By Noel Michaels
Saturday is the centerpiece day of the Del Mar summer meet – Pacific Classic Day. The 11-race card at Del Mar features great racing and wagering topped by five graded stakes races featuring the Pacific Classic (G1). The whole card is highly-playable and filled with wide-open fields. Here’s a closer look at handicapping the five stakes on the card. Enjoy the day!
Stakes action gets started early, with a field of in the Green Flash. There’s nothing wrong with betting the best speed horse in any 5-furlong dash, and that horse is #8 MIKES TIZNOW, a tremendous bargain at 9-2 odds on the morning line who consistently blazes :21 and :44.2 turf sprint fractions, which make him extremely difficult to keep up with. He returned from a year layoff at Golden Gate last time but picked up right where he left off last year with another wire-to-wire win in the Albany Stakes. Regular rider Ricardo Gonzalez makes the trip with him, and he’s the horse to catch and horse to beat for 24 percent trainer Andy Mathis. Other horses worth throwing into you wagers include #1 SPARKY VILLE (5-2), who finally got over the hump with a turf sprint win last time out in a turf sprint here at Del Mar last time and will be a threat if able to repeat that effort with Mike Smith aboard for Jeff Bonde. Also #7 CHAOS THEORY (7-2) is an interesting turf sprinter who has run two strong efforts in two outings this year at Fair Grounds and Churchill, and now joins the barn of John Sadler with top speed figures that would be more than enough to beat these based on his best effort.
Next is the Torrey Pines, a $100k dirt mile for 3-year-old fillies with a seven-horse field containing at last two prime contenders led by the Simon Callaghan-trained #3 HARVEST MOON (2-1), who has won two in a row and exits an impressive stalking win at this distance right here at Del Mar last time out. Owns the top speed figure, is proven at this distance unlike many of today’s challengers, and gets leading rider Flavien Prat aboard. The other horse to focus on is one of those horses stretching out to one mile for the first time, #2 SECRET KEEPER (7-2) trained by Cliff Sise. Not only is she 2-for-2 to start her career, but her most recent win was here at Del Mar ahead of a pair of other nice-looking 3-year-old fillies who are both back in this race, #6 PROVOCATION (9-2) and #7 MARNEITH (5-1).
Box Harvest Moon and Secret Keeper in the exactas, and use both in your multi-horse wagers.
The Del Mar Handicap drew an 11-horse field featuring perhaps the day’s strongest favorite, #1 UNITED (8-5), trained by Richard Mandella and piloted by regular rider Flavien Prat. United draws the rail and will save all the ground into the first turn of this three-turn race. The favorite has compiled a 3-0 record this year, including a trio of Grade 2 wins in the San Marcos, Charlie Whittingham, and Eddie Read right here at Del Mar. Owns wins at 1 1/8 miles, 1 1/4 miles, and was second in the 1 1/2-mile Breeders’ Cup Turf, so the distance will be no problem. Lots to like. If you are trying to knock off the favorite, the best directions to go in look like perhaps the first- and third-place horses out of the San Juan Capistrano (G3), #7 RED KING (8-1) and #5 WARD ‘N JERRY (10-1), but horses cutting back out of that 1 3/4-mile marathon can be a tough proposition. Instead of those, I recommend keying United and playing exactas and trifectas with #9 OSCAR DOMINGUEZ (6-1) based on his win over United in December’s Hollywood Turf Cup here at Del Mar, and #10 ORIGINAIRE (5-1), who has lost twice in a row to United but has racked up some promising speed figures in his last three outs.
The undercard feature drew a solid 11-horse field. The standout favorite in is going to be #10 LAURA’S LIGHT (3-1) on the strength of her back-to-back stakes wins over many of the horses in this field in the Honeymoon (G3) at Santa Anita and the San Clemente (G2) at Del Mar. A pair of Cal-breds might have chances to round out the exotics here including last out Del Mar winner #1 CARPE VINUM (15-1), and the horse that beat her in the China Doll Stakes, #4 WARREN’S SHOWTIME (6-1). Both of those state breds could offer value prices, however, for my money the most intriguing alternatives to the favorite, or at least the ones to pair with her in the exotics, are the two European invaders, #3 MISS EXTRA (9-2) now trained by Richard Mandella, and #8 NEIGE BLANCHE (5-1) for trainer Leonard Powell, who gets Prat aboard for the mount. Miss Extra was a Group 2 winner in France as recently as June, while Neige Blanche exits a victory in a French Group 3 race at a similar distance.
Box Laura’s Light, Miss Extra, and Neige Blanche in this race in the exactas and trifectas.
All eyes will be on favorite #5 MAXIMUM SECURITY (1-1), a horse that has basically been the best horse in training for two years, but nevertheless comes into this race with questions. Still in the infancy stages of his post Jason Servis-trained career, Maximum Security goes second-
time out for Bob Baffert here after being life-or-death to beat #1 MIDCOURT (7-2) last time out here at Del Mar in the San Diego Handicap (G2). That was certainly Maximum Security’s best effort, even though it was a win, and perhaps it could be attributed to that outing being his first start since returning from his trip to the other side of the world for a victory in the $20 million Saudi Cup, which is still not official due to on-going investigation concerning illegal medication.
In terms of handicapping, what you will have with Maximum Security is the most likely winner but a horse that will be an extremely low-odds favorite who may or may not be in his best form. If you choose to try to beat the favorite, unfortunately you will have two primary options in what is only a six-horse field. First, the aforementioned Midcourt, who led all the way until getting nipped a nose by Maximum Security in the San Diego. He also ran well at this 1 ¼-mile distance when third beaten less than a length in this year’s Santa Anita Handicap (G1), so his chances should not be discounted based on the stretch out for trainer John Sherriffs. The other top option will be the defending Pacific Classic champion #2 HIGHER POWER (3-1), who was a respectable third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) for trainer John Sadler. He’s winless since this race last year, but his effort and speed figure was so strong in his victory in that race, that it makes him a legitimate horse to consider in your wagers back at Del Mar at 1 ¼ miles.
Bet Maximum Security, but box him with both Higher Power and Midcourt in the trifectas, and bet Higher Power to win.
Pacific Classic Day is going to a great card of racing and wagering. Best of luck!
Noel Michaels has been involved in many aspects of thoroughbred racing for more than two decades, as a Breeders’ Cup-winning owner and as a writer, author, handicapper, editor, manager and promoter of the sport for a wide range of companies including Daily Racing Form and Nassau County Off-Track Betting.
He also is regarded as the leading source of news and information for handicapping tournaments and the author of the “Handicapping Contest Handbook: A Horseplayer’s Guide to Handicapping Tournaments”, which made his name virtually synonymous with the increasingly-popular tournament scene.
In addition to contributing to US Racing, he is also an analyst on the Arlington Park broadcast team.