DEL MAR, CA – Four weeks after they threw it down in the San Diego Handicap (G2), Maximum Security and Midcourt are set for an exciting rematch in Saturday’s $500,000 TVG Pacific Classic Stakes (G1) at Del Mar.
The winner of the Pacific Classic will receive an automatic position in the $7 million Breeders’ Cup Longines Classic (G1) this fall at Keeneland. Pre-entry and entry fees will be paid and a nominator award of $10,000 will be given to the nominating person. 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 Pacific Classic is a 1 1/4-mile dirt route open to horses ages 3 and up. The 2020 edition attracted a stout group of 6, including an Argentinian star making his North American debut.
Let’s look at the full field:
#1 Midcourt – He was a nose away from toppling the heavily-favored Maximum Security last time out after putting blinkers back on and setting the early pace. He has hit the board in 9 of his past 10 starts, including a 3/4-length defeat in the 1 1/4-mile Santa Anita Handicap (G1) earlier this year. With 2 wins and a second in 3 career starts over the Del Mar dirt, do not be surprised to see him in the similar position of trying to hold off Maximum Security in the stretch here.
#2 Higher Power – The defending champion pulled off a 9/1 upset last year to give trainer John Sadler and owner Hronis Racing their second straight Pacific Classic title. He has yet to seriously threaten for victory since that event, finishing second or third in 4 of his 5 subsequent starts, but he is proven over this course and distance, and his connections should never be taken lightly in California graded stakes action.
#3 Mirinaque – The Argentinian-bred Hurricane Cat colt won a pair of Group 1s on his native dirt in 2019, including the 1 9/16-mile Nacional Stakes last November, and missed by just 3/4 of a length on grass in December’s Gran Premio International Carlos Pellegrini (G1), a “Win and You’re In” for the Longines Turf (G1). He faces a stiff test for his North American debut while attempting to replicate fellow Argentinian Candy Ride, who won this race in 2003.
#4 Dark Vader – His connections opted to run him in a local optional claiming event, rather than the San Diego Handicap (G2) that same day, and he responded with his first victory in 14 months. He has worked brilliantly since then, posting back-to-back bullet 5-furlong works in :59.80 (best of 74) and :59 flat (best of 95), and he retains the riding services of Umberto Rispoli, who currently leads all jockeys in wins (28) at the meet (through August 17).
#5 Maximum Security – One of the most embattled horses in recent history returned from a five-month layoff to score a gutsy effort, despite two familiar rivals’ best efforts to prevent him from succeeding. He continues to work strongly over the local course for Bob Baffert, who would tie fellow Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel with most victories in this event (6) if this expected heavy favorite gets the job done.
#6 Sharp Samurai – He scratched out of the San Diego Handicap (G2) in favor of running in the Eddie Read Stakes (G2) on the local turf, where he finished just a 1/2-length behind last year’s Breeders’ Cup Longines Turf (G1) runner-up United. He has not won on dirt since breaking his maiden in early 2017 and has not found any kind of victory since taking the 2018 City of Hope Mile Stakes (G2), but trainer Mark Glatt wins 27% with horses switching from turf to dirt.
The Pacific Classic serves as race 10 on a Saturday card that features five stakes at the seaside oval, including the Del Mar Handicap Presented by the Japan Racing Association (G2), a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” for the Longines Turf. The American-based “Win and You’re In” events continue Saturday at Saratoga with the Fourstardave Handicap (TVG Mile).
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series is presented by America’s Best Racing.