Saturday is the 27th running of the Pacific Classic at Del Mar. It’s one of my favorite races on the calendar every year, and the highlight of the Del Mar summer season. The Pacific Classic elevated Del Mar’s presence in the early 90s from great Western summer racing venue by the Pacific Ocean, to today, an internationally known landmark, and home of the 2017 Breeders’ Cup. The race has been a showcase for top older horses, like recent winners California Chrome, Beholder, Shared Belief and Game on Dude, and has been the site of some huge upsets, like when Dare and Go paid $81 and beat two-time Horse of the Year Cigar in 1996, or in 1992, when Missionary Ridge went off as the longest price on the board and scored Bobby Frankel’s first of six wins. This year, it’s Arrogate’s race to win or lose. He is the best horse in the race, but cue the recording, “the best horse doesn’t always win.” He can redeem himself after his no-show in the San Diego, and set up a fall schedule that could culminate with another Breeders’ Cup win, at Del Mar, or someone else could be another Dare and Go, another Missionary Ridge, and shock the world. That’s why they run the races, right? Saturday at Del Mar, on NBCSN, or your favorite online wagering/viewing service.
I really enjoyed an essay on 2006 Pacific Classic winner, the amazing Lava Man, a horse who was once claimed for $50k, ran 47 times, won 17 of those events, including three Hollywood Gold Cups, two Santa Anita Handicaps, a Pacific Classic, and was a 2015 National Racing Hall of Fame inductee. Lava Man now is a stable pony for trainer Doug O’ Neill, acting as an assistant coach to young Thoroughbreds trying to catch a little bit of what Lava Man had. Enjoy. The Legend of Lava Man
Meanwhile, in upstate New York, the 136th Alabama Stakes is Saturday at Saratoga. The Alabama is one of the oldest stakes races in the country, run over a mile and a quarter for three-year-old fillies. William Cottrell was a prominent Thoroughbred owner and breeder in the 1870’s, but didn’t want a stakes race named after him personally, so it was decided that the race would be named after his home state. Past winners of the Alabama include some of the best fillies ever to race, like Songbird, Royal Delta, Blind Luck, Silverbulletday, Go For Wand, Open Mind, Life’s Magic, Our Mims, the list goes on. This year’s field is loaded, and I’m expecting a great race. Saturday, at the Spa.
The Travers is next Saturday. It looks like a very competitive, wide-open race, and you should be able to get a good betting price on just about every horse. The winners of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont will all run, (that’s Always Dreaming, Cloud Computing, Tapwrit, respectively, as review) and then add in impressive last out winners Good Samaritan, West Coast, Gunnevera, Irap, Girvin, that’s a lot of quality runners. The Travers should add clarity to what’s been a pretty evenly matched three-year-old division so far, so the Travers winner will head into the fall as the clubhouse leader for three-year-old of the year (Unless….since it’s Saratoga and all……a horse from out of nowhere wins, and then three-year-old of the year will be decided…TBD) The Travers is one of six grade 1 stakes at Saratoga next Saturday. To say I’m excited about Travers Day would be a small understatement. It’s Christmas in August.
Chad Brown trained the winner of both the Beverly D (Dacita) and the Arlington Million (Beach Patrol) last weekend. He’s on quite a roll. He has New Money Honey in the Alabama. She’s 6/1…..just saying.
He’s currently 16th on the general sire list, so I’m not hitting the panic button, but have we overrated Uncle Mo a bit? Maybe this is just a slight regression to the mean after that blazing start last year? Beholder is expecting a foal by Uncle Mo next spring; that alone helps his cause. He has Mopotism in the Alabama, he’ll have Rally Cry in the Woodward at the end of the Saratoga meet, so he has live runners. His yearlings at Keeneland in September will give a pretty good idea of where he’s heading.
Shout out to Mineshaft, the 2003 Horse of the Year. He’s a stallion who is just really solid, and is emerging as a sire of sires. He’s 24th on the general sire list currently, and is the grandsire of Gunnevera, a very interesting Travers runner. Mineshaft also has Effinex, a grade one winner, earner of over $3 million and a stallion prospect New York breeders should love. He’ll be 19 next year, so we won’t be getting many more from Mineshaft, but it looks like he’ll have a few very good sons to carry on.
American Pharoah’s younger full-brother, named St. Patrick’s Day, debuts Sunday at Del Mar. Bob Baffert trains, Flavien Prat rides. He’s 2/1, has been working well, and certainly could win. Pharoah, if you remember, ran fifth on debut. Racing is fun like that. They’re all individual animals, even if their big brother won the Triple Crown. Sky-high expectations have to be balanced with what that horse’s actual ability is. We’ll see Sunday, where the surf meets the turf.
Unsolicited plug: check out this podcast: Switching Leads radio show Call in, talk horses with industry leaders, really cool stuff. Thursday nights, check it out.
Thanks as always for reading! Good luck this weekend, enjoy the races!