This Saturday’s race card at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is jammed packed with horse racing excitement for bettors with a trio of graded stakes races including the Grade 1 Pacific Classic.
This is the time of the year when many of these races act as automatic qualifiers for this season’s Breeders’ Cup at the end of October.
Triple Crown winner American Pharoah will not be running this year’s Pacific Classic after his victory earlier this month in the Haskell Invitational, but there is still a strong field of 10 three-year old thoroughbreds and up ready to compete on the dirt track at Del Mar over a distance of a 1 ¼ for the $1 million prize purse. The following is a look at a few of my top sports picks to win Saturday’s Pacific Classic.
Trainer Bob Baffert may have passed on entering American Pharoah in this year’s Pacific Classic, but he will have a strong contender in Bayern. This four-year old colt has kept busy following a stellar run as a three-year old that included a victory in last year’s Grade 1 Haskell Stakes. He comes into Saturday’s race fresh off a third-place finish in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar on July 25. This followed a pair of disappointing runs in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes (6th) and the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap (10th), but the main reason I have in the mix for the Pacific Classic is his past performance at this track.
This is another four-year old colt that is trained by Baffert. He faded to fourth in the San Diego Handicap last month to break a string of eight-straight races finishing in the money dating all the way back to last year’s Grade 2 Rebel Stakes as a three-year old. After finishing third in this year’s Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 13, he turned in his best performance of the year just two weeks later with a second-place run in the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita Park. I would definitely put this horse somewhere in my top three for Saturday.
Catch A Flight
This five-year old could have the most impressive resume of all the horses on my list with three graded stakes race wins this year. Trained by Richard Mandella, Catch A Flight bested the field in the Grade 3 Precisionist Stakes at Santa Anita in early May. From there he went on to win the Grade 2 Californian on May 30 before winning last month’s San Diego Handicap at Del Mar. This is another horse with a home-track advantage that should finish in the money on Saturday afternoon.
This five-year old made my list following his recent victory in this year’s Gold Cup. Trained by John Sadler, he started his fifth-year campaign with a win in the Louisiana Handicap at Fair Grounds on Jan. 17. He barely missed finishing in the money in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap with a fourth-place finish and he did take the show money with a third-place run in the Californian. Depending on how his last few workouts at Del Mar go this week, he might make his way into my top three for Saturday’s race in place of Bayern.
A few of the other contenders listed as probable for Saturday’s Pacific Classic include Beholder, who is also trained by Mandella, Philip D’Amato’s Midnight Storm and Imperative, who is trained by Richard Baltas.
On the undercard at Del Mar this Saturday are two Grade 2 stakes races for three-year olds and up with a price purse of $250,000. First up is the Del Mar Handicap contested over 11 Furlongs on turf followed by the Pat O’Brien Stakes, which is also run on turf over a distance of seven Furlongs.