Shapiro profiles four top contenders in the Pacific Classic

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TwinSpires Staff

August 16th, 2018


The featured event of the Del Mar summer meeting headlines a loaded 11-race card in San Diego County on Saturday afternoon.

The $1 million Pacific Classic (G1) did not attract a champion like years past with Beholder, California Chrome and Arrogate, but it drew a field of eight for the 1 ¼-mile race over the main track.

Here are my top four horses for the 2018 Pacific Classic:

#5 Accelerate

The 8-5-morning line favorite is the clear horse to beat on Saturday. The Hronis Racing runner has performed extremely well at Del Mar with three wins in five career starts. One of those defeats came in the 2017 Pacific Classic when the son of Lookin at Lucky stalked the early pace of eventual winner Collected before tiring late under jockey Victor Espinoza, but he appears to be better than ever in 2018.

Before this year, I thought 1 ¼ miles was farther than Accelerate wanted to travel, but he proved me wrong, not once but twice winning both the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) and the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) in impressive fashion.

The five-year-old was scheduled to run in the San Diego Handicap (G2) in late July as a prep, but trainer John Sadler elected to scratch and run the ultra-talented Catalina Cruiser instead. The fact Accelerate comes in off a near three-month break is slightly concerning, but he has trained forwardly over the surface since arriving at Del Mar and will be tough to beat.

#2 Dr. Dorr

One of two Bob Baffert trainees entered in this year’s Pacific Classic, Dr. Dorr rattled off three consecutive victories at Santa Anita earlier this year, including a 7 ¼-length win in the Californian (G2) on April 28. The son of Lookin At Lucky did not beat that much as the 1-2 chalk that day and has failed to get back to the winner’s circle in three starts since. That being said, Dr. Dorr has faced better since then and been competitive other than his voyage to New York in the Suburban (G2) where he finished ninth in a field of 10.

The Natalie Baffert-owned gelding does not appear talented enough to beat the likes of Accelerate even on his best day, but he should find himself in a prominent spot early, which should allow Dr. Dorr to hit the board under jockey Joe Talamo.

#7 Pavel

The Reddam Racing colt has been a tough horse to figure out over the first 10 races of his career for trainer Doug O’Neill. The son of Creative Cause got off to a late start to his three-year-old campaign, but was impressive on debut at Santa Anita last July when showing good speed from the start to win going away by 4 ½ lengths. Since then, Pavel has showed glimpses of greatness, including a six-length victory in the Smarty Jones (G3) at Parx last September, as well as a 3 ¾ length win last time in the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) at legendary Churchill Downs.

O’Neill brings Pavel into Saturday off a solid series of works and the gray colt merits serious consideration based on his upside. However, he is winless from four attempts at Saturday’s distance and ran extremely poorly in his only try at Del Mar in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). As the likely second choice, Pavel seems like more of fade than a horse I want to lean on in the 2018 Pacific Classic.

#4 Roman Rosso

The second half of the Bob Baffert uncoupled entry is the wild card in this year’s Pacific Classic. The four-year-old colt makes his initial try in the States after winning five-of-eight starts in South America. The Argentinean-bred son of Roman Ruler only made one start this year, winning the Longines Gran Premio Latinoamericano (G1) in Uruguay in mid-March. Despite the big wins out of country, I was not overly impressed visually with the Zaur Bifov-owned horse. On the other hand, it is likely Roman Rosso will move forward under the handling of one of the world’s best conditioners.

It is an ambitious move to try Roman Rosso in the Pacific Classic for his first start since late winter, but he has shown he can get the distance and beaten top fields in both Argentina and most recently Uruguay. Baffert has pulled off some amazing training jobs before, so winning with this South American import is not out of the question. He also may be in over his head. A difficult read.