Saturday’s 11-race card at Del Mar is loaded with amazing races and exciting wagering opportunities, led by the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic (GI), a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) set for Nov. 5 at Santa Anita. Also on the card are two other graded stakes — the Del Mar Oaks (GI) and Del Mar Handicap (GII) — both of which, like the Pacific Classic, are part of the pick six wager, which on the track’s big day guarantees a pool of $250,000.
Additionally, the pick four — offered on the final four races on the card — is a 50¢ minimum bet and, on Saturday, the pool is guaranteed (literally) to be at least $1 million.
The weather is supposed to be perfect in Del Mar Saturday, with sunny skies and a high in the mid-70s — fast and firm all day, just the way we like it.
Not much can be said about the Pacific Classic that hasn’t been said everywhere about 20 times over, dating back to the first time racing fans heard that California Chrome, Beholder and Dortmund would all line up, but there hasn’t been this much buzz about a race held at the seaside oval since maybe 20 years ago when the great Hall of Famer Cigar was defeated by Dare and Go.
California Chrome is North America’s richest racehorse after winning the Dubai World Cup (GI) in late March. Beholder is defending her win in the 1 ¼-mile race; and Dortmund had the very unlucky life draw of being born the same year and sent to the same barn as Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and is now emerging from his retired stablemate’s shadow as a 4-year-old.
Toss in six other pretty talented runners and a million-dollar race with lots of action, both betting and otherwise, we shall see.
But before getting to the big race, fans will be treated to the 60th running of the Del Mar Oaks (GI), a nine-furlong turf event for 3-year-old fillies. Ten will head to the gate, including recent San Clemente Handicap (GII) winner Mokat from the barn of Richard Baltas. The dark bay filly, another from the talented first crop of Uncle Mo, was no match for the better dirt fillies but has always been productive on the grass, earning two wins, a second and a third from four starts. The truth is, aside from the Kentucky Oaks (GI), she’s never run a bad race and looks strong in this race from post three under new jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr.
Graham Motion rarely sends a horse west unless he thinks there’s a good chance to win and Tin Type Gal is no exception. She’s lightly raced — making her sixth start — and likes to win (looking for her fourth victory). And while this is her first foray into Grade I company, she has found a good spot to do it. Hard to argue with her pedigree (Tapit out of a Deputy Minister mare) and her post (all the speed is inside, so she has a long run to get into good position after the break) and a clean trip under top local jockey Joe Talamo may be all she needs to get to the wire in front.
Hall of Famer Bill Mott also sends Harmonize, who was no match for the likes of Catch a Glimpse in the Belmont Oaks Invitational (GI), out west to give her best shot against the best in California. She takes a substantial drop in company today and hopes to fire her best shot under jockey Junior Alvarado.
The Del Mar Oaks is the sixth race on the card with a post time of 4:43 p.m. EDT.
A field of 12 will head to the gate in the eighth, the 77th running of the Del Mar Handicap (GII), a 1 3/8-mile turf marathon for older horses.
Hall of Famer Ron McAnally has been quiet lately, but will look to make some noise with Quick Casablanca, who was second to Pacific Classic runner Hard Aces in the Cougar II (GIII) over the main track last out a month ago. Now back on the turf, the Chilean-bred will try to better his grass record of 24-4-7-5 under jockey Tyler Baze. He drew post two, which won’t make a huge difference for a horse who has some tactical ability and should be fit enough on the cutback in distance rather than the stretch out many of his rivals will be facing.
The very talented and consistent Grade II winner Ashleyluvssugar makes his third start off a long layoff after an injury and looks for his first win over the Del Mar turf in his third try. He’s been consistent overall throughout his career — especially on the lawn with a record of 9-3-2-1 — and finds a good spot to make it back to the winner’s circle. Hall of Famer Gary Stevens will be back aboard after riding the son of Game Plan to a runner-up finish in the Eddie Read (GI) last out. He’ll be just off the early pace and waiting for the right time to move, likely as the frontrunners begin their turn for home.
Well-traveled Grade I winner Finnegans Wake has hit the board in half of his 30 career turf starts, only three of which have been at Del Mar, but, from those, he’s earned a win and a third. He gets the benefit of jockey Kent Desormeaux up for the first time, which can only help as the Hall of Famer has been riding very well lately. Now seven, it’s easy to see how many could think that Finnegans Wake might have lost a step, but he won’t need a ton of his old form to be competitive in here. He may offer value, too, so it could be smart to include him in all exotics if not for the outright victory.
Post time for the Del Mar Handicap will be at 5:43 p.m. ET.