquee race.
Since then legends like Bertrando, Skimming, Candy Ride, Lava Man, Richard’s Kid, Shared Belief, Beholder, California Chrome, and Maximum Security has visited the winner’s circle in the feature race on the biggest day Where the Surf Meets the Turf.
This year’s Pacific Classic has no enormous favorite, but is filled with entrants who have a reasonable shot. That makes it a challenge to handicap, and a good betting race if have an opinion on who will win.
Throughout the weekend in San Diego there is great racing. Let’s look carefully at the Pacific Classic, and consider each of the other graded stakes with an emphasis on wagering value.
2021 Pacific Classic Odds
|Magic On Tap||+2000|
Odds as of August 19th
The Pacific Classic is a mile-and-a-quarter challenge on Del Mar’s main course, which is dirt.
Jockey Mike Smith is looking to unbreak a tie with Garrett Gomez for most wins in the event. They each have won four times.
Trainer Bob Baffert is seeking a record seventh Pacific Classic crown. His victory last year with Maximum Security tied Bobby Frankel’s mark of six victories.
The Pacific Classic is slated for 9:30 pm EST on Saturday. It will be televised by TVG and streamed on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. It is a Breeders Cup Win and You’re In event. The winner earns a berth in the BC Classic, which is scheduled for Del Mar the first weekend of November.
The obvious and most recent prep race for the Pacific Classic was last month’s San Diego Handicap at Del Mar. While Royal Ship was the favorite, Express Train won with Tripoli also finishing ahead of the chalk who settled for third. Magic on Tap was fifth, and Sherriff Brown settled for seventh.
It sure felt like Royal Ship had an opportunity to go by on the rail. Maybe the mile-and-a-sixteenth distance was the issue. Or maybe, that’s just who he is. After winning five straight races in Brazil, Royal Ship has run seven times in California. He is usually close against strong fields but has just one victory while hitting the board on three other occasions. He is piloted by Smith.
Express Train had the same reputation as Royal Ship before the San Diego Handicap. Since the end of September last year he had run in six graded stakes, winning once, finishing second twice, and earning show money a couple of times.
Dr Post is lightly raced, and very talented, but at this point has proven to be excellent at Grade 3 races and not nearly as strong in better races. He is coming off a win.
Last year Dr Post finished second at the Belmont Stakes, and third in the Haskell Invitational. New York-based trainer Todd Pletcher has shipped across the country for this race. It is possible this is a softer spot than some of the top east coast races.
Tizamagician has run six times this year, winning three of them and finishing second twice. Arguably his best career race came last month in Del Mar’s Grade 3 Cougar II Stakes.
While he didn’t beat a large or top-notch Grade 3 field, his previous effort, a second-place performance in the Grade 2 Brooklyn Stakes at Belmont Park was solid, and his prior effort was a Grade 3 win at Santa Anita.
Tripoli had never run in a graded stakes before the San Diego Handicap. He won two lower-level races before his graded stakes debut, and at +930 ran really well. Can he repeat that performance?
Independence Hall hasn’t won in four tries this year but three of his races are Grade 1 affairs. As the favorite he lost to Royal Ship in his last race, April’s Californian Stakes.
It is no surprise after that subpar effort trainer Michael McCarthy gave Independence Hall some time off. His best form is competitive with these rivals.
Magic On Tap was fourth in the Californian Stakes and fifth in the San Diego. In between the two mediocre runs, he won the Grade 2 Triple Bend Stakes.
Anytime you are trained by Baffert attention will come. There are worse longshots than a horse who has a recent graded stakes win and is saddled by the best in the business.
Pick: Dr Post (+400)
Other Graded Stakes Races at Del Mar this Weekend
As tracks try to do, Del Mar has made an entire weekend out of the Pacific Classic. They have the Grade 3 $100,000 Rancho Bernardo Handicap on Friday (9:30 pm EST) for fillies and mares sprinting on the dirt. There are four graded stakes surrounding the main event on Saturday. The Torrey Pines (7:30 pm) is a Grade 3 $100,000 challenge for fillies going a mile on the dirt. The Grade 2 Del Mar Mile (8:00 pm) is a $300,000 eight furlong turf race for boys. Fillies go a mile and an eighth on the turf for $300,000 in the Grade 1 Del Mark Oaks (9:00 pm).
The Del Mar Handicap (10:00 pm) is a Grade 2 mile-and-three-eights test for boys on the sod with a purse of $300,000. On Sunday the $100,000 Grade 3 Green Flash Handicap (8:30 pm) is a sprint for boys on the grass.
Rancho Bernardo Handicap
Gamine and Ce Ce, two top west coast-based female sprinters are passing on this event to run at Saratoga next week. That leaves a competitive field of five including Edgeway.
Winning the Carousel Stakes in April was good. Returning to finish fourth in the Grade 2 Great Lady M Stakes last month was disappointing, though nobody was coming close to Gamine that day. Edgeway may just not have liked the surface at Los Alamitos.
Scotish Star won a pair of races to begin her career in Argentina including a Group 1 victory. Her US debut was a decent second at Del Mar last month.
Stellar Sound has found graded stakes competition a little steep but has run really well against a slightly lower class of horse. Coming off a victory, and second, off a layoff, this could be a good spot to pull a mild upset.
Pick: Scotish Star
Torrey Pines Stakes
I’m So Anna has won four career races, and three of them are stakes events including last month’s Fleet Treat Stakes.
Her only graded stakes didn’t go particularly well, but this is a pretty young and untested field.
Private Mission has won two of three career races, impressively taking an allowance optional claimer in June at Santa Anita.
Lady Mystify has won back-to-back races after starting her career with ok but not great efforts. The win at Del Mar late last month was strong though against allowance optional claimer foes.
Forest Caraway won her debut in August and then finished second in a Grade 2 challenge followed by a fourth in an ungraded stakes. She won impressively on August 1 in an allowance optional claiming event at Del Mar.
Pick: Forest Caraway
Del Mar Mile Stakes
Mo Forza has won six of seven but is running for the first time in 10 months on Saturday. When last seen, he was sharp.
He won this race last year and took a Grade 1 at Del Mar in 2019. If he is fully cranked his first race back, he’ll be tough to beat.
Smooth Like Strait took the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile in May and was second in last month’s Eddie Read Stakes. Each of his last seven races are Grade 1 or 2, and he has finished in the money each time, with three victories.
Hit the Road had won four straight, all in California, before shipping to Keeneland for April’s Maker’s Mark Mile. While he finished fifth, it was a loaded field. His best effort is very much in the mix here.
Pick: Hit the Road
Del Mar Oaks
Nobody trains turf runners in the US better than Chad Brown. Following a second place performance in a Grade 2 at Saratoga last month, he ships Fluffy Socks back to California for this event.
Fluffy Socks won a Grade 3 event at Del Mar in November.
Madone and Going Global ran one-two at Del Mar on July 24 in the Grade 2 San Clemente Stakes.
Madone has five wins in seven starts including two graded stakes triumphs. Going Global had won five straight before finishing behind Madone. Going Global has three Grade 3 victories.
Javanica is stepping up in class but coming off an allowance optional claiming win. He ran second in a Grade 2 try last summer at Del Mar.
Pick: Fluffy Socks
Del Mar Handicap
This is a Breeders Cup Win and You’re In race for BC Turf.
Arklow is hoping to earn a fourth straight try in the event. A nine-time winner with career earnings of more than $2.75 million, he didn’t run well at Monmouth Park in July. That said, Arklow finished last year with a Grade 2 win, and began this year with a G3 score.
Arklow has finished first or second in 16 of 33 career races.
United was upset as the favorite in this race last year. Since then he has three wins in five starts including a Grade 2 victory at Del Mar in July. He is seeking a third trip to the Breeders Cup Turf.
Just four years old, Masteroffoxhounds has been bloodied by Grade 1 horses from around the country in losses at Churchill Downs and Belmont Park over his last two starts. A return to the west coast could do the trick. He won the Grade 2 San Marcos Stakes in February and finished behind United in the San Luis Rey Stakes in March. He may have gotten better since then, but it is hard to tell because of the caliber of his recent competition. That creates uncertainty and value.
Green Flash Handicap
Gregorian Chant had won four straight before shipping to New York and getting outrun in June’s Grade 1 Jaipur Stakes. He impressively won the San Simeon at Santa Anita in March.
That is his only graded stakes victory. His other three tries against similar competition have not led to hitting the board.
Collusion Illusion is super classy. He has won a Grade 1, Grade 2, and Grade 3 race. That said, his last victory came more than a year ago. This is his 2021 debut.
Give Me the Lute has been running well in Northern California. This is a step up in competition, but he has won two of three and four out of six. In September he found graded stakes horses at Santa Anita to be too tough.
Pick: Collusion Illusion