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2010 Pacific Classic: The Usual Q.T. leads field of ten

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In what could turn out to be a wide open and excellent betting race, The Usual Q.T. receives morning line favoritism following his win in the Grade 1 Eddie Read over the Del Mar turf course in his last race.  He'll face nine other colts and geldings on Saturday, including last year's winner, Richard's Kid.

Grade 1 Pacific Classic
Del Mar
1 1/4 miles
Three year olds and up
Purse: $1,000,000
Post-time: 4:30 PDT






Battle of Hastings

Blanc, B.



Isle of Giant's

Valenzuela, P.



Dakota Phone

Rosario, J.



Temple City

Bejarano, R.



Unusual Suspect

Quinonez, A.



Richard's Kid

Smith, M.



Hold Me Back

Gomez, G.



Crowded House

Nakatani, C.



Awesome Gem

Flores, D.



The Usual Q.T.

Espinoza, V.
















A look at the field below the jump.

1-Battle of Hastings (GB):  He's been a solid Grade 2 competitor over the past couple of seasons but he's yet to step-up and take a Grade 1 and he appear better suited for the grass rather than the Poly.  Fortunately for this gelding, the Del Mar main track appears to be a better spot to try the turf-to-synthetic angle as opposed to Hollywood or Santa Anita.

2-Isle of Giant's: Three races back this gelding was running against $25,000, non-winners of two lifetime claimers.  He aptly proved that he was well below his proper class level that day when he destroyed the field by 16 ¼ lengths.  He tried graded company for the first time in the San Diego Handicap where he finished fourth behind Dakota Phone and Battle of Hastings.

3-Dakota Phone: This Jerry Hollendorfer trainee has done very little actual winning during the past two years except when he's on the Del Mar main track where he's a nice 2-for-2 in his career.  He's a stone cold closer and will likely be at the rear of the pack when the field passes the wire for the first time.  Dakota Phone unleashed a nice late kick to win the San Diego Handicap in his last start, running the final 3/8th of a mile in 30.90 seconds.

4-Temple City: While a lot of the runners in this field are question marks at the mile and a quarter distance, Temple City is one of the few that has successfully raced that far in his career.  In his last race he went wire-to-wire in the Grade 3 Cougar II Handicap at a mile and a half on the Del Mar Polytrack.  Last August he finished third, beaten ¾ of a length, in the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap at a mile and three-eighths on the grass.  Temple City's biggest issue is the fact that it's generally very hard to win going wire-to-wire on the main track unless the field lets him get away with crawling fractions through the first six furlongs.

5-Unusual Suspect: Second to Temple City in the Cougar II (and the winner of that race in 2009), Unusual Suspect seems to only make sense in this spots from a distance and course angle (he's 3-1-1-0 all-time at Del Mar).  Trainer Barry Abrams is ice cold at the current meet and this horse has already been beaten by several of his rivals in this race.  Tough spot.

6-Richard's Kid: A 24/1 upset winner of this race one year ago, Richard's Kid.  He tried the Dubai World Cup in March and was part of that blanket, messy run to the finish line, ultimately ending up 7th, 2 ½ lengths behind Gloria de Campeao.  Bob Baffert has been working him like a manic in the mornings (three straight bullets over the Del Mar main track) and he certainly matches up with most of the horses in this field.  A repeat wouldn't be a complete shock.

7-Hold Me Back: Winner of the Grade 3 Dominican Day Handicap at Woodbine in his last start, Hold Me Back has been on a bit of a whirlwind tour of tracks during the last year.  He's raced at Keeneland, Churchill, Colonial, Saratoga, Turfway, Gulfstream, Fair Grounds, Woodbine, and now Del Mar since April of 2009, never running at the same track twice in a row during that time.  A tough horse to figure out as he might be just as likely to finish dead last as he is to finish first.  He might make sense in the exotics.

8-Crowded House (GB): This might be the colt to watch out for as a sleeper play, not because he's incredibly talented or has a bunch of big time wins on the running lines.  No, the intriguing part of this colt for me is the fact that he's perennial losers in Europe that's shown just enough talent to suggest he could wake up under the right circumstances. 

Crowded House is a European runner that won the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy as a juvenile at Doncaster in 2008.  In 2009 and 2010, he went on to   run in group race after group race in Great Britain and the UAE without a single victory to his credit. He was shipped across the pond and made his first North American start in the Grade 1 Eddie Read (4th place finish) and will now switch to the Polytrack for the first time.

One paper is easy to quickly say that this horse is a complete toss out, but given what appears to be a very thin field in terms of talent would it really be that big of a surprise to see a horse like this win?  It's doubtful that the distance will be an issue and he has run decently over synthetic surfaces in the past (Group 3 Maktoum Challenge and Group 1 Dubai World Cup).  I just can't toss this one especially with his 20/1 price tag.

9-Awesome Gem: Even though this horse has come up empty in three previous attempts to win this race I would have made him the morning line favorite had I been setting the line at Del Mar.  His last race, a win in the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup, was one of his best performances against graded stakes company.  He's never won at Del Mar (5-0-3-0) so I can understand being a bit gun-shy of him at short odds, but at the same time, he seems to be rolling into this race in excellent form.

10-The Usual Q.T.: The older horse division doesn't exactly blow you away with talent this year and this year's Pacific Classic is an unfortunate illustration of that reality.  The Usual Q.T. is a nice, grade stakes quality colt but he's done all of his winning on turf, not dirt or synthetic. 

The Usual Q.T. started out his career running on the synthetic at Santa Anita but didn't break his maiden until conquering a field of Cal-breds in a one mile turf Maiden Special affair at Del Mar in 09.  Since then he's proved to be a useful turf runner by winning the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby, the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby, and the Grade 3 Sir Beaufort in succession fashion last fall.  He flopped in the Sunshine Millions Classic this winter on the main track at Santa Anita and then tried the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free on the World Cup undercard before returning to his preferred surface and distance: a mile on the lawn.

If The Usual Q.T. does in fact end up the betting favorite at post time he'll likely be a tepid choice, at best.  Therefore, depending on your acceptable level of risk, he might not make a bad stab to win given this fairly light field.  However, I've got a lot of questions about his ability to go a mile and a quarter.