Pavel looms large in San Pasqual

Profile Picture: John Mucciolo

February 3rd, 2018

I have been a fan Doug O’Neill-trained PAVEL since his superb debut win at Santa Anita last summer. Son of Grade 1 winner and classic-placed Creative Cause was thrown to the proverbial wolves following that tally but held up pretty well after a fourth in the Jim Dandy (G2), recording a decisive triumph in the Smarty Jones S. (G3) at Parx in start number three. And he followed with a Grade 1 placing for a stubborn third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.  

The fact this youngster came so far in only four career starts speaks volumes about his ability. Not many animals could have accomplished what he did in such a short time.

Pavel ran an even fourth in the Malibu S. (G1) in his 2017 finale and seems poised for a big 2018 with a more sensible campaign. It starts in the $200,000 San Pasqual (G2) at Santa Anita on Saturday and it could be a steppingstone to Pavel becoming among the top handicap runners this season.

Reddam Racing color bearer began his career showing early speed and though he has not been as alert in his last pair of Grade 1 tests, he looks to be well-placed in this run. Gray gets the rail in a nine-horse field and has ripped off a trio of morning drills in advance of this outing, including a six-furlong bullet on this main oval last time out.

Pavel appears to be catching this field at exactly the right time, too. Morning-line second choice Mubtaahij is prepping for the Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1); Grade 2 victor Accelerate is 0-for-8 at Santa Anita and might have peaked already; Prime Attraction “freaked” once when taking the Native Diver (G3) at Del Mar two back but has been rather pedestrian in other starts; Bob Baffert’s Irish Freedom has never won a stakes race; and morning-line favorite Top of the Game is 4-for-4 locally but his last two have me scratching my head.

The San Pasqual surely has some talent to it and the pace scenario could be a tricky one for a horse breaking from the rail. In the end, though, I would be disappointed with anything less than a win from Pavel under regular pilot Mario Gutierrez. Saturday’s card at Santa Anita is both fantastic and challenging, but here is your single.