This year, the 10-furlong Pacific Classic (G1) will be contested for the 33rd time and is again a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), set to be held this year at Santa Anita Park just 100 miles north of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.
In 2003 Pleasantly Perfect became the first Pacific Classic winner to also earn the title of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner. Accelerate accomplished the same feat in 2018 for the first time in 15 years and last year, eventual Horse of the Year Flightline earned top honors in this California feature they remain the only three horses to have ever completed the Pacific Classic-Breeders’ Cup Classic double.
Since the Pacific Classic was first contested in 1991, a “who’s who” list of talented and historical runners from the handicap division have taken home top honors. California-bred gelding and fan favorite Best Pal, who was inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame in 2010, won the inaugural running and since then several other stars and household names have claimed the Pacific Classic victory, including Bertrando, TInners Way (twice), Gentlemen, Free House, Skimming (twice), Lava Man, Game On Dude, Shared Belief, the super mare Beholder, California Chrome, the aforementioned Accelerate, Higher Power, disqualified Derby winner Maximum Security and the aforementioned Flightline a year ago.
Perhaps the most memorable Pacific Classic was 25 years ago when Dare and Go upset the great Cigar, who was riding a modern-day record for consecutive victories with 16 under his girth. There was some controversy about his defeat at Del Mar and the way rival jockeys rode the race to defeat him rather than win with their own mounts, but Cigar came back to capture that year’s Woodward Stakes (G1) before losing the last two starts of his career, including the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Flightline’s win last year was also a record-setter in his final margin of victory was a whopping 19 ¼ lengths over 2022 Dubai World Cup (G1) winner Country Grammer.
The late Hall of Famer Garrett Gomez is tied with Triple Crown winner Mike Smith as the leading jockey for this race with four winners each and in 2020, when Hall of Famer Bob Baffert sent out Maximum Security to victory, he tied the late Bobby Frankel as top trainer, who held the record of six winners alone. The late Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farm has been represented by four winners to be maintain its status as the race’s leading owner.
Candy Ride still holds the fastest time in 1:59.11 when he carried jockey Julie Krone to victory in 2003. The Hall of Fame rider remains the only female – aside from Beholder in 2015 – to have won the Pacific Classic.
The lightly raced 3-year-old Geaux Rocket Ride is back home at trainer Richard Mandella’s summer base off a 1 ¼-length win in the Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park last out. Five 3-year-olds have been successful against older horses in the history of the Pacific Classic, the last being Shared Belief in 2014. The son of Candy Rode has been training exceptionally well since his last win five weeks ago. The rail isn’t ideal for this early type, but he figures as the 5-2 early favorite.
Trainer Bob Baffert, who has six wins in the Pacific Classic, saddles Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) winner Defunded, who also won the Californian S. (G2) at Santa Anita earlier this year. The Dialed In gelding was a disappointing fourth in the San Diego Handicap (G2) last out but owns two wins already from six starts over this track.
Baffert also sends out the 3-year-old Arabian Knight after a third as the even-money favorite in the Haskell. The Southwest Stakes (G2) winner will be gunning for the lead early from his near outside post position and is dangerous to wire the field if he clears, using his speed as his weapon.
Santa Anita Handicap (G1) winner Stilleto Boy is back after a dull sixth last out in the Stephen Foster (G1) at Churchill Downs two months ago but has been working well over the Del Mar main track since. San Diego winner Senor Buscador and 2021 Pacific Classic winner Tripoli will also be in the gate.
The Pacific Classic is the day’s 10th of 11 with an approximate post time of 6:13 p.m. PT. The field:
The complete field:
- Geaux Rzocket Ride, M. Smith, Mandella, 5-2
- Katonah, A. Fresu, O’Neill, 20-1
- Stilleto Boy, K. Desormeaux, E. Moger, Jr., 8-1
- Tripoli, T. Pereira, J. Sadler, 20-1
- Defunded, J. Hernandez, B. Baffert, 4-1
- Order and Law, E. Maldonado, R. Hess, Jr., 30-1
- Slow Down Andy, M. Gutierrez, D. O’Neill, 8-1
- Senor Buscador, G. Franco, Todd Fincher, 10-1
- Arabian Knight, F. Prat, B. Baffert, 3-1
- Piroli, U. Rispoli, M. McCarthy, 30-1
- Skinner, H. Berrios, J. Shirreffs, 10-1
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.