Dr Post wins the Grade 3 Monmouth Cup at Monmouth Park.
Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million TVG Pacific Classic Stakes at Del Mar, a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, drew a field of nine this year. It’s a strong group consisting of three recent graded stakes winners and another four who were in-the-money in their most recent races.
Leading the field in career earnings, with $700K banked, is the lightly raced 4-year-old Dr Post, who ships in from Todd Pletcher’s summer base at Saratoga off a strong win in the Grade 2 Monmouth Cup Stakes last month. Next in career success and earnings is Express Train, who has earned $659K, much of it when victorious last month in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap.
Tripoli was a half-length back in that race in his first ever stakes try and must be respected as a contender. Royal Ship was another three-quarters of a length back in the San Diego and two races prior to that won the Grade 2 Californian Stakes to prove he belongs at this level.
Tizamagician and Cupid’s Claws finished first and second, respectively, in the mile and one-half Grade 2 Cougar II Stakes last month and both will attempt to run as well or better shortening up by a quarter mile. Independence Hall was a top three year old early last year when winning the Jerome Stakes on New Year’s Day but has only won once in seven races since and was soundly defeated in the Californian when last seen four months ago.
Sheriff Brown, a former claiming level horse, has won six of 21 races lifetime and three of his last five but finished a far back in fifth and seventh in his two recent graded stakes races. Magic On Tap rounds out the field. Winner of the Grade 2 Triple Bend Stakes at seven furlongs in May, Magic On Tap enters the Pacific Classic off a non-threatening fifth-place effort in the San Diego Handicap last month.
Most of the nine entrants in this year’s Pacific Classic have been taking turns beating each other:
Express Train beat Tripoli and Royal Ship in the San Diego Handicap last month but Royal Ship finished in front of Express Train seven weeks earlier when second in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. Express Train beat Tizamagician in the San Pasqual Stakes this past January, then one day after the San Diego Handicap, Tizamagician beat Cupid’s Claws in the Cougar II Stakes. However, Cupid’s Claws had beaten Tizamagician when winning the Tokyo City Stakes last summer. When winning the Californian Stakes in April, Royal Ship beat Independence Hall ,and Express Train finished in front of Independence Hall when second in the Malibu Stakes last December. Sheriff Brown was far back in the San Diego, as was Magic On Tap, who also we well beaten by Royal Ship in the Californian.
With all that turn-taking to consider, the race is ready to be won by a new face. That new face is Dr Post, with a career-best and field high last race 108 ™ Equibase® Speed Figure. That figure is likely to be improved upon as this will be Dr Post’s second start since adding blinkers as well as his second with Joel Rosario in the saddle. Dr Post made his third start following an eight month layoff in the Monmouth Cup Stakes last month, run on the same day as the San Diego and won more easily than the one and one-quarter length margin of victory makes it appear as he was “ridden out” in the final stages. Given that his first two races this year were at the distance of a mile around one turn, the stretch out to a mile and one-eighth around two turns in the Monmouth Cup sets the stage for an even better effort in the Pacific Classic.
Express Train is the next most probable winner of this year’s Pacific Classic, but unlike Dr Post (who has never run this mile and one-quarter trip), Express Train is winless in two tries at the distance. His best effort of the two tries came when beaten a half-length in the Santa Anita Handicap in March, in which he led by two lengths with an eighth of a mile to go and was caught near the wire. It’s just unclear whether he can run his best at this distance, but coming off a big win in the San Diego Handicap last month with a 107 ™ figure, and having run so well in the Santa Anita Handicap, Express Train has every right to win this race, particularly as he may have the early lead all to himself from the start.
There’s no doubt Royal Ship, Tripoli, Tizamagician and Cupid’s Claws have some chance to win, but each as one negative factor in my opinion which makes that must more improbable than the top two win contenders. Royal Ship earned a 113 ™ figure winning the Californian in April and finished in front of Express Train by a head in the Gold Cup (111 figure) but disappointed badly in the San Diego when a non-threatening third as the betting favorite with no excuse. Tripoli earned a 109 ™ figure one before last in an allowance race and nearly duplicated the effort when second to Express Train in the San Diego Handicap but his six pound difference is not in effect here as they are at even weight and there’s no indication he wants to run this far, having never run farther than one mile and one-sixteenth on dirt. Tizamagician (career-best 106 winning figure) and Cupid’s Claws (career-best 100 figure) both sport graded stakes wins at a mile and one-half, but that doesn’t mean they can run this well at the classic distance of one mile and one-quarter.
The rest of the field, with their best ™ Equibase Speed Figures, is Independence Hall (110), Magic On Tap (106) and Sheriff Brown (104).
TVG Pacific Classic Stakes – Grade 1
Race 10 at Del Mar
Saturday, August 21 – Post Time 9:30 PM E.T.
One Mile and One Quarter
Three Years Olds and Upward
Purse: $1 Million
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