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Pacific Classic 2016: Odds and Analysis

California Chrome_San Diego Handicap_615 X 400
Photo: Melanie Martines

Pacific Classic 2016 is Saturday, August 20th!

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Pacific Classic 2016

For the past few months, the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic 2016 has been one of the most highly anticipated races in years. Now it is almost time for the showdown. Not only does it feature three of the best dirt horses in the world, but it also showcases them each as mature older horses. We have not seen a meeting of such accomplished horses of four, five, and six-years-old in a long time. It’s good for the game, and this year’s signature race at Del Mar, could well go down as the best in the history of the race. No matter your rooting interest, this sets up as a race that all fans of racing can enjoy. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the field, with my projected odds and analysis...

1) California Chrome (7-5) - What a career this five-year-old son of Lucky Pulpit has had. North America’s richest thoroughbred has won many of the world’s biggest races. The good news for his fans is that he may be better than ever right now. As a handicapper, I do not believe his odds will offer the value that the other two big names will have, in respect to their chances of winning the race. As a fan of great racing, though, I do recognize him, with regular rider Victor Espinoza up, as the most likely winner of the 2016 Pacific Classic. If he can get the job done in this tough test, it will push his seasonal record to 5-for-5, and push him closer to his second Horse of the Year Award. Tactically, I think he would be best suited to be outside of the other two favorites, as he has seemed to do his best running when stalking outside of the speed. Already destined for the Hall of Fame, this would be another huge feather in his career cap. The rail draw does him no favors. The One to Beat

7) Beholder (3-1) – Also a future Hall of Famer, she is the defending champion, and I fully believe that this is the Del Mar race that her crafty trainer Richard Mandella will have her ready for, rather than her recent loss to Stellar Wind. The filly that beat her last time is very good, so we probably should not worry too much about a less than 100% Beholder running a good second to her. Of course, if that was the best she has these days, she probably does no better than third in here. Everything since has been positive, though, so I do believe she will run an improved race in this showdown. If that’s true, will it be enough to win this? On the one hand, for proof of her ability to get it done, you only need to go back to this same race last year. A repeat of that would give her a great chance to win her second Pacific Classic. I like the top one just a little bit more, but it’s hard to ignore her performance here last year. Respect for the Defender

8) Dortmund (3-1) – Don’t mistake my placing the hulking son of Big Brown third on this list as any sign of disrespect. The truth is, I think all of the top three are really very good, and none of the three would surprise me by making it to the Del Mar winner’s circle. The reason I have him third is that I do believe he has the most questions going in. While he ran a huge race when returning last time in the San Diego, I do think the mile-and-a-quarter distance is still a bit of a question mark. He ran well in the Derby, but could not hold off Firing Line early in the stretch, in his only previous try at ten-furlongs. Obviously, if he is better at nine or less, that presents a big problem on Saturday. Also, I do worry about a bit of a bounce after such a big performance first off the layoff. With those questions posed, I should make it clear that I believe that he does possess the talent to win this, and with Baffert in his corner, there is a good chance that we will see the best from him in the Pacific Classic. The Imposing One

4) Hard Aces (15-1) – Like Hoppertunity, this one wants to be making a strong run late. Yes, I know he wired the field in his last, but that was only because the race was completely devoid of speed. In fact, that 12-furlong win in the Cougar II, should have him in the right frame of mind to finishing strongly in the Pacific Classic. On his best day, this one has a shot to make some noise at this distance. My guess is that he is a good bet to make the top four, and if the top three really do battle early enough, you may see him do even better than fourth for trainer, Bob Baffert. Having said that, it does concern me that he really did not do much in the same race last year. Looks to Pick up the Pieces

2) Hoppertunity (10-1) – While the three favorites all want to be on or near the lead, this experienced son of Any Given Saturday likes to do his best running late. Fourth in this race last year, he seems to be a bit better this year at five than he was in 2015. He ran a decent race in his return to America after a good closing third in the Dubai World Cup. With the favorites likely setting a solid pace, the question then becomes; just how much of the pieces can he pick up? Of the two confirmed ralliers, I do like Hard Aces just a bit better, but it is close. He loves to hit the board. The Faster the Pace, the Better

5) Win the Space (15-1) – Thrown in against American Pharaoh in last year’s Arkansas Derby very early in his career, this four-year-old son of Pulpit continues to improve to the point of fulfilling those high expectations for him more than a year ago. In three starts this year, he was a game allowance winner, before finishing second behind Melatonin in the Gold Cup, and third behind California Chrome and Dortmund in the San Diego. The latter two starts both prove his class, but also show that he is still a fair bit behind the top two from the San Diego. One more positive on his side … he is already proven to handle the ten-furlong distance he will see on Saturday. Certainly a threat to finish in the money, if one of the big three falter. Hit the Board Hopeful

6) Imperative (25-1) – He has earned plenty of money over the years, but it’s been a long stretch since the six-year-old has found the winner’s circle. He was able to string together a trio of second-place finishes, including two solid ones to begin the year, but he has been unable to finish in the money in his last three starts. While he is capable of passing tired horses late, he has found his toughest spot yet, and on a track where he is winless in six starts. Has Seen Better Days

9) Dalmore (25-1) – The only sophomore in the field, the son of Colonel John certainly appears to be on the improve. Back-to-back career best performances, including a nice win over Danzing Candy in the Grade 3 Affirmed Stakes last time, clearly point out his positive maturity. Having said that, he looks to be in a whole different ball game against the likes of the big three. He’ll get weight, and perhaps this will be a learning experience, but I just cannot see him cracking the top three. Too Much Too Soon

3) War Story (30-1) – A year older, and coming in off a romping win in his return to the races, should we believe that War Story is an upset possibility in the Pacific Classic? I do not think so. Don’t be fooled by the margin of victory in his return race, it was cheap, cheap, cheap in Northern Ohio. Once a horse I liked on the Derby trail in New Orleans, he’s just had too many losing chances against good horses to have any true confidence in, especially in a race of this quality. No Thank You


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Meet Brian Zipse

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His new racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing show, HorseCenter and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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