Accelerate will look to continue his impressive 2018 run on Saturday with a big-time win in the Grade 1, $1,000,000 Pacific Classic Stakes. The John Sadler-trained son of Lookin At Lucky has won three times this season, including Grade 1 victories in the Santa Anita Handicap and the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. Heading into the second half of the season, he is regarded as the number-one older horse in the country. He was third in last year’s race behind heavy hitters Collected and Arrogate, but he boasts an impressive overall record at Del Mar with 3 wins in 5 starts. Joel Rosario will have the mount as he replaces the injured Victor Espinoza.
“I was happy to get the #5 post, but felt he could handle any (post) going a mile and 1/4,” Sadler said. “You’d rather be the favorite than not, and we’re excited going into the race.”
The winner of the Pacific Classic will receive an automatic position in the Breeders’ Cup Classic this fall at Churchill Downs. Pre-entry and entry fees will be paid and a nominator award of $10,000 will be given to the person who nominated the foal or racehorse. Also, all Breeders’ Cup starters based outside of the state of Kentucky will receive a travel allowance of $10,000 if based in North America and $40,000 if based internationally.
The Grade 1 Pacific Classic will be the feature race on Saturday at Del Mar while also sharing the card with the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap, which is a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Longines Turf. The card will also feature other stakes races, including the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks for 3-year-olds fillies on the turf. The American-based Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” events continue next Saturday at Saratoga with a massive day of racing. The upstate New York track will host four “Win and You’re In” events including: The Sword Dancer (Longines Turf), Personal Ensign (Longines Distaff), Ballerina (Filly and Mare Spint), and Forego (Dirt Mile). Del Mar will also feature the Grade 2 Pat O’Brien Stakes which is a “Win and You’re In” for the Dirt Mile.
The field from the rail out: The Lieutenant, Dr. Dorr, Prime Attraction, Roman Rosso, Accelerate, Beach View, Pavel, and Two Thirty Five.
#5 Accelerate – He is the undisputed favorite in this spot as he looks to build up to a big race at the Breeders’ Cup. As far as the year-end championships go, he will be looking for redemption this year after finishing ninth in last year’s Las Vegas Dirt Mile. 2018 has been nearly perfect for him, as he has 3 wins from 4 starts, and last time out, he dominated his rivals in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. He has beaten several of his main rivals in this race before and he seems to be sitting on a big effort heading into this spot.
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#7 Pavel – Everyone knew that this horse had a big win in his future at some point, and it finally came last time out in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs, a race that he dominated by nearly 4 lengths. As soon as he broke his maiden last year, he took on top-flight company, including running in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, where he finished 10th. Aside from that race, though, he has been consistently competitive, including a fourth in the Dubai World Cup earlier in the year. He poses the biggest challenge to the heavily-favored Accelerate.
#2 Dr. Dorr – Trainer Bob Baffert has always considered this to be a talented horse, but until 2018, minor injuries kept getting in his way. He’s finally healthy, which has resulted in 3 victories from 6 starts this year, and he finished second in 2 of his 3 losses, with his only off-the-board finishing coming in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap. The highlight of his year was a win in the Grade 2 Californian Stakes at Santa Anita, and repeating that effort will make him competitive here.
#6 Beach View – Last time out, he made his Del Mar debut a winning one with a victory in the Grade 3 Cougar II Handicap by nearly 5 lengths. That performance was easily the top race of his career, which should set him up for another solid race in what will be a tougher spot. He will also be cutting back in distance for this one, as the Cougar II Handicap was contested at the marathon distance of 1 1/2 miles.
#1 The Lieutenant – This horse has quietly been improving all year long after starting off his season fairly slow. Two races back, he picked up his first graded stakes win at Golden Gate in the Grade 3 All American. That win seemed to give both the horse and his connections confidence, and he moved up in class to the Suburban at Belmont Park in his next start. He was sent off at odds of 35-1 but ran an impressive second behind the ultra-talented Diversify. His level of improvement makes him an interesting prospect here.
#4 Roman Rosso – There is no doubt that he is the mystery horse of the field. Roman Rosso will be making his first start for Baffert after reeling off three straight wins in Argentina. While those wins were impressive, it is always hard to know how that form will translate to the United States. Baffert must believe that this horse has some talent or he would not put him in a Grade 1 race right off the bat, and it’s a good sign that Flavien Prat will have the mount. Also, his workouts have been solid leading up to the race.
#8 Two Thirty Five – This gelding gives stakes company another shot after finishing fourth last time out in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap. Before that start, he had won 3 of 4 against allowance company, so he was clearly ready to move up in class. In the San Diego, he was just 2 lengths away from finishing second, which signals that he should be competitive for at least the minor awards again here.
#3 Prime Attraction – Versatility is the name of the game when discussing this classy individual. He can run well on both turf and dirt, a surface he will be switching back to here after running third last time out in the Grade 2 Eddie Read Stakes. Prime Attraction is undefeated when running on the Del Mar dirt, having won the Grade 3 Native Diver Stakes last year and his maiden-breaker in 2016. The home track advantage will certainly work in his favor.