Lady and The Track | September 16, 2019

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Pacific Classic Will Guarantee One Of Ten A Spot In Breeders’ Cup Classic Gate

 

Shippers Seeking The Soul, Quip, Tenfold Stand Out

By Margaret Ransom

Seeking the Soul wins the 2019 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs under John Velazquez. Photo: Jordan Thomson

This year marks the 29th running of the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic (GI) at Del Mar, a race that has historically drawn some of the best stars from the older handicap division since Best Pal won the inaugural running in 1991. Since then, names like Bertrando, TInners Way (twice), Gentlemen, Free House, Skimming (twice), Lava Man, Game On Dude, Shared Belief, the mare Beholder, California Chrome and Accelerate have captured the 10-furlong test, which was one of the first races in North America to offer a $1 million purse.

For the 11th consecutive time the Pacific Classic will be part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win & You’re In” Series, which guarantees the winner an all-expenses paid trip to California and a spot in the gate for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI), which has been set for November 2 at Santa Anita. Two horses – Pleasantly Perfect in 2003 and Accelerate a year ago – won both the Pacific Classic and the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Seeking the Soul wins the 2019 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs under John Velazquez. Photo: Jordan Thomson

The race drew a talent-filled field of runners looking to stand out and establish themselves as a leading contender for Racing’s Championship Day, including Charles Fipke’s Seeking the Soul, who is the morning-line favorite in the field of 10 at odds of 3-1 in his first start since annexing the Stephen Foster Handicap (GII), where he already earned a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic for that win, at Churchill Downs two months ago. The consistent son of Perfect Soul has earned more than $3.3 million mostly picking up the pieces left by some of his more highly regarded rivals, but in this event he’s certainly earned his status as the favorite. John Velazquez will be aboard for trainer Dallas Stewart.

Quip galloping at Del Mar. Photo: Ernie Belmonte

Quip also caught the Tex Sutton plane from the East and also makes his first start since the Stephen Foster having lost to Seeking the Soul by just a neck. He won the Oaklawn Handicap (GII) earlier this year and also the Tampa Bay Derby (GIII) as a 3-year-old last year, and now makes his fourth start this year after sitting out most of 2018. He’s never tried this distance, but as a son of Distorted Humor and an Indian Charlie mare is bred to like it and starts at his sixth track in his 10th career start. Florent Geroux is back aboard after the last for trainer Rodolphe Brisset and the pair will break from post position two.

Pavel was second to Accelerate in this race a year ago and is back seeking to pick up the win for owner Paul Reddam and trainer Doug O’Neill. The handsome gray son of Creative Cause’s biggest career win came in the 2018 Stephen Foster, but he’s had trouble finding the winner’s circle since despite showing up for a lot of good races, including the Champions Cup (GI) in Japan and the Dubai World Cup (GI), where he was a respectable fourth. With his best he fits with this field and he’s been training exceptionally well over the surface for more than a month. Regular jockey Mario Gutierrez will be back aboard.

War Story, who was seventh in this race three years ago, is coming off a nice win in the Monmouth Cup (GIII) on what was the hottest day this summer in New Jersey on Haskell Invitational (GI) Day three weeks ago. He’s apparently settled in well in Del Mar and looked well training over the track, and though this war horse has started all over and at just about every distance, he hasn’t yet won at this distance in five tries. He gets the services of local jockey Tiago Pereira, who hasn’t yet won a Pacific Classic but did win the Dubai World Cup in 2010.

Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who has saddled five Pacific Classic winners, sends out Argentine grade 1 winner For The Top making his third North American start off a third in the Cougar II Stakes (GIII) three weeks ago. He shortens up here by two furlongs and should be fit enough and will likely be part of the early pace scenario under Martin Garcia.

Steve Asmussen ships Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Pimlico Special winner Tenfold in off a very disappointing ninth in the Stephen Foster looking for a better performance here from the son o Curlin. Last year’s Jim Dandy Stakes (GII) winner seems to run a good one, followed by a bad one, and then a good one again, and if that form continues here he’s a good bet for a top finish. Mike Smith, who has won this race four times, will be aboard.

Hronis Racing and John Sadler, who teamed up for a first Pacific Classic win a year ago with Accelerate, send out Wickerr Stakes winner Higher Power. This son of Medaglia d’Oro has done most of his best racing in the allowance/optional claiming ranks so this certainly is a jump in class. Leading rider Flavien Prat will be aboard.

Sadler will also tighten the girth on Woodford Racing’s Campaign, who won he Cougar II last out in what was his second career stakes after capturing the Tokyo City Cup (GIII) at Santa Aita in April. Clearly the son of Curlin can handle this distance, but whether he can handle the class jump is another question. Rafael Bejarano will ride.

Draft Pick hasn’t won a race since last year’s Affirmed Stakes (GIII) though he did spend 10 months sidelined before returning to win an allowance race and finish third in the San Diego Handicap (GII). He is making his third start off the layoff, so he should be fit to go the distance though as a son of Candy Ride with some decent performances at just two furlongs shorter, it shouldn’t be a major concern. Joe Talamo will be back aboard.

Mongolian Groom, who is not Breeders’ Cup eligible, was a decent second to Catalina Cruiser in the San Diego Handicap last out and has yet to claim a stakes win. He seems a little overmatched.

 

 

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