by Johnny D
August 15, 2019
Del Mar, or ‘Where the Turf Meets the Surf,’ if you prefer, presents its main event, the Pacific Classic, Saturday and the race has attracted a wide-open field of 10 runners. Horseplayers will be challenged to solve this puzzle like never before in recent memory. If you’re looking for a superstar, don’t bother. There isn’t one. Seeking the Soul, a 6-year-old horse who’s won 7 of 27 and $3.3 million, is as close as you’ll get. For the most part he’s faced stiff competition over the last few years, but his last two wins came in the Grade 2 Stephen Foster and in the 2018 Grade 3 Ack Ack--both at Churchill Downs, a track where he also won the 2017 Grade 1 Clark. There also seems to be a noticeable lack of speed in this race. It will be interesting to see how connections attack the early pace.
1. War Story (Navarro/Pereira) - 8/1
This 7-year-old gelding fired a big shot last out to win the Grade 3 Monmouth Cup in late July. Seemingly defeated in the lane, he re-rallied gamely under Luis Saez to win by a head. It was his first win since March 2018, when he won a $100k stakes race. This will be his 36th career start and he’s got 7 wins and earned $2.8 million. In the last year, he’s mostly faced Grade 2 competition, so this is a step up on paper from that. If he runs like he did last time, he fits. Of note: he ran one of the best races of his life at Del Mar. However, it’s a big ask for an older horse to ship and to duplicate such a huge performance.
2. Quip (Brisset/Geroux) - 9/2
This lightly raced 4-year-old colt ran lights-out in the Stephen Foster last out, but it was a neck short to Seeking the Soul. Quip won the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap in the slop. That was his second start this year and he appears to finally be delivering on early promise. He could have a pace advantage in here and should use an inside post to enhance that advantage. The distance is a bit of a question. Still, Quip is consistent, capable and should be a decent price.
3. Pavel (O'Neill/Gutierrez) - 7/2
Winner of just 3 of 17 starts, Pavel has participated in some of the world’s top events in the last two years. He hasn’t won since the 2018 Grade 1 Foster, but he’s faced Grade 1 company worldwide in all but two races since then—4th in the Grade 2 San Pasqual slop and 3rd in the Grade 2 Suburban last out. His Suburban effort was solid and a repeat of that makes him live in here but he’s winless in 8 tries at the distance.
4. For the Top (Baffert/Garcia) - 12/1
It’s rare for a Bob Baffert stakes runner to be double-digit odds, but this guy deserves the honor. Would be surprised to see him affect the outcome.
5. Seeking the Soul (Stewart/Velazquez) - 3/1
He’ll probably start as the lukewarm favorite in here of his neck win last out in Churchill’s Foster. He’s the most consistent runner in the field but, like Pavel, the 6-year-old doesn’t win that often. He’s just 2 of his last 10 and must overcome a lack of early pace in here. He may win, but he’s certainly no bargain at this price.
6. Higher Power (Sadler/Prat) - 8/1
This Grade 1 race really is a step up in competition for the 4-year-old son of Medgalia d’Oro. He was 2nd in the Wickerr on Del Mar grass last out and is 2 for 8 on fast dirt. The meet’s leading owners enlist the meet’s leading rider for a top five trainer who’s won nearly every stakes race he’s recently entered! He’s a developing sort, so tread softly in this spot.
7. Tenfold (Asmussen/Smith) - 8/1
Winner of the Grade 3 Pimlico Special, this 4-year-old son of Curlin also claims the Grade 2 Jim Dandy as his own. He’s 4-for-9 on fast tracks but hasn’t really taken a big step forward. He’d have to do something quite a bit more powerful than he’s done in the past.
8. Campaign (Sadler/Bejarano) - 6/1
Trainer Sadler’s other entry in the race has a few things going for him. He’s 5-for10 lifetime, 2-for-5 on fast dirt, including victory in the Grade 3 Cougar II going a mile and one-half at Del Mar. His drawback is that he’s at the mercy of the early pace.
9. Mongolian Groom (Ganbat/Cedillo) - 20/1
Here’s a 20-1 shot that finished 2nd in a Grade 2 Del Mar stakes race last time out. Not too bad. This 4-year-old has only won 2-of-13 starts but has faced only graded-stakes competition since winning a first-level allowance race in February. Worth noting is that Mongolian Groom finished third, less than 4 lengths behind Gift Box and McKinzie, in the Santa Anita Handicap at a mile and one-quarter. Don’t think this one can win the race but he’s a real consideration for exotics at a big price.
10. Draft Pick (Eurton/Talamo) - 20/1
He finished just behind Mongolian Groom last out in the San Diego Handicap and has a sterling record of 8 in-the-money finishes out of 11 starts. While it took him a while to break his maiden, he’s been no worse than 3rd since in mostly graded-stakes company. A bullet five-furlong work in :59 3/5 caught the eye. He’s another one at a big price that could get a piece of this.
Makes Sense at the Price: #2 Quip
Because of a promising early career, a perceived pace advantage and a strong last race #2 Quip seems likely to run well.
Figures in the Money: #5 Seeking the Soul
Most consistent in the field, he should come running at the end. A lack of pace in the race could hurt his chances of winning.
Exotic Suggestions: #6 Higher Power, #9 Mongolian Groom, #10 Draft Pick
Three 4-year-olds offer decent odds and show signs of improvement. Too many positive connections with #6 Higher Power to ignore.
$2 Trifecta ($40.00 Total)
#3, #5, #6, #8
#3, #5, #6, #8 #9, #10
$1 Trifecta ($20.00 Total)
#3, #5, #6, #8
#3, #5, #6, #8, #9, #10