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Pacific Classic Field Shaping Up

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Though the race still is two weeks away, the $1-million Pacific Classic Presented by TVG is already shaping up as a potentially large field.


At least 12 early prospects are already on board tentatively, led by defending champion Richard's Kid and Hollywood Gold Cup winner Awesome Gem, who will be making a record fourth start in the Grade I race.


Awesome Gem is one of four horses to run three times in the Classic -- inaugural winner and newly minted Hall of Famer Best Pal, two-time winner Tinners Way and two-time runner-up Perfect Drift.


A trio of shippers are included among the early prospects -- Gio Ponti, trained by Christophe Clement, Hold Me Back from the New York barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and Coolcullen Times, trained by Mid-Atlantic-based H. Graham Motion.


Gio Ponti, 2009 Eclipse Award winner as top male grass runner and runner-up to the undefeated mare Zenyatta in the Breeders' Cup Classic, is not new to the seashore, having finished second to Madeo in the 2008 Del Mar Derby. The 5-year-old son of Tale of the Cat won the prestigious Man O' War Stakes at Belmont Park in his most recent outing on July 10.


Hold Me Back will be traveling to the West Coast for the first time and will come in off a victory in Woodbine's Dominion Day Handicap. As a 3-year-old, Hold Me Back was on the Triple Crown trail after winning the Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park and finishing second in Keeneland's Blue Grass Stakes before finishing 12th in the Kentucky Derby. The Irish-bred Coolcullen Times will also be coming west for the first time after finishing third in the John's Call Stakes at Saratoga August 6.

Other local stars expected for Del Mar's signature race include Eddie Read Stakes winner The Usual Q.T., San Diego Handicap winner Dakota Phone and Cougar II Handicap winner Temple City, as well as Enriched, who was third in both the Eddie Read and San Diego on successive weekends; Crowded House, fourth in the Eddie Read; Isle of Giant's, fourth in the San Diego, and Unusual Suspect, second in the Cougar II.


Temple City worked a sharp 4 furlongs this morning in 47.60 for trainer Carla Gaines.






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