Scully: Beholder the pick in compelling Pacific Classic

Profile Picture: James Scully

August 20th, 2016

With leading older males California Chrome and Dortmund, and the star mare Beholder making a title defense, the $1 million Pacific Classic (G1) promises to be a great race.

Beholder improved off an easy win in last year’s Clement L. Hirsch (G1), registering a 112 BRIS Speed rating for a record-setting 8 ¼-length Pacific Classic victory while turning 1 ¼ miles in 1:59 3/5, and she’ll need a similar move forward to successfully defend her title.

I’m tabbing her to do just that.

The 6-year-old mare lost this year’s Clement Hirsch, finishing a close second to 2015 champion 3-year-old filly Stellar Wind, but it was a commendable performance considering she was stuck down inside the entire way, setting the pace by default from her rail post.

Based upon BRIS Speed ratings, and other performance/Speed numbers I’ve seen, Beholder ran faster in defeat than she did winning the Clement Hirsch (106 compared to 102), so I’m not seeing any signs of decline entering Del Mar’s signature race.

After winning last year’s Pacific Classic from post 9, Beholder received the outside draw (7) needed to once again deliver her best effort. And she caught a break when California Chrome drew an unfavorable rail post.

Beholder may not be able to beat California Chrome and Dortmund going 1 ¼ miles at Santa Anita this fall, but I’ll give her the edge at Del Mar.

Here are some other thoughts today at Del Mar & Saratoga:

4th race Del Mar: Pray Hard (#8) enters in good form, posting a nice win over open $32k claimers, and the 5-year-old has captured his last two starts over the Del Mar main track. He steps up a level to face a less-than-imposing group of rivals and possesses the top last-out BRIS Speed rating (94). In his last attempt at 7-furlongs, Pray Hard finished a respectable third to California Chrome in the 2013 King Glorious. The Jerry Hollendorfer-trained gelding is well drawn outside for a stalk-and-pounce trip and I will single him on a Pick 5 ticket.

8th race Del Mar: The Del Mar H. (G2) came up very contentious, but I’ll make a case for Wanstead Gardens (#3), who received an ideal prep and notched his third turf score at Del Mar when capturing a July 30 allowance/optional claimer. He won at the 1 3/8-mile distance at Del Mar last year and will be rolling late with Santiago Gonzalez, who is tied for second in the standings with Rafael Bejarano (22 wins).

11th race Del Mar: I like a horse like Dothraki (#4) stepping up in a career-best form cycle at his best track. The 5-year-old gelding didn’t show much after breaking his maiden for a $20k tag at Del Mar last August, but he’s come around for trainer George Papaprodromou in the last three dirt starts (ignore the turf race), finishing third and second before stomping on $16k claiming rivals in his Del Mar return last time, drawing off to a 4 ¾-length decision at today’s one-mile distance. Dothraki shows a quick 5-furlong drill in the 3-week interim, indicating he still has more to offer, and should receive the right set-up in a speed-laden field. And the 10-1 morning line price only adds to the appeal.

5th race Saratoga: Long on Value (#4) couldn’t have been more impressive winning the July 25 Lucky Coin at Saratoga, cutting back to a turf sprint for the first time since capturing the 2013 Jamestown at Colonial Downs as a juvenile, and he’s got the potential to develop into one of the East Coast’s leading turf sprinters for Bill Mott. I’m very keen on him today and while he’ll likely be bet down from his 3-1 morning line odds, I’m viewing Long on Value as a single in the Pick 5 and a pair of Pick 4s (races 2-5 and 5-8).

8th race Saratoga: I’ll go with another last-out winner over the 5 ½-furlong turf distance, Orient Harbor (#5), who appears to be peaking for Shug McGaughey. She clearly likes Saratoga, posting both wins from 26 starts over the course and trip, and is eligible to keep showing more after offering a stout kick last time. Orient Harbor is an attractive 6-1 on the morning line.

Good luck!

Ed DeRosa & I preview the Pacific Classic below in the On Point Podcast: