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Check out our predictions and odds for the 2023 Pacific Classic at Del Mar!
GEAUX ROCKET RIDE
E Moger Jr
T J Pereira
J J Hernandez
ORDER AND LAW
R Hess Jr
SLOW DOWN ANDY
Odds provided by author Brian Zipse.
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In an intriguing matchup of younger versus older, Geaux Rocket Ride, Defunded, and Arabian Knight headline a wide open field of 11 set for Saturday’s $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar.
Geaux Rocket Ride should be favored as he tests older horses for the first time on the strength of his win in the $1 million Haskell Stakes six weeks ago. Looking for his second straight Grade 1 victory, he is one of three sophomores in the field.
Trained by Richard Mandella, the son of Candy Ride will be attempting to emulate his sire who won this race two decades ago in track record time.
Joining Geaux Rocket Ride in taking on older in the 10-furlong affair will be Arabian Knight and Skinner.
A lightly raced son of Uncle Mo, Arabian Knight is half of a strong duo from trainer Bob Baffert. He suffered his first career defeat last time when finishing third in the Haskell.
The other Baffert runner in the Pacific Classic is the 5-year-old Defunded. The beaten favorite in the local prep, the Dialed In gelding is a two-time grade 1 winner.
Two starts back, he scored in the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup going 10 furlongs at Santa Anita.
This son of Candy Ride lived up to his vast potential last time with a big win over a strong field in the Grade 1 Haskell at Monmouth Park. Trained by Richard Mandella, there is every reason in the world to believe he can duplicate that effort in what will only be his fifth-lifetime start on Saturday.
He has worked well over the track since his breakthrough effort and once again will break from the rail under rider Mike Smith. He will once again have to deal with a strong early pace, but he has stalked beautifully in his last two wins.
Facing good older horses for the first time is never easy, but he looks to be headed for stardom and is clearly doing very well right now. The likely favorite is the one to beat.
The first of two for trainer Bob Baffert, this son of Dialed In has been a very solid handicap horse in California the past two seasons. With four graded stakes wins in his last seven starts, he must be respected here.
He has good tactical speed, which can be used when the race is light on early speed, but he is able to come from a little bit off the lead if needed. The beaten favorite last time in San Diego, he will need a better effort here in what could be his toughest test to date.
He is one of the horses to beat on Saturday, but with the strong pace expected, I like a few others better in this spot.
This talented son of Uncle Mo had to work early in the Haskell, and he was by no means embarrassed while finishing third. Still, he had no answer when Geaux Rocket Ride challenged him to turn for home.
Improvement is expected, however, as that race at Monmouth was his first in six months. Working well for this, he could be the speed of the speed here, but once again, he is likely to find a contentious pace to force him into early pressure.
That factor, combined with the stretch out to 10 furlongs is the reason I cannot pick him here, but the talented Baffert runner clearly looks to have big wins in his future.
The winner of the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap back in March, this son of Shackleford will be looking for his second big win of the season. Like the three listed before him, though, he does like to do his best running on or near the early pace.
He also has not made it to the winner’s circle often in his career, including five defeats at Del Mar. Still, the earner of nearly $2 million in his career has plenty of class, and when he did win the Big Cap, he was able to come from just off the pace in that 10-furlong race.
He is not my top pick in this strong field, but he obviously needs to be respected, especially as a horse that could hit the board.
The first stretch runner on this list, this son of Mineshaft got in a nice prep over the track when he rallied from last to run by his competition in the Grade 2 San Diego at Del Mar five weeks ago.
The victory over the track should set the Tim Fincher-trained 5-year-old well here as he is in search of his biggest career win. He doesn’t always fire, but with plenty of speed in here to set the table, he will have every chance on Saturday.
The 10-furlong distance of the Pacific Classic is still a question for him, but coming off a strong performance, I look for him to be running well late.
The first of two for trainer Doug O’Neill, this hard-knocking son of Nyquist has seldom run a poor race since bursting onto the stakes scene two years ago.
After running a solid third in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), he was away from the races for seven months. He faded out of the picture in the Met Mile (G1) upon his return but rebounded with a solid second last time in San Diego to be second.
A stalking trip will be expected here, but it could be crowded up near the lead on Saturday. The multiple-graded stakes winner is always a threat, but I don’t know if this is a good spot for him to get the win.
The least heralded of the three sophomore runners, this son of Curlin should enjoy a lively early pace that is likely to unfold in front of him.
A confirmed stretch runner, he looked on the verge of something big when he rallied late to miss by only a half-length in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, but then had to miss the Kentucky Derby due to sickness.
Bred to enjoy the 1 1/4-mile trip, he will now get his chance in the Pacific Classic. This will be a major test to be sure, but with a decent prep under his belt, I think this spot will suit him perfectly for a breakthrough performance. In a wide-open race, he is the top pick.
The winner of this race two seasons ago, the late-running son of Kitten’s Joy will look to rekindle that magic again at Del Mar. Trained by John Sadler, he has been unable to reproduce that type of performance ever since.
The 10-furlong trip of the Pacific Classic should be to his benefit, and his local prep was not bad as he made up some ground in the stretch of the San Diego. One more factor on his side will be a strong early pace on Saturday.
It’s hard to fully back him against this strong field after numerous mediocre efforts, but there are some signs that do point to him potentially waking up in this one.
Although this Battle of Midway gelding has yet to win a stakes race, he did prove that he can run with the big boys when he finished second to Defunded in the Hollywood Gold Cup.
Trained by Michael McCarthy, he disappointed in a recent allowance race over the track, but that came after an awkward break while running shorter. Overall he has been pretty consistent this year and must be considered here.
This will be a tougher field than he faced in the Gold Cup, but as a longshot, you could do worse than take a shot on him.
The second of two for trainer Doug O’Neill, this gelded son of Klimt did not earn his first career win until January, and that came in a maiden-claiming race.
Having said that, he has made a steady improvement all year and comes into this big test off his first-stakes victory. It came at the minor leagues of Pleasanton, however, and he now will move up to face some of the best horses in America.
The recent form is good, but the big jump up in class, as well as the 10-furlong trip of the Pacific Classic, will likely be too much for him.
The longshot winner of the recent Cougar II Stakes will look to parlay that victory going 12 furlongs against softer competition into a run in Del Mar’s biggest race.
The 7-year-old son of Violence will have to take another step forward to have a chance against this group.
Already 42 starts into his career, it seems unlikely that he can jump up at this point in his career. I find him hard to recommend.
Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.
Email: [email protected]
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