Saturday’s $300,000 San Diego Handicap (G2) at Del Mar is the traditional prep race for the track’s signature race, the $2 million Pacific Classic (G1), set to be contested on Saturday, September 2, and long before the Cal-bred fan favorite Best Pal won the inaugural Pacific Classic 33 years ago, the San Diego consistently featured some of the West Coast’s best handicap horses. Named for California’s premiere southern city, the San Diego was first run in the track’s first season in 1937 and has grown in prominence and stature on the national racing scene in recent years.
The great California-bred gelding Native Diver was the first to put the race on the national map, winning it three times from 1964 to 1966. Bates Motel, the champion older horse of 1983, Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Skywalker, millionaire Skimming in 2000 and 2001 (en route to his back-to-back wins in the Pacific Classic), Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo in 2006, Dubai World Cup winner Well Armed, Derby winner and Horse of the Year California Chrome, Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pacific Classic winner Accelerate are just a few of the names to have won the San Diego in years past.
It is one of the few remaining races that is still a handicap with weights assigned to runners by the track’s racing secretary based on past performances.
This year, nine will go postward for the 1 1/16-mile San Diego, including last year’s winner Royal Ship, a Brazilian-bred son of Midshipman who went on to finish third in the Pacific Classic behind Flightlight but has yet to return to the winner’s circle for trainer Richard Mandella. The 7-year-old gelding, who was assigned a 6-1 morning line, will be running with blinkers off and will carry Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.
Pegram, Watson and Weitman’s Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) winner Defunded will carry top weight of 125 pounds, giving three to nine pounds to his rivals, and is the early 8-5 favorite. The Dialed In gelding also won the Californian Stakes (G2) earlier in the spring and last year’s Awesome Again S. (G1). He is trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who saddled Fed Biz to win in 2014 and Maximum Security in 2020. Jockey Juan Hernandez will ride.
Missed The Cut, a Quality Road colt trained by John Sadler, is the co- 5-1 second choice in his second stateside start after racing in Europe and shares that billing with the Doug O’Neill-trained Slow Down Andy, who won last year’s Del Mar Derby (G2) over the Jimmy Durante turf course. Mario Gutierrez will ride.
The San Diego Handicap field, in post position order with jockeys, weights, trainers and morning line odds:
- Slow Down Andy, M. Gutierrez, 122 Lbs, D. O’Neill, 5-1
- Royal Ship (BRZ), M. Smith, 122 Lbs, R. Mandella, 6-1
- Tripoli, T. Pereira, 119 Lbs, J. Sadler, 15-1
- Missed the Cut, H. Berrios, 118 Lbs, J. Sadler, 5-1
- American Admiral, R. Vazquez, 118 Lbs, T. Yakteen, 6-1
- Defunded, J. Hernandez, 125 Lbs, B. Baffert, 8-5
- Senor Buscador, G. Franco, 119 Lbs, T. Fincher, 12-1
- Tisquantum, E. Maldonado, 116 Lbs, R. Quinonez, 30-1
- Brickyard Ride, U. Rispoli, 120 Lbs, C. Lewis, 6-1
The San Diego is the 8th race on Saturday with an approximate post time of 5:30 p.m. PT. And as always, the weather in Del Mar will be beautiful and sunny and warm.
The writing team at US Racing is comprised of both full-time and part-time contributors with expertise in various aspects of the Sport of Kings.