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Charles Fipke's well-travelled Seeking the Soul drew Post 5 Tuesday in a field of 10 and was installed the 3-1 morning line favorite for Saturday's 29th edition of Del Mar's premier test, the $1,000,000, Grade I Pacific Classic, the west's richest Thoroughbred race for older runners.
The stretch-running bay horse will be saddling up at his 10th different racetrack for the mile and a quarter headliner, coming off a sparkling tally in the Stephen Foster Stakes at Churchill Downs in Kentucky, a seventh lifetime victory that pushed his bankroll to a robust $3,335,802.
He was handled by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez that day and the champion rider will jet west from his Saratoga headquarters to be on board again Saturday.
2019 Pacific Classic Odds & Entries
Race 10 at Del Mar on Saturday, August 17 - Post 9:30 PM
|1||War Story||8-1||Tiago Pereira
|4||For the Top (ARG)||12-1||Martin Garcia
|5||Seeking the Soul||3-1||John Velazquez
|6||Higher Power||8-1||Flavien Prat
|9||Mongolian Groom||20-1||Abel Cedillo
|10||Draft Pick||20-1||Joseph Talamo
The Pacific Classic is a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" event, meaning the horse home first is guaranteed a spot in the starting gate for the $6-million Breeders' Cup Classic, which will be run for the 36th time this year on November 2 at Santa Anita Park.
The Pacific Classic will be one of five Graded stakes on the shore oval's exceptional Saturday program, the first time that many major added-money events have been run on one Del Mar card. The day's 11-race schedule is one of the best ever offered in the track's 80-year history and its (non-Breeders' Cup) single day betting mark of $25,870,431 may be in for a fall.
If all 10 entries start it would be the sixth double-digit Classic field since 2010 topped by the 12-horse assembly of 2012. A look by post positions from the rail.
War Story (8-1, Tiago Pereira)
Trainer Jorge Navarro and the 7-year-old Northern Afleet gelding journeyed from New Jersey on Tuesday to receive an unfriendly draw. "I don't like it, but what are you going to do?" Navarro said. Then, smiling, "Hope he breaks well and a couple of the speed horses don't?"
Quip (Florent Geroux, 9-2)
Runner-up to Seeking the Soul in the Stephen Foster, the 4-year-old Distorted Humor colt, trained by Rodolphe Brisset for Winstar Farm and China Horse Club, could secure a spot in the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic that was narrowly missed in June. Both the Stephen Foster and TVG Pacific Classic are "Win and You're In" qualifiers for the BC Classic.
Pavel (Mario Gutierrez, 7-2)
Well-beaten second to Accelerate in the 2018 Classic, the lifetime earner of more than $2 million, trained by Doug O'Neill for J. Paul Reddam, makes his third start since returning from a fourth-place finish in the Dubai World Cup. "Three's a great spot for him, he's doing well and if he runs his race he'll be tough to deal with," said Team O'Neill representative Steve Rothblum.
For the Top (Martin Garcia, 12-1)
Recent Argentine import trained by five-time Classic winner Bob Baffert for RRR Racing of Sheikh Rashid Bin Humaid Al Nuamai prepped with a third in the 1 ½-mile Cougar II Handicap on July 24. Richard's Kid followed up a Cougar with a win in the 2010 Classic, the third of Baffert's five. "I'm a longshot, but I'd like to see the horse run well and we're keeping him on the dirt," Baffert said.
Seeking the Soul (John Velazquez, 3-1)
Trainer Dallas Stewart, who has guided Seeking the Soul over four seasons and 27 starts, was asked immediately after the draw if Post 5 was a good one. "Why not," he said. "My horse is doing good, he's training good and I expect a big race from him Saturday."
Higher Power (Flavien Prat, 8-1)
One of two entrants for trainer John Sadler, who won in 2018 with Accelerate, the 4-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro, owned by Hronis Racing, was second in the Wickerr Handicap on July 21 and gets the services of meet-leading jockey Flavien Prat. "The way this year has been going, it's like the `Higher Power' has been on our shoulder the whole time," said Derek Lawson, Prat's agent. Prat won the Kentucky Derby with Country House via the disqualification of Maximum Security and then rode One Bad Boy to victory in the Queen's Plate, first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown.
Tenfold (Mike Smith, 8-1)
One of four horses shipped in for the race, the 4-year-old son of Curlin trained by Steve Asmussen for Winchell Thoroughbreds won the Pimlico Special in June. A victory by Mike Smith would be his fifth in the Classic, breaking a tie with Garrett Gomez for the most by a jockey. "I like the post and even though I've never been on the horse before, sometimes the first time I ride them is the time I get the most out of them," Smith said. "I'm going to try, anyway."
Campaign (Rafael Bejarano, 6-1)
The 4-year-old son of Curlin, trained by John Sadler for Woodford Racing, punched his Classic ticket with a victory in the Cougar II. He gives Bejarano a chance for a first win in the race after going 0-for-9 to this point.
Mongolian Groom (Abel Cedillo, 20-1)
It will be the sixth straight graded stakes in eight 2019 starts for the 4-year-old gelded son of Hightail. A $12,000 purchase at the Ocala sale in the spring of 2017, Mongolian Groom is set to top $250,000 in earnings for trainer Enebish Ganbat and Mongolian Stable. Jockey Abel Cedillo is in his first full summer at Del Mar and is fresh from winning the Grade III Longacres Mile on Sunday aboard Law Abidin' Citizen for trainer Mark Glatt.
Draft Pick (Joe Talamo, 20-1)
The 4-year-old son of Candy Ride stayed close to Catalina Cruiser through most of the San Diego Handicap before settling for third. A first TVG Pacific Classic starter for trainer Peter Eurton and eighth mount for Joe Talamo, who has yet to hit the board. "I'm not saddened by the post. Being outside in a mile and a quarter race, with a long run to the turn, is not that bad." Eurton said. "It could have been worse. It could have been the one and I hate the one. He's got tactical speed and it'll be up to Joe once the gate opens."
The Pacific Classic, which was captured last year by champion Accelerate and has gone to Eclipse Award heroes California Chrome (2016), Beholder (2015) and Shared Belief (2014) of late, will reward its winner with a check for $600,000. Second place is worth $200,000 and running third pays $120,000.
Seen as Seeking the Soul's chief rivals in what looms as a wide-open betting contest are Reddam Racing's Pavel (7-2), second in this race last year and a winner of more than $2-million, and WinStar Farm and China Horse Club International's Quip (9/2), another eastern invader who is a $1-million earner and was second to Seeking the Soul in the Stephen Foster last out.
The Pacific Classic will be the 10th race on the day with a post time of approximately 6:35 p.m.
John Sadler Saddles Higher Power & Campaign in the Pacific Classic
If it's an odd-numbered year then count on John Sadler to have an even number of starters in the Pacific Classic.
Such was the case in 2013 when Sadler saddled Kettle Corn and You Know I Know to finish second and third behind runaway winner Game On Dude in the $1 million signature event of the Del Mar summer meeting.
And again in 2015 when Hard Aces and Class Leader, who came in sixth and seventh in the Wake of Beholder.
And yet again in 2017 when Accelerate placed third and Hard Aces fifth to Collected.
Last year Sadler needed only Accelerate to notch his first TVG Pacific Classic victory from 12 starters and it came by a thoroughly convincing, romping 12 ½ lengths over the 1 ¼-mile distance.
Now it's 2019, and Sadler has reverted to recent form. He'll saddle Higher Power (8-1) and Campaign (6-1) with the aim of making it back-to-back Classic wins. If Higher Power does the trick, it will also be two in a row for his major client, Hronis Racing.
Both horses prepped for the Classic during the first six days of the meeting. Higher Power, a 4-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro, finished second in the Wickerr, a one mile turf race. Campaign won the 1 ½-mile Cougar II Handicap on the main track.
"Campaign has had a win over the track, which I think is important," Sadler said. "Higher Power we think is improving and it's kind of a `gut' call to put him in there. Fingers crossed, we're looking forward to getting them going."
Campaign, a 4-year-old son of Curlin owned by Woodford Racing, has five wins in 10 starts and earnings of $394,753. Two of his three wins in 2019 were at 1 ½ miles, so the distance is not a question. Higher Power has four wins in 12 starts with earnings of $200,648. Coming off two turf mile races, he's likely to show speed and be part of the early pace picture.
Higher Power drew the No. 6 post and will have meet-leading rider Flavien Prat up. Campaign will break from No. 8 under Rafael Bejarano, who has been aboard for his last four races in Southern California.
"The posts are fine, no problems," Sadler said. "Posts shouldn't really be a factor in this race - a mile and a quarter with a good, long run to the turn. There's plenty of opportunity for everyone to get settled."
Seven nominees for the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 17 put in final works for the signature race of the summer meeting Saturday morning.
Trainer John Sadler sent out his trio of Catalina Cruiser, Campaign and Higher Power. Doug O'Neill worked Pavel and Julius. Draft Pick was put through a tune-up run by Peter Eurton. And Enebish Ganbat saddled Mongolian Groom for a fitness sprint one week out from the 1 ¼-mile event that is a "Win and You're In" qualifier for the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic in the fall at Santa Anita.
Campaign, winner of the Cougar II Handicap on July 24, and Higher Power, runner-up in the Wickerr Stakes on July 21, went to the track for a 6:30 a.m. session.
With Rafael Bejarano up, Campaign was officially clocked in 1:04.00 for five furlongs, galloping out to six furlongs in 1:15.80. Higher Power, under meet-leading jockey Flavien Prat, working in company with Horace Greedy, covered six furlongs in 1:13.40.
Catalina Cruiser, who made a successful title defense in the San Diego Handicap on July 20, took part in a 7:45 a.m. session and was timed in 1:00 flat for five furlongs under assistant trainer Juan Leyva. Del Mar clockers had interim splits of :24.40, :35.40, :47.60 with the Hronis Racing color bearer galloping out to six furlongs in 1:13.00.
"An impressive work, Prat was very happy with him," Sadler said of the Higher Power exercise. "Campaign went a little slower but he finished up well and Bejarano was happy with him.
"Catalina Cruiser went really well and I'll come out with what my plan is for him maybe tomorrow," Sadler said. A year ago Catalina Cruiser followed the San Diego victory with one in the Pat O'Brien. The Pat O'Brien is a "Win and You're In" qualifier for the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.
Pavel, runner-up to Accelerate in the 2018 Classic, went four furlongs in :49.40 under exercise rider Amir Cedeno. "He galloped out with great energy and we're very happy with him," O'Neill said. Mario Gutierrez has the mount for the Classic.
Draft Pick went five furlongs in 1:00.60 under Joe Talamo, who'll be aboard for the Classic.
"I thought he worked very well, no complaints," Eurton said. "Looking forward to the draw on Tuesday."
The field will be finalized on Tuesday morning and the post position draw will be held that afternoon at the Brigantine Restaurant which overlooks the track from heights at its northwest corner
Julius, winner of the opening race of the meeting and considered an O'Neill back-up for Pavel, covered four furlongs in :47.40. Mongolian Groom, runner-up to Catalina Cruiser in the San Diego Handicap and a potential first Classic starter for Ganbat, went six furlongs in 1:14.00.
2019 Pacific Classic Set for Saturday, August 17
In what will be one of the richest days of racing outside of the Breeders' Cup in Del Mar history, the track has scheduled an unprecedented five major stakes races - topped by the $1,000,000 Pacific Classic - along with a mandatory payout on its Pick Six as well as a premium giveaway, all of which could foretell a day to remember at the shore oval when it unfolds on Saturday, August 17.
Besides the 29th edition of the Grade I, mile and a quarter Pacific Classic, there will be a quartet of graded stakes on the 11-race card. They are: the $300,000, Grade I Del Mar Oaks, the $250,000, Grade II Del Mar Handicap, the $100,000, grade III Torrey Pines Stakes and the $100,000, Grade III Green Flash Handicap.
With the stakes' purses and the prizes from the other six races on the card, the total monies offered to horsemen on the afternoon is expected to go past the $2 million mark. The track's previous (non-Breeders' Cup) high of $2,299,857 in purses was registered on August 19, 2007, also a Pacific Classic Day.
Additionally, the popular Pick Six wager is expected to present a possible life-changing opportunity with a mandatory payout provided at the conclusion of the card. The track's "Jackpot" pool - monies held aside when no one has been the lone holder of a winning Pick Six ticket on any single day - will be thrown into the mix. Through the first 15 days of the meet the "Jackpot" has gone unclaimed and currently sits at $306,660. Whatever "Jackpot" monies are available on Pacific Classic Day, they all go into the Pick Six pool as a sweetener to start the afternoon and likely could lead to a seven-figure payout when the day's final race is run.
Further that afternoon, Del Mar will be providing fans with one of its best giveaways ever when it makes available a colorful, woven, Baja beach blanket for all Diamond Club members who use their club cards for admission that day.
The Pacific Classic, which will go as the 10th race on the program with a post time of approximately 6:35 p.m., is expected to lure another star-studded field possibly headed by local aces Catalina Cruiser and Pavel facing off with the invading duo of Seeking the Soul and Quip.
Catalina Cruiser, a winner of six of seven lifetime starts, most recently captured the San Diego Handicap on July 20, his second win in a row in that key Pacific Classic prep. Pavel has banked more than $2 million racing all over the world and was second in last year's Pacific Classic to champion older horse Accelerate. Out-of-towners Seeking the Soul and Quip finished one, two most recently in Churchill Downs' Grade II Stephen Foster Stakes on June 15. Seeking the Soul has won seven races and more than $3.3 million, while Quip is a four-time winner of more than $1 million.
In the 63rd edition of the Del Mar Oaks, local heroine Mucho Unusual, victorious in the San Clemente Stakes here July 20 in her most recent outing, will take on a pair of interlopers in New York-based, Chad Brown-trained Dogtag and the Kentucky shipper Hard Legacy from the Norm Casse stable. The Oaks is a grass test run at nine panels out of Del Mar's infield chute.
The 80th version of the Del Mar Handicap, the track's oldest stakes race, is presented by the Japan Racing Association and will be headed by stakes winners Bowies Hero and Marckie's Water, as well as the lightly raced, but highly promising 4-year-old United, a smart winner on the lawn at Del Mar on July 17. The race is an 11-furlong marathon on the grass.
The Torrey Pines, a mile on the main track for 3-year-old fillies, is likely to be topped by Midwestern shipper Motion Emotion, east coast raider Classic Fit and hometown lassie Into Chocolate. In recent years the race has been captured by the likes of champions Beholder and Stellar Wind.
The final stakes on the day is the Green Flash, being offered as a graded race for the first time this year. The five-panel spin on the lawn is expected to feature the fast horses Eddie Haskell, Mr Vargas and Tribalist.
Gates will open a half hour earlier at 11:30 a.m. on Pacific Classic Day with first post slated for the standard 2 p.m.
Pacific Classic Quick Facts
Beholder became the first and only female racehorse to win the race in 2015, when she rolled to a near-record 8 ¼ length win. Just four other fillies have started in the race.
Trainer Bob Baffert has won the race five times, most recently with Collected last year.
Jockey Mike Smith has won four editions of the race, tied with the late Garrett Gomez for the most of any rider.
The betting favorite has won the Pacific Classic just eight times, but seven of those times came since 2004.