Saturday belongs to Saratoga and the Travers, while Sunday the spotlight turns to Del Mar and the Pacific Classic and a match up between the "Old Pro", Game On Dude, and the "Young Whippersnapper", Shared Belief. This is our first chance to get at least a little taste of how this three-year-old crop will measure up against older horses, something we'll need to access as we head towards the Breeders' Cup this fall.
|Ice Cream Truck
|Game On Dude
|You know I Know
|Toast of New York
|Mystery Train (ARG)
1-Frac Daddy (SCRATCH): [So, forget all of this...] While he's never been a top-level, big-time performer against the best of his crop, Frac Daddy is one of those colts that seem to run the same race just about every time out. Check out his Bris pace numbers (if you pull those PPs) - very, very consistent at each portion of his races whether he's running on synthetics, turf or dirt. I think he's a hard colt to really love in this race as it's hard for me to view him as the "best", but I think he's definitely a horse to use in exotic plays given his consistent efforts and what could be fat odds at post time.
2-Irish Surf: It's odds to write this about any horse in today's game (especially in a race going a mile and a quarter), but I think the 10 panels is a bit too short for this colt. Run this colt at a distance closer to a mile and a half and he's right in his element. Irish Surf is 8/1 on the ML; Frac Daddy is 15/1. I've got their odds almost reversed on my line.
3-Imperative: Which Imperative is going to show up at Del Mar: the one that popped a huge effort to win the Charles Town Classic over Game On Dude (and others), or the one that threw in an absolute stinker in the San Diego Handicap his last time out? When you figure that one out, let me know, ‘kay?
4-Ice Cream Truck: Kinda a random name, don't ya think? I guess it's good they didn't name this horse "School Bus" or "Smart Car". Anyway, your longshot of longshots broke his maiden just four starts ago when he beat $20k maiden claimers at Santa Anita. He followed that up with a score against $25,500 N2Lers. I'm not sure how that leads to a start in the Pacific Classic but I don't call the shots. He was third in the 12 furlong Cougar II but how predictive is that race to this one? I'll give him credit for holding third but given the soft pace (1:14 and 1 for six) he just had to grind his way to that finish.
5-Game On Dude: Age catches up with every athlete and (sadly) every living thing, whether we're talking about baseball, football, decathletes, and, yes, horses. While you never want to write that a horse is past their prime - and while there are examples of horses that ran at a high level for longer than Game On Dude (like my personal fav, John Henry) - the fact of the matter is that it's more likely that Game On Dude's top efforts are behind him. There were times in his past that Game On Dude could encounter at least a little bit of adversity during a race and still turn in a big effort. I don't see that as being the situation anymore; he's less versatile now than at any time in his career, in my opinion. That being said, if Game On Dude gets things his own way in the early stages, he's still good enough to beat this field. One thing that's going for him in this race: there's not a ton of top-level early speed in this field; Game On Dude should have an excellent opportunity to control the early stages.
6-You Know I Know: I'm not sure how Frac Daddy and You Know I Know are both the same price on the ML, 15/1, as I just haven't seen a thing from You Know I Know that suggests he's has a better shot to win this race unless things get really messy in the latter stages. I suppose that's possible but, given what should be a moderate and sane early pace, I don't see a meltdown occurring that would allow this gelding to chug up for the top prize.
7-Majestic Harbor: 9/2 on the morning line and, really, I won't be surprised if this horse gets a lot of play at the windows before post time. If you think Game On Dude is over the hill (or won't get an easy lead and, thus, is massively vulnerable), and you think Shared Belief isn't ready to take on a group of solid older horses, then Majestic Harbor is probably where you'll land. His Gold Cup win was legit good, even though I'm not sure that was the strongest Gold Cup we've ever seen. But, more to the point, Majestic Harbor can certainly handle the distance and he's versatile enough to sit several lengths off the pace or right up top if things are slow enough. He's fired a couple of big works over the Poly but, as we've seen in the past, morning speed on the Poly won't necessarily translate to early speed on race day. Still, it's intriguing to picture this horse stalking Game On Dude through the first six panel on Sunday; hard not to see him in the mix if that scenario plays out.
8-Toast of New York: Well, he's won over synthetics in Europe and the UAE, and by big margins, but I think it is right to be highly skeptical of this colt in his first try versus older. One thing to consider with this colt: while early fractions in England tend to be much more reserved than here in North America (and he was facing much, much worse fields), Toast of New York displayed a strong front-running style in both of his Wolverhampton races, which has a Polytrack synthetic surface. Toast of New York could be a sneaky pace factor, even if he probably doesn't have a very good chance to win.
9-Clubhourse Ride: It's hard to really get behind Clubhouse Ride when he's clearly a better horse on dirt than he is on synthetics. His five wins in 38 lifetime starts don't help matter, either. If the pace gets out of hand early, perhaps he grinds down the field late to pick up the hardware, but that's about the only way I see him in the mix. This is another one of those horses that I'd put behind Frac Daddy on the odds line yet he's essentially have the odds on the morning line. I'll stay away unless the price gets a whole lot more attractive.
10-Mystery Train: "Mystery" is right - what to do with this guy? He apparently has no problem going a mile and a quarter, as he's done it time and again in his native Argentina. On the other hand, he's never run on Poly and he's had just three works at Del Mar leading up to this race. I guess you kind of have to toss him into the exotics just for the unknown factor but I find it hard to land on his square for a win bet.
11-Shared Belief: Five races, five victories. He's won on synthetics (but not on Poly) and also scored on dirt in his most recent start. He's the juvenile champion and one of the more intriguing geldings in the country right now (generally because he's been so successful and so lightly raced). Is he ready to take on older at this point? That's the question and it's a good one. Is he ready to win at a mile and a quarter? That might be the bigger and more important query. Given the likelihood of Shared Belief taking a lot of money, I'm not sure how much to really back this one in the win column. Honestly, I think this race will be more telling in terms of how to play this horse this fall at the Breeders' Cup, assuming he makes it that far.
I'm probably going to veer away from the top three in this race (although I could be tempted to play Majestic Harbor if he doesn't get hammered too much at the windows), with my eyes drawn to the rail horse, Frac Daddy. While I certainly don't think he's the "most likely winner", the combination of consistent efforts and what could be generous odds make him the play for me in this spot. Overall, despite this race occurring on a synthetic surface, the Pacific Classic gives us an excellent chance to get a better picture of Shared Belief's talent level heading into the fall.