The Pacific Classic at Del Mar has long been one of “those” races. You know, one you circle on the calendar and always look forward to. Having featured some of the greatest Thoroughbred athletes since its inception in 1991, this mile and a-quarter drive over the Del Mar dirt is an established pathway to the Breeders’ Cup. Having guaranteed grade 1 greatness for quite some time now, past champions are a veritable who’s who in the sport.
Saturday, September 3 will see another running at the Seaside Oval. Flightline comes into the race as an overwhelming favorite and deservedly so. Unbeaten and faster than some Louisiana lightning, this John Sadler-trained son of Tapit has the goods. Anyone familiar with the sport understands there are no guarantees in this game, especially in a race like this. Back in 1996, the mighty Cigar came to Del Mar riding a 15-race win streak and went off at odds of 1 to 10. That day he was beaten by Dare and Go, a 39 to 1 shot. With all that in mind, let’s take a quick look-see at the talented six-horse field lining up for this 32nd running.
- Extra Hope (30-1)- This six-year-old son of Shanghai Bobby will likely need a little of his namesake to be there at the end in this one. Ridden by Tyler Baze, this Hope is trained by Richard Mandella, the conditioner that engineered the upset of Cigar.
- Country Grammer (4-1)- Having won the Dubai World Cup back in March, there is no doubt this son of Tonalist loves the distance. The jockey-trainer combination of Bob Baffert and John Velazquez is always dangerous and nobody is better at preparing a horse for these type of events than Big Race Bob. Our pick to pull the upset here.
- Royal Ship (8-1)- Another dangerous runner that won the San Diego Stakes at Del Mar back in July. Brazilian bred and ridden by Mike Smith, he too is trained by Richard Mandella. Certainly, a horse that can be there at the end.
- Express Train (12-1)- Not that long ago this John Shirreffs trainee looked like the best older distance horse in California. His win in the Santa Anita Handicap at this distance back in March was impressive. Veteran Victor Espinoza rides and we really like that. That old Bing Crosby song mentions taking the Train to Del Mar…Hmmmmm…worth a play in your exotics.
- Flightline (1-5)-Four wins in four starts by wide margins means he has never been challenged in the stretch. If he gets loose on the lead this one could be over in a hurry. Having never been around two turns or raced at over a mile there are some questions to be answered against a solid group. Needs to be in all your exotic wagers for sure.
- Stilleto Boy (20-1)-Hard-knocking horse always seems to be somewhere in the money at the end. His pappy, Shackleford, was one that always ran with great effort. Leading Del Mar jockey Juan Hernandez rides and that means you should think about having him on a ticket somewhere.
Back a horse and get paid!!!