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PACIFIC CLASSIC 2011 PREVIEW

Bob Baffert's Game On Dude is one of the favorites for today's Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar.
Bob Baffert's Game On Dude is one of the favorites for today's Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar.

Yesterday, Saratoga took center stage in the horse racing world.  Today it's Del Mar and the 21st running of the Grade 1 Pacific Classic  (post time: 5:00pm Pacific; TV: TVG). Eleven horses will line-up in the starting gate for the Pacific Classic, led by local favorites Game On Dude and Twirling Candy.  Below is a look at today's field.

(Note: I'll have a Pacific Classic Day open thread up in an hour or so. This is a much better day for us West Coasters, as we don't have to get up at the crack of dawn to check the changes and review our planned bets.  In short, I get to sleep in.)

The Field

1-Don Cavallo: An interesting mid-shot in the field after running very well at over the Polytrack at Woodbine, including an easy win in the Grade 3 Dominion Day at today's distance of 10 furlongs. The horse that finished 2nd to him at Woodbine that day, James Street, came back to win the G3-Seagram Cup in his next start. Clocker reports at Del Mar indicate that Don Cavallo's taken to the surface very nicely and could be sitting on a big race. 

2-Jeranimo: This horse has spent all of 2011 racing on grass but has plenty of experience running over the old synthetic surface at Santa Anita back in 2010, including a win in the G2-Strub. He seems to be cut out for distances just a smidge shorter than today's mile and a quarter.

3-Stately Victor: This Ghostzapper colt has three lifetime victories - one over the Poly at Woodbine, one over the Poly at Keeneland, and one over the turf at Saratoga - so at least he's on the right surface for today's race.  Stately Victor has never shied away from top-level competition, but he's never been a top-level horse and he seems like a long shot to become one in this race.

4-Tres Borrachos: This six-year-old gelding has run well over the Del Mar surface in the past, including a win in the G2-San Diego handicap in his last start.  This is another horses that is questionable at a mile and a quarter, something that can be written about many of the older horses this season, on both the West and East Coasts.  Tres Borrachos has tried 10 furlongs five times in his career with just a single 2nd place finish to show for it.  Likes the course, hates the distance.  Tough call.

5-Acclamation: A speed horse when racing on turf, Acclamation is 6-0-1-2 when attempting to run on synthetics, with the one 2nd place finish occurring in his only try at Del Mar.  The distance shouldn't be a problem as this horse has run and won when going further on the lawn. 

6-Setsuko: This colt has been knocking on the door for a major win all season long, but has come up short in every instance.  He was 2nd by a nose in the G1-Santa Anita Handicap, 2nd by a length in the G2-Californian, 4th by two and a half lengths in the G1-Hollywood Gold Cup, and 3rd by four and a half lengths in the G3-Cougar II Handicap.  The surface shouldn't be an issue, nor should the distance, but can he step up to this level?  Setsuko likes to sit off the speed in the early going which is typically a good spot to be in when going two-turns on the Poly at Del Mar.  He's got a shot if he runs to his top effort.

7-Great Warrior (BRZ): He's 50/1 on the morning line for a very good reason: he's outclassed in every way.  In his last race, a race against optional claimers/N1X company, he finished 10th, over 17 lengths back of the winner.  He had an excuse that day due to the saddle slipping on the rider, but it's not like he displayed much class when loser five times prior at that same class level.  If he wins, then you can blow-up the West Coast older horse division.

9-Game on Dude: Twirling Candy maybe the morning line favorite, but this gelding appears to be the best horse considering the distance and current form.  He's versatile enough to take the lead or sit in the garden spot, and he's proven he can win going a mile and a quarter.  His works over the Del Mar surface have been solid but it's important to remember that the Poly tends to play different in the mornings than it does in the afternoons.  Regardless, Game On Dude appears to be a logical choice in this spot.

10-Twirling Candy: I want to like this horse in this race, I really do, but it's difficult to ignore the fact that he's 0-for-2 when stretching out to a mile and a quarter.  That fact is obviously apparent to trainer John Sadler as he's worked him at 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 furlongs in his preparation for today's race.  Whether or not those works will build the necessary stamina into Twirling Candy remains to be seen.  If he fails at this distance again this afternoon, you have to wonder if the connections will think about pointing him in a different direction for the rest of the year.

11-Quindici Man: On paper, this horse really shouldn't have a chance in hell to win this race.  But you could have said the same thing about him prior to the Santa Anita Handicap where he finished 3rd, beaten by a ½ length, at odds of 69/1.  I wouldn't expect this horse to win, but he's probably worth a play in a trifecta or superfecta.

The Pick

I think Game On Dude is the standout of the field due to his current form, success at the distance, and the questions surrounding Twirling Candy.  Despite that, I'm going to go with the Roger Attfield shipper Don Cavallo as the upset play at anything higher than 5/1.

PP Horse Jockey Trainer ML
1 Don Cavallo L. Contreras R. Attfield 8/1
2 Jeranimo M. Pedroza M. Pender 12/1
3 Stately Victor M. Smith M. Maker 15/1
4 Tres Borrachos R. Bejarano M. Jones 6/1
5 Acclamation P. Valenzuela D. Warren 5/1
6 Setsuko V. Espinoza R. Mandella 8/1
7 Great Warrior (BRZ) O. Berrio A. Avila 50/1
8 Bourbon Bay J. Talamo N. Drysdale SCR
9 Game On Dude C. Sutherland B. Baffert 3/1
10 Twirling Candy J. Roario J. Sadler 5/2
11 Quindici Man M. Garcia C. Lewis 15/1