Early Contenders for the Pacific Classic Stakes

Pacific Classic

One of the highlights of the Del Mar summer meeting is the Pacific Classic (G1) for the handicap division. (Photo credit: DMTC).

When it comes to horse racing in Southern California, there is no doubt that the Pacific Classic Stakes is one of the highlights of the summer. The event, at the Del Mar Racetrack in August, is a Grade 1 race that’s one of the top targets for horses aged three years or over. Truly, all eyes will be on who wins this race on August 17.

This year sees the event grow even larger with the TVG Pacific Classic the main dish of August 17, but there will also be four other graded stakes races, something that has never happened before at the Del Mar racetrack. It makes this year’s event one of the must-see events of the summer.

In addition to the Pacific Classic Stakes, the other graded races will be the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks and the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap. There will also be two Grade 3 races – the Torrey Pines Stakes and the Green Flash Handicap.

The Pacific Classic Stakes was first run in 1991 and is raced over 10 furlongs. With a million dollars prize money, this is a race well worth winning. There have been many memorable moments in the history of this race. 1996 saw Cigar fail in a bid to break Citation’s record of 16 straight wins when being beaten by Dare and Go.  Seven years later, Julie Krone rode Candy Ride to success, the first time a female jockey had won a $1 million race.

Last year saw the five-year-old Accelerate win the race. With favourable horse racing odds of 8/5, it was an impressive victory as the winner drew clear in the final two furlongs. Accelerate also landed the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic but has now been retired, so the Pacific Classic Stakes guarantees a new winner in 2019.

This isn’t just one of the top races in the state of California, but it’s a signpost towards who might win an even more important race. The Pacific Classic Stakes winner will be the top Californian based runner for the Breeders’ Cup Classic and last year Accelerate did complete the double.

It’s always important to look at the trends of races, and it seems backing a three-year-old to win this race is a risky business. Only a trio of three-year-olds has won the race this century with the last being Shared Belief in 2014.

Five four-year-olds have been successful this century, but it’s the five-year-old runners who have had the most success. Three of the last four winners have been in that age group, and nine have won the race this century.

Pavel was second in last year’s running of the Pacific Classic Stakes finishing twelve and a half lengths behind Accelerate. Before that race, Pavel had won the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs. Pavel renewed his rivalry with Accelerate at the Breeders’ Cup Classic but could only finish 10th.

Now aged five-years-old, Pavel has had three runs in 2019. He finished fourth in the Dubai World Cup behind Thunder Snow. His most recent came on June 8 in the Grade 1 Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap finishing sixth behind Mitole (a leading contender for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint) who was winning his fourth race of the year.

Roman Rosso was fourth in the 2018 running of the Pacific Classic Stakes. His participation in the race illustrated the international interest in this race as he’s an Argentinian bred racehorse with a Russian owner.  Perhaps last year’s race came too early with little experience of racing in America. Come August, he might be a larger threat.

Dr Dorr finished fifth last year and has been placed in two races since then. Both were run at distances less than a mile but could again fancy a crack at the Pacific Classic Stakes in August over the ten furlongs this race is run over.

The coming weeks will give us a better idea of who the likely winner of the 2019 Pacific Classic Stakes will be. It promises to be another great day at the Del Mar Racetrack, an absolute feast for lovers of horse racing with the additional graded races taking place.

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