Saturday will be the 28th running of one of Del Mar’s premiere events – the $1 million Pacific Classic. This 1 ¼ race always assembles some of the best older horses in the country as they compete for a coveted spot in the Breeder’s Cup Classic. From the rail, the seven horses in the field this year are: The Lieutenant (6/1), Dr. Dorr (6/1), Prime Attraction (8/1), Roman Rosso (5/1), Accelerate (8/5), Beach View (15/1), Pavel (7/2), Two Thirty Five (20/1). Two Thirty Five is the first of a few horses I rule out, since he seems to be in over his head against this level of competition. He not only needs to run a career best effort, but he needs other horses in the field to run worse than normal to hit the board. Beach View is cutting back in distance from the 1 ½ miles he covered when he won the G3 Cougar II over Hoppertunity. This is a horse that has run primarily on the turf, with the Pacific Classic being his 4th attempt on dirt. He needs to improve to be competitive and show that he has the speed to keep up with these other contenders. Roman Rosso is the complete mystery horse in this field. This will be his first start in the United States after shipping here from South America. He won 5 of his last 6 starts there and ran against good competition, but I do not think he is up to the same level as the other horses in this field. In most of his races, he seems to win by getting an early, uncontested lead and finishing with a slow time. That will not be the case here. Trainer Bob Baffert doesn’t seem to know what to think of this horse yet either. The Lieutenant has improved this year and has hit the board in his last four races, all of them being stakes races. The half-brother to Justify is consistent and if there is a fast early pace, he might be able to pick up the pieces and hit the board.
For the Pacific Classic, my top three are Accelerate, Dr. Dorr, and Prime Attraction. Accelerate has won 3 of his 4 starts this year, with the only loss being just by a neck. He is 2-for-3 at this distance, 3-for-5 at the track, and Del Mar just happens to be the site of his biggest win to date. None of the other horses seem to thrive at 10 furlongs like this guy does. He is the favorite and the horse to beat for a reason, but the only concern is Joel Rosario will be riding him for the first time in this race since Victor Espinosa is injured. I expect Joe Talamo to push Dr. Dorr out of the gate, since his best performances have come when he has control of the early pace. Unfortunately for him, most horses in this field like to run on or near the lead. Combine this with what seems to be his preference for a slightly shorter distance and this race could set things up for Accelerate to pass Dr. Dorr once again. He will need to have a career best effort to hold off Accelerate, but I think he is able to hold on to hit the board at the end. Prime Attraction is an interesting horse in this race, since he has done his best work on the turf but has shown dirt talent as well. His trainer believes he is better on the dirt, which is why he is entered here coming out of his best turf effort to date. He had several months off before that race, so he may be in better shape now. He likes to be near the front as well, and his trainer says he will fight any horse who challenges his lead. He may not be my win pick, but I can see him hitting the board if he gives the same effort he did last time out. Even though Pavel is second choice right now, I do not think the horses he beat in the G1 Stephen Foster are to the same level of competition that he faces here. He is winless in four attempts at this distance, and his career-worst race (by far) came at this track in the Breeder’s Cup Classic in November. He finished 10th of 11 in only his 4th career start, so it leave me wondering if he doesn’t like the Del Mar surface or if it was just “too much too soon” for his young career.