Express Train and jockey Juan Hernandez win the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar.
C R K Stable’s Express Train, winner of the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap on July 17, drew Post 5 and was installed the 3-1 morning line favorite to beat eight rivals on Saturday in the 31st running of the Grade 1, $1 million TVG Pacific Classic at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in Del Mar, Calif.
Post positions for the 1 1/4-mile headliner for 3-year-olds and up were drawn at The Brigantine restaurant overlooking the racetrack on Tuesday afternoon with the connections of the nine runners looking on. Del Mar’s morning line maker, Jon White, tabbed Express Train as a slight favorite over Fox Hill Farms and Siena Farm’s Royal Ship at 7-2.
All runners will carry 124 pounds under the conditions of the race, which is part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge series that awards the victorious horse automatic entry into this year’s $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic with all pre-entry and entry fees paid. That race will be run at Del Mar this year on Saturday, Nov. 6.
Express Train, a 4-year-old Union Rags colt, has been solid and steady throughout his 12-race career with four wins, four seconds and two thirds on his ledger for a bankroll that currently reads $659,300. He’s responded well to the patient handling of trainer John Shirreffs, as well as the horsemanship of his TVG Pacific Classic rider, Juan Hernandez, who has been aboard the bay in his last six outings.
Royal Ship, a Brazilian bred by Midshipman, has steadily improved his efforts in seven U.S. starts since shipping north from his native land last year. The 5-year-old gelding has won six of 14 starts and shows earnings of $293,305. His trainer is Hall of Famer Richard Mandella, who once again has selected Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith to be his pilot on Saturday.
Next on the betting line at 4-1 is the Eastern invader Dr Post, who races for St. Elias Stable and out of the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. The 4-year-old Quality Road colt, a winner of four of nine starts and $700,635, will be handled by Joel Rosario, a three-time Del Mar riding champion who now is based in the East.
The others in the lineup for the shore oval’s premier summer offering are WinStar Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Twin Creeks Racing Stables, et al’s Independence Hall, My Racehorse and Spendthrift Farm’s Tizamagician, Hronis Racing’s Tripoli, Flawless Racing, Masino Racing Stable, et al’s Cupid’s Claws, Summer Wind Equine’s Magic On Tap and Joe Peacock’s Sheriff Brown.
The TVG Pacific Classic will be the highlight of an 11-race card that includes five graded stakes, among them the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks and the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap.
Here’s the field for the TVG Pacific Classic in post position order with riders and morning line odds:
|Post Position||Horse/Jockey||Morning Line Odds|
Tiago J. Pereira
|4||ROYAL SHIP (BRZ)
Mike E. Smith
Juan J. Hernandez
|6||MAGIC ON TAP
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