Del Mar Ready For Big Weekend Headline By $1 million Pacific Classic
Del Mar Thoroughbred Race Track is prepping for the biggest weekend of its year (September 3-4). The Grade I $1 million TVG Pacific Classic headlines the weekend and is one of six graded stake events (seven overall) that will take place on Saturday and Sunday. The total purse for the seven stakes races is $2.35 million, more than a quarter of the total value of all stakes races at the track this summer.
This year marks the 32nd running of the Pacific Classic. The one and one-quarter mile race is for 3-year-olds and upwards and is an automatic qualifier for the Breeders Cup Classic.
The other three graded stakes races on Saturday – all Grade II stakes with a $300,000 value – are Del Mar Stakes, Caesars Sportsbook Del Mar Derby, and the Del Mar Handicap presented by The Japanese Racing Association. Then on Sunday, Grade III Torrey Pines Stakes and Green Flash Handicap take center stage.
Flightline Is a Massive Favorite In Pacific Classic
Flightline is the prohibitive favorite at 1-5 odds in the six-horse Pacific Classic field that will go off at 8:50 p.m. (ET). The 4-year-old son of Tapit is undefeated in four career starts, winning those events by a total of over 43 lengths. He is coming off his closest race – winning by six lengths – in the Grade I $1 million Stakes Hill “N” Dale Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park in June.
Flightline will start from post five, the same gate he won the Grade I RunHappy Stakes in Santa Anita in December, and will have Flaven Plat in the saddle as usual. While the colt has never gone two-turns, his talent is unquestioned, according to trainer John Sadler on Thursday.
“It wasn’t something that built over time, that developed. It was there on day one. You could see it immediately with Flightline. Actually, I had been told by someone else even before I started working him that he was gifted.”
Flightline has been training well, but he is not the only talented horse as the field consists of two other Grade I winners, including Richard Mandella-trained Royal Ship. This is notable because Mandela won the Pacific Classic with Dare-and-Go 26 years ago, besting 1-5 betting favorite and then undefeated Cigar. Mandella’s horses have an 18% strike rate and a 48% WPS percentage in 813 career stake events, which includes three wins in 21 starts in 2022.
Royal Ship, the third betting favorite at odds of 8-1, won the Grade II San Diego Handicap the last time out (July 30) by two and one-quarter lengths, besting Country Grammar and Stilleto Boy – both of whom are racing in the Pacific Classic. The 6-year-old Brazillian horse has won 8 of 18 career races, including three Grade I or II victories. He finished seventh in this event last year.
Meanwhile, Country Grammar is the second favorite on the morning line at 4-1 and will leave from post No. 2. The 5-year-old son of Tonalist has two career Grade I victories, winning the Dubai World Cup earlier this year. Express Train (12-1), Stiletto Boy (20-1), and Extra Hope (30-1) are the other horses in the field.
War at Sea and Cabo Spirit Get Rematch In the $300,000 Casear’s Sportsbook Del Mar Derby
The Del Mar Derby is one of the longest-running stakes events at the track, dating back to 1945. The event, known initially as Quigley Memorial Handicap, moved to its current distance of one and one-eighth miles in 1960 and to the turf in 1970.
Nine 3-year-old colts and geldings, featuring a rematch between War Spirit and Cabo Spirit, will hit the starting gate at 8:10 p.m. (ET) on Saturday in what should be a very competitive race. War at Sea edged Cabo Spirit by three-quarters of a length in early June for his third straight victory. The Son of War Front, who missed the Grade III La Jolla (Aug.7) due to a bruised foot, starts from post No. 3 and is listed at 6-1 on the morning line.
Meanwhile, Cabo Spirit followed that disappointing finish with a one-half-length victory in the La Jolla Handicap. Cabo Spirit has finished “in the money” in his last three starts and has three wins and nine top-3 finishes in 13 career starts. He will start on the rail with odds of 4-1.
While the “rematch” is a fun thing in the event, Irish gelding Balnikhov (12-4-3-2) and Doug O’Neil-trained MacKinnon (9-3-2-1) are the morning line favorites at 5-2 and 3-1, respectively. Balnikov finished fourth in the Cinema Stakes but bounced back with an impressive victory in the Oceanside Stakes on July 22. On the other hand, MacKinnon hasn’t won since October and finished fourth in the Oceanside Stakes.
Wide Open Field For The $300,000 Del Mar Mile Stakes
The Del Mar Mile Stakes will crown a new champion as two-time event winner Mo Forza (2020-21) will not partake in this year’s event. The Del Mar Mile dates back to 1987, but this is just the second year it has been a stakes allowance event. Ten horses will go one mile on the turf this year, with six having single-digit odds.
Five-year-old Irish gelding Hong Kong Henry, who has won three of four races in 2022, is the morning line favorite at 3-1. Fellow Irish gelding Cathkin Peak is the second choice at 4-1, followed by 6-year-old Argentina gelding Irideo (5-1), Goliad (5-1), and Tripoli (8-1). Astronaut won the Del Mar Handicap in 2021, although he enters this race at 12-1 on the morning line.
Good Betting Race For Del Mar Handicap To Close Out Pacific Classic Day
The last race on most race cards is typically one of the deepest, a competitive race that gives bettors a chance to collect rewarding exotic payoffs on their way out the door. While most of the time, these races feature claimers or maidens, occasionally, it is a high-end grass event. And that is the case for Race 11, which is slated to go off at 9:20 p.m. (ET) on Saturday.
The Del Mar Handicap dates back to 1927 and is a “Win, and You’re In” event for the Longines Breeders Cup Turf. This year’s event will feature 11 horses that are 3 -years old or older who will go one and three-eighths miles. There are no clear standouts with Heywoods Beach (8-1), Master Piece (3-1), Masteroffoxhounds (6-1), Red King (8-1), and Tizamagician (4-1) considered the favorites.
$125,00 Grade III Torrey Pines Stakes
The Grade III Torrey Pines Stakes is one of two stakes races at Del Mar on Sunday. The Torrey Pines Stakes, which has been run since 1976, is a one-mile dirt event for 3-year-old fillies. Seven runners will go to the post in Race 5.
Desert Dawn has finished in the top 3 in her last four starts, each being a stakes event. The daughter of Cupid, who won the Grade II Santa Anita earlier this year, tops the morning line odds at 9-5.
Under The Stars, 5-2 odds, is coming off a nice victory in the Grade II Summer Time Oaks and is listed on the morning line of 5-2. Two of Bob Baffert’s horses, Midnight Memories and Grace Adler, are third on the morning with 3-1 odds. Cinnamon Cat (10-1) along with Kirstenbosch (15-1) and Malibu Marie (15-1) round out the field
$150,000 Grade III Green Flash Handicap
The Green Flash Handicap is a five-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds and older on the turf. The event was inaugurated in 2003 as a listed stakes and wasn’t upgraded to Grade II until 2019.
Defending Green Flash Handicap champion Lieutenant Dan is the morning line favorite in the 11-horse field slated to post at 8:10 p.m. (ET). He has eight career wins while “hitting the board” in 16 of 17 races. The 6-year-old gelding has not raced since finishing second in the Grade I Breeders Cup Turf sprint.
Argentian horse Dubai Key has won all three of his races in America, although three events were optional claiming events, and is second on the morning line at 3-1. Whatmakessammyrun (5-1) and Super Ocho (6-1) are next in line.