Bettors and fans of the game alike are in for a treat at Del Mar this Friday, as three of the best horses in training will compete in the Grade I, $1 million Pacific Classic at 1 1/4 miles. CALIFORNIA CHROME and DORTMUND, who finished within a length of each other in the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar last month, will be there as well as defending champ BEHOLDER, who enters off a narrow loss to Stellar Wind in the Clement L. Hirsch. Post time is 9:15 p.m. EST for the program’s 9th race. As always, FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game offers a unique opportunity to make money off this race.
#1 CALIFORNIA CHROME drew the rail and was established as the 8/5 morning-line favorite. He really needs no introduction, as his two wins in Dubai, one of which was the Dubai World Cup (the world’s richest race), and his San Diego Handicap win from this year speak for themselves. CALIFORNIA CHROME typically stalks outside of rivals so jockey Victor Espinoza will need to do some clever maneuvering from the rail post, but he’ll have the entire length of the front straightaway to do so. DORTMUND (5-2) gave him a run in the San Diego, but I can’t imagine CALIFORNIA CHROME not getting the job done at his preferred distance of 1 1/4 miles (4-for-6 career record).
#7 BEHOLDER (3-1) appears to be his biggest threat. She absolutely dominated this race last year, producing one of 2015’s most memorable moments. However, this is a significantly tougher field than she faced last year, and she exits a loss as an odds-on favorite. It will be up to Gary Stevens to work out the right trip from post seven. If he can follow CALIFORNIA CHROME and not let him get too comfortable early on, BEHOLDER could possibly wear him down.
#8 DORTMUND will likely go to the lead under Rafael Bejarano and be shadowed by the top two. That pressure alone will probably be too much for him to handle. I also don’t think he’ll like the added ground based on his effort in the Kentucky Derby last year, his lone try at the distance.
#5 WIN THE SPACE (15-1) has the edge over #2 HOPPERTUNITY (8-1) and #4 HARD ACES (15-1) for the last major share. WIN THE SPACE ran huge in his first try at this distance in the Santa Anita Gold Cup two starts back. His “bounce” in the San Diego Handicap was forgivable. Joe Talamo, who regains the mount, knows this colt and has won on him twice.
HARD ACES tends to run hot-and-cold but likes this distance (he won last year’s Santa Anita Gold Cup) and has been in the money in three straight. Santiago Gonzalez, who piloted HARD ACES to an easy victory in the 1 1/2 mile Cougar II Handicap last time out, is back in the saddle again.
HOPPERTUNITY’S preferred distance seems to be 1 1/8 miles, though he was an impressive third in the Dubai World Cup this year. Flavien Prat, who takes over again, managed to get the win-challenged HOPPERTUNITY home first in the San Antonio Stakes three-back.
The play: $3 trifecta 1/7,8/7,8, $1 trifecta 1/7,8/2,4,5,7,8, $3 exacta box 1/7 ($20)
DFJ analysis: Gary Stevens ($8,000) has several live mounts in addition to BEHOLDER on Saturday, including Barleysugar in the Del Mar Oaks and Ashleyluvssugar in the Del Mar Handicap. He also rides Boozer in a non-stakes heat; he’s the second-choice in Race 2 at 5/2. Make sure he’s in your stable if you’re playing the Daily Fantasy Jockey game.
Follow me on Twitter: @itsgood2beking