The Road to the 2019 Breeders’ Cup World Championships makes a stop at one of racing’s premier venues this Saturday for Del Mar’s signature race, the $1 million, Grade 1 TVG Pacific Classic Stakes. With the winner getting an all-expenses-paid “Win and you’re in” ticket into November’s Breeder’s Cup Classic at Santa Anita.
This year’s 29th running of the Pacific Classic drew a competitive 10-horse field highlighted by the 1-2 finishers of the Grade 2 Stephen Foster Stakes in June, Seeking the Soul and Quip.
Whether you want to gamble a few bucks on the race or you just want the scoop on this year’s runners, we’ve got you covered with our 2019 TVG.COM Pacific Classic Betting Cheat Sheet.
Notable achievements and interesting facts: War Story was a rising star on the Kentucky Derby trail back in 2015, but ever since running 16th in the 141st run for the roses he’s built a career as a lunch-pail racehorse capable of grabbing purse shares in lucrative races (such as earning a total of $900,000 for finishing fifth and 10th in the first two runnings of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational). He returns to Del Mar for the third time on Saturday, and will look to repeat his good fourth-place showing in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic, won by Gun Runner, rather than his seventh-place finish in the 2016 Pacific Classic, won by California Chrome. War Story comes in off of a win July 20 in the Grade 3, 1 1/8-mile Monmouth Cup Stakes, where he out finished Bal Harbour to win by a head. That effort indicates that even as he prepares to make his 36th career start, War Story still has the will to compete, and although his win chances are slim in the Pacific Classic, he’s shown more than enough ability throughout his career to merit strong consideration as a trifecta and superfecta filler. California-based jockey Tiago Pereira will ride War Story for the first time Saturday.
Notable achievements and interesting facts: This talented racehorse ships in from points East to try for an elusive Grade 1 win, and he’ll face off again with Seeking the Soul. Both exit the Grade 2 Stephen Foster Stakes at Churchill Downs on June 15, when Quip duelled with classy Tom’s d’Etat for most of the 1 1/8-mile race and put that foe away in the final furlong but then could not withstand Seeking the Soul’s late charge and lost by a neck. Quip won the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap in his start prior to the Stephen Foster in a game effort, and prior to that, he ran third in his 2019 debut in the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope Stakes at Gulfstream Park after a nine-month layoff. At age 3, Quip won the Grade 2 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby and finished a good second in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby before disappointing in the Preakness Stakes. Based on that impressive two-year record, there’s an aura of untapped potential surrounding this colt that suggests a Grade 1 victory is well within his ability. The main concern with Quip is distance, as he’s been unable to finish the deal in two of his three starts at 1 1/8 miles despite good tries in both the Arkansas Derby and Stephen Foster, and he only won the Oaklawn Handicap by a neck. Still, Quip has shown plenty of fight throughout his career and figures to be near the early lead and battling all the way into midstretch under Florent Geroux, who won the Breeders’ Cup Classic aboard Gun Runner at Del Mar in 2017. This is the first Pacific Classic start for both Geroux and trainer Rodolphe Brisset. Co-owner WinStar Farm campaigned 2008 Pacific Classic runner-up Well Armed.
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Last year’s Pacific Classic runner-up returns for another try on the heels of a decent third-place finish behind Preservationist and Catholic Boy in the Grade 2 Suburban Stakes July 6 at Belmont Park. He’s been training steadily at Del Mar since then for Doug O’Neill and, on the positive side, won’t face a monster like 2018 winner Accelerate in this year’s edition of the Pacific Classic. On the other hand, he has not visited the winner’s circle since taking the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap in June 2018 — easily his career-best race — and has generally continued his usual pattern of picking up hefty checks in prestige races by obtaining minor placings (he’s finished fourth seven times in his career, all in graded stakes, and earned $1.1 million with two such efforts in the 2018 and 2019 Dubai World Cups). Pavel can be counted on to usually make up some ground in the late going, but he doesn’t exactly have a swift turn of foot, and one wonders if regular rider Mario Gutierrez won’t put him in the race a little earlier on Saturday than usual. In his Stephen Foster win, Pavel stalked the pace and took over coming out of the far turn at Churchill Downs to get the jump on his opponents, and such a strategy might give him a better chance at winning (or at least hitting the board) on Saturday. As it stands, Pavel is an underlay on the morning line at 7-2 odds. Gutierrez was aboard Pavel in last year’s Pacific Classic, which boosted trainer Doug O’Neill’s overall record to one win, one second, and two thirds from 12 Pacific Classic starts. O’Neill won the 2006 renewal with fan favourite Lava Man. J. Paul Reddam has finished second one other time as sole owner besides last year, with Momentum in 2002; he also co-owned 2010 runner-up Crowded House.
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has won the Pacific Classic five times, second behind the late Bobby Frankel’s six victories, but he’ll be represented by a longshot in Saturday’s renewal with For the Top after stable star McKinzie instead was pointed to — and impressively won — the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes at Saratoga Aug. 3. This Argentine-bred won two of five starts in his home country, including a Group 1 stakes on dirt at about 1 ½ mile, before coming to the U.S. earlier this year. He made his debut in a one-mile allowance-optional claiming race at Santa Anita in June and finished last of four after pressing the early pace (fellow Pacific Classic starter Draft Pick rallied from last to win). He then started in the Grade 3 Cougar II Handicap at 1 ½ mile at Del Mar and again tired late after pressing the early pace to finish third behind another Pacific Classic foe, Campaign. It will be interesting to see if Baffert tries a different running style with For the Top in the Pacific Classic since the horse has been out finished in both of his U.S. starts, but the presence of Martin Garcia, one of the best pace jockeys in California, in the irons suggests that For the Top will be in the front ranks once again on Saturday. Garcia has won the Pacific Classic twice, both times for Baffert, aboard Game On Dude in 2013 and Collected in 2017. Baffert’s three other Pacific Classic wins came with General Challenge in 1999 and with Richard’s Kid in 2009 and 2010. Baffert has also finished second three times and third once.
Notable achievements and interesting facts: In this current era of horse racing, Seeking the Soul qualifies as a throwback. Unlike fellow Pacific Classic starter War Story, who has eight more career starts but is a gelding, this 6-year-old still has a prospective career at stud on the horizon. Still, he has been sent all around the U.S. for four years running by owner-breeder Charles Fipke and trainer Dallas Stewart — and even to Dubai earlier this year. More often than not, he’s answered the bell against some of the best racehorses in training. That includes his most recent start, a sharp win at Churchill Downs in the June 15 Grade 2 Stephen Foster Stakes, in which he out finished Pacific Classic fo Quip to score by a neck. That victory pushed Seeking the Soul’s career earnings over the $3 million mark, and he enters the Pacific Classic as the 3-1 morning-line favourite. He deserves that distinction, but it must be noted that Seeking the Soul is 0-for-2 in races longer than 1 1/8 miles and, as a closer, will be dependent on a good pace scenario and a clean trip to set up his late kick. Still, he’s arguably in the best form of his career, the recent Dubai trip aside, and has excelled when teamed up with Hall of Famer John Velazquez in the saddle. One of the best jockeys at judging pace and timing a horse’s rally, Velazquez should have Seeking the Soul in a good position to make his customary stretch rally in Saturday’s race. This will be the first Pacific Classic start for Velazquez, Stewart, and Fipke.
Notable achievements and interesting facts: After winning three of his first nine starts racing on the Midwest circuit, Higher Power was bought by Hronis Racing and sent to California and John Sadler. He joins Sadler-trained Campaign as a worthy contender in the Pacific Classic at what should be attractive odds, although he’ll need to muster a career-best performance to have a shot at winning, and even that might not be enough. His two best starts for Sadler have been his most recent ones, both coming on turf: a win in a one-mile allowance-optional claiming race at Santa Anita in June and a runner-up effort in the July 21 Wickerr Stakes at Del Mar. Higher Power picks up current Del Mar leading jockey Flavien Prat for the Pacific Classic, a big plus. Look for Prat to place his mount behind the early leaders through the first six furlongs and make a bid for the lead entering the far turn. A consistent type, his form has improved since moving to California and he should be considered for exactas and trifectas. Sadler picked up his first win in the Pacific Classic last year with Hronis Racing’s eventual Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and champion Accelerate, and he’s also finished second twice and third twice from 12 starts.
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Beginning with this well-bred colt’s second start, which was his second consecutive win to start off his career, he’s alternated good and bad performances over the past year and a half. If he keeps up the pattern, Tenfold should show up in Saturday’s Pacific Classic after making absolutely no impression in the June 15 Grade 2 Stephen Foster Stakes. He finished ninth of 12 in the Foster, 17 lengths behind Seeking the Soul, and he mustered only an 83 Equibase Speed Figure without any apparent excuse. Prior to the Foster, Tenfold tallied his second career graded stakes win in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special Stakes, defeating You’re to Blame by a neck … but that followed a seventh-place finish to Quip in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap. You get the picture. This Steve Asmussen trainee has flashed enough talent to defeat the likes of Vino Rosso and Flameaway in the 2018 Jim Dandy Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets and to come three-quarters of a length shy of Justify in last year’s Preakness Stakes, but he’s also appeared overmatched at the top level several times, as noted above. Tenfold has a good, stalking running style and is bred for the Pacific Classic’s mile-and-a-quarter distance, and Hall of Famer Mike Smith gets on him for the first time Saturday, a big plus. Smith is tied with the late Garrett Gomez as the winningest rider in the Pacific Classic with four victories: Came Home (2002), Richard’s Kid (2009, 2010), and Shared Belief (2013). He’s also finished second once and third twice.
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Even with the announcement that Catalina Cruiser would skip the Pacific Classic and compete in one-turn races going forward, trainer John Sadler still has a pair of legitimate contenders entered in Saturday’s mile-and-a-quarter contest. Campaign is more accomplished than stablemate Higher Power in dirt races and figures to get some betting support in the Pacific Classic based on his current form and, even more so, on his proven ability in long-distance routes. The Curlin colt first drew attention last fall on turf, winning races at 1 ½ mile and then 1 5/16 miles during Kentucky Downs’s short meet for trainer Steve Asmussen. In February, he resurfaced in California under Sadler’s care and has since competed exclusively on dirt, winning three of five starts including the Grade 3 Tokyo City Cup Stakes in April at Santa Anita and the Cougar II Handicap most recently on July 24 at Del Mar, both at 1 ½ mile. This horse is a grinding type who rates well back off of the pace and methodically makes his way through the homestretch picking off foes, and he’s a logical choice to hit the board if a fast pace develops in the Pacific Classic. Sadler picked up his first win in the Pacific Classic last year with eventual Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and champion Accelerate, and he’s also finished second twice and third twice from 12 starts. Jockey Rafael Bejarano has piloted Campaign in both of his stakes wins; he’s finished third twice in the Pacific Classic.
Notable achievements and interesting facts: If this workmanlike gelding runs back to his most recent start, he’ll have a chance to spice up the exotic ticket payoffs in the Pacific Classic. Mongolian Groom came up a length short to odds-on favourite Catalina Cruiser in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap July 20, Del Mar’s prep race for the Pacific Classic, but kept churning through the stretch in a game effort. Four starts prior to the San Diego, he finished third behind Gift Box and McKinzie at odds of 53.50-1 in the Santa Anita Handicap Presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino. He usually can be counted on to make up ground in the stretch with a sustained rally, and his only throw-out race through his prior nine starts came this past June when he unsuccessfully tried turf. As such, Mongolian Groom is a must-use in trifecta and superfecta tickets on Saturday, but his win chances are very slim against accomplished graded stakes opponents such as Seeking the Soul, Quip, Pavel, and others. Abel Cedillo retains the mount after his good ride on Mongolian Groom in the San Diego. He is seeking his first win in the Pacific Classic, as is trainer Enebish Ganbat and owner Mongolian Stable, who memorably won the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint in 2015 with Mongolian Saturday.
Notable achievements and interesting facts: This son of 2003 Pacific Classic winner and track-record setter Candy Ride has returned in good form for his two starts this year. After a 10-month break, he won fresh off the bench by a neck in a one-mile allowance-optional claiming race at Santa Anita in June and then ran a solid third behind top-class Catalina Cruiser in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap, pressing that foe through the backstretch and far turn before tiring a bit late to lose by 2 ¼ lengths. Draft Pick has not competed at 1 ¼ mile before but prefers route races and has a good press-pacing running style that will allow jockey Joe Talamo to put him in a good spot early. This colt has never finished worse than fourth in his 11 starts and earned a career-high Equibase Speed Figure in the San Diego Handicap. Two notes of concern: he’s only faced three other opponents in each of his two starts this year, and in Quip and Tenfold, he’ll be squaring off against two stakes-winning East Coast shippers who also share the same running style. Talamo is winless in seven prior Pacific Classic starts, and this will be trainer Peter Eurton’s first starter in Del Mar’s signature race. Lee and Susan Searing’s C R K Stable finished second in the 2013 Pacific Classic with Kettle Corn.
Bet #2 Quip for the win at 9/2