How to Bet the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar

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Noel Michaels

July 19th, 2019

Stay classy San Diego. The $200,000 San Diego Handicap (G2) has drawn a small but classy field this year, with six horses going to post in Del Mar’s 4TH race on Saturday, July 20. At 1 1/16 miles on the main track, the San Diego is the main local prep race for next month’s Pacific Classic (G1). The field is headlined by Catalina Cruiser, who leads the way as the race’s 1-2 morning-line favorite. ANALYSIS The temptation in this race is to try to beat heavy favorite Catalina Cruiser (#1) (1-2), and that certainly would be recommended if there were some early speed in this race to make the pace fast enough to KO Catalina Cruiser up front. However, the problem is there’s not a legitimate pacesetter entered to challenge the favorite early and force a fast pace, and the lone pace presser is Dr. Dorr (#6) (4-1), who has already failed chasing Catalina Cruiser in this race last year. Based on that, Catalina Cruiser is likely to score a wire-to-wire win in the San Diego Handicap for the second year in a row. The best way to play the race with the favorite will be to key Catalina Cruiser on top in trifectas, using him on top of the likeliest runners-up, who are Draft Pick (#4) (4-1) and Dr. Dorr. If Dr. Dorr decides to take it to Catalina Cruiser early he could empty out and finish off the board, opening a spot for Core Beliefs (#2) (5-1) in the trifectas. WAGERS $2 Trifecta Key 1 / 2, 4, 6 = $12 $2 Trifecta Key 1 / 4, 6 / 2, 4, 6 = $8 Here’s a brief look at the San Diego Handicap field: CATALINA CRUISER (#1) (1-2) is the defending champion of this race who owns five wins in six career outings, with the only blemish coming when he threw in a clunker in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1). Since then, however, he returned with a strong positive rebound effort to win the True North (G2) at 6 1/2 furlongs at Belmont Park last month. Now he returns to Del Mar, where he went two-for-two last season, including a win in the Pat O’Brien (G2). Mostly has been a sprinter throughout his career, but perhaps his best lifetime performance so far was his 6 3/4-length victory over Dr. Dorr in this race last season. Trainer John Sadler brings in Joel Rosario, who was aboard for the True North win. Looms the best and possibly lone speed in this race and seems poised to go wire-to-wire in the San Diego for the second year in a row. CORE BELIEFS (#2) (5-1) won this spring’s New Orleans Handicap (G2) at Fair Grounds in his four-year-old debut and then returned to his base at Santa Anita last out but fell short against a loaded Grade 1 field in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes, where he finished sixth of seven. Routinely keeps Grade 1 or Grade 2 company, and is a legitimate two-turn stakes horse if for any reason Catalina Cruiser falls short in this latest stretch-out attempt. Trainer Peter Eurton gets Flavien Prat and puts the blinkers on (he’s 0 for his last 12 with blinkers on). HIGHER POWER (#3) (15-1) spent the winter at Fair Grounds, with the season highlight being a $40k allowance/optional claiming win in the mud on March 16. Added an allowance/optional claiming win at Santa Anita last out, and in-between wasn’t embarrassed when fifth in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita behind the likes of Vino Russo, Gift Box and Lone Sailor. Looms in career-best form at present and forms the “other” part of a strong one-two punch from the barn of John Sadler. DRAFT PICK (#4) (8-1) rarely runs a bad race, with four-straight exacta finishes since breaking his maiden, including places in last season’s Los Alamitos Derby (G3) and West Virginia Derby (G3) to go along with wins at Santa Anita in last year’s Affirmed (G3). Returned from a 10-month layoff for his four-year-old bow last out, scoring an allowance/optional claimer at one mile, and is prepped and ready to roll here as part of Peter Eurton’s one-two punch with Core Beliefs. MONGOLIAN GROOM (#5) (15-1) exits a well-beaten sixth in the 1 3/4-mile San Juan Capistrano (G3) on grass, and before that a fourth-place finish behind Grade 1 heavyweights in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita, where he finished ahead of both Core Beliefs and Higher Power at 1 1/4 miles. The main problem for Mongolian Groom in this race, however, would be repeating that kind of Gold Cup performance at this contest’s distance of 1 1/16 miles. He’s a long-winded long distance horse, and he’ll have little chance to rally from too far back in a race like this without much pace entered beyond just the favorite. DR. DORR (#6) (4-1) is the Bob Baffert representative in this race and also probably the only horse in the field capable of putting some pressure on Catalina Cruiser up front. Stretches out from a pair of Santa Anita sprint stakes after running second in the San Carlos (G2) and third in the Kona Gold (G2). Tried to put pressure on Catalina Cruiser in last year’s San Diego Handicap, but couldn’t faze that foe and chased him around the track for second. A repeat of that could be in the works again this year. PHOTO: Catalina Cruiser © BENOIT PHOTO