Race of the Week 2017

The Usual Q. T. Favored in Pacific Classic

The Usual Q. T. take the Oak Tree Derby on BC day 2009

Ten horses were entered to run in Saturday's 20th edition of the Grade I, $1,000,000 Pacific Classic -- Presented by TVG. The mile and one-quarter headliner, the richest race in the west, will anchor an 11-race card here that also includes two other graded stakes and has an early first post of 1 p.m.


The deep and competitive field finds its focus in a trio of stakes stars -- the 4-year-old The Usual Q.T., the 5-year-old Richard's Kid and the 7-year-old Awesome Gem. Del Mar's morning line maker, Russell Hudak, has listed those three as his top choices with The Usual Q.T., owned by Don Van Racing, Inc., Nentwig, et al, the lukewarm favorite at 3-1.  Zabeel Racing International Corp.'s Richard's Kid, the winner of this race last year, is second choice at 7/2 and the veteran Awesome Gem, owned by the racing partnership group West Point Thoroughbreds, Inc., sits next in line at 9/2.


While entries for Del Mar's most lucrative and prestigious event were taken Tuesday morning, the post position draw was held Tuesday evening at a party for race participants at Rancho Valencia in Rancho Santa Fe just inland from the racetrack. At the draw The Usual Q.T., who'll be handled by regular rider Victor Espinoza, drew Post 10, while Richard's Kid (Mike Smith) was slotted for Post 6 and Awesome Gem (David Flores) was assigned Post 9.


The Pacific Classic will go as the 8th race on the Saturday program with a post time of 4:45 p.m. All horses in the lineup will carry 124 pounds under the race's weight-for-age conditions. The winner's share of the purse will be $600,000 and, as part of the Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" program, will guarantee the horse home first entry into the $5-million Breeders' Cup Classic, which will be run November 6 at Churchill Downs in Kentucky.


The Usual Q.T. comes into the 10-furlong Classic off a smashing score in the Grade I Eddie Read Stakes earlier in the meet on the Del Mar lawn. The California-bred son of Unusual Heat, trained by veteran Jim Cassidy, has eight wins from 15 starts and a bankroll of $993,320. All of his victories have come on the lawn and, of course, the Pacific Classic is run on Del Mar's Polytrack main track.


Richard's Kid was a 24-1 surprise in this race last year when Smith got him up from far back after a furious stretch run. The Lemon Drop Kid horse raced in the silks of Arnold Zetcher that day, but subsequently was sold to his current connections. The Bob Baffert trainee shows seven wins from 25 starts and earnings of $966,370.

Awesome Gem, a gelded son of Awesome Again who has raced his whole career out of the barn of Craig Dollase, runs for a record fourth time in the Classic (he's been 2nd and 7th twice) off a sparkling tally in the Hollywood Gold Cup July 10. The old pro has started 36 times, finished in the top three in 24 of them and banked $2,274,682 in the process.


The others in the Classic lineup are Michael House's Battle of Hastings, Brice Blanc the rider; Burrell, Harvey and Reddam's Crowded House (Corey Nakatani); Carver or Halo Farms or Todaro, et al's Dakota Phone (Joel Rosario); WinStar Farm's Hold Me Back (Garrett Gomez); Davonne Stable and Reddam's Isle Of Giant's (Patrick Valenzuela); Spendthrift Farm's Temple City (Rafael Bejarano), and Barry or David or Dyan Abrams' Unusual Suspect (Alonso Quinonez).


The Pacific Classic will be part of a $750,000 guaranteed Pick Six on the Saturday card. With first post at 1 p.m., gates will open at 10:30 a.m. in anticipation of an expected large crowd.  


Also part of the 11-race program will be the Grade I, $300,000 Pat O'Brien Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at seven furlongs on the main track and the Grade II, $250,000 Del Mar Mile for 3-year-olds and up at a mile on the Jimmy Durante Turf Course.


The Pacific Classic field with riders and morning line is listed below in post position order:








Battle of Hastings

B. Blanc



Isle Of Giant's

P. Valenzuela



Dakota Phone

J. Rosario



Temple City

R. Bejarano



Unusual Suspect

A. Quinonez



Richard's Kid

M. Smith



Hold Me Back

G. Gomez



Crowded House

C. Nakatani



Awesome Gem

D. Flores



The Usual Q.T.

V. Espinoza





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Older Comments about The Usual Q. T. Favored in Pacific Classic...

I think The Usual Q.T. is the logical favorite for the Pacific Classic. But it's certainly not a lock by any means for him. He's going to have to do some real racing to win the Pacific Classic. Dakota Phone has really been racing well. Having won his last start at Del-Mar. Beating Battle of Hastings in the San Diego Handicap. Richard's Kid won the 2009 running of this race, and is also more than capable of winning it again in 2010. Although Awesome Gem ran a stormer of a race to beat Rail Trip in the Hollywood Gold Cup. Most of his biggest racing successes prior to the Hollywood Gold Cup had come on conventional dirt. With the G2 Hawthorne Gold Cup having previously been Awesome Gem's biggest win. Del-Mar is also a very different surface than Hollywood Park. Much more difficult going over the track at Del-Mar, IMO. I think the biggest "live wire" in the race, if he run's to his ability? Is the recent raider from Great Britain, Crowded House. This colt possesses a tremendous turn of foot. He's been raced primarily on turf in the UK. But ran a couple of outstanding efforts on the Tapeta surface at Meydan during the Dubai racing carnival. If he likes the surface at Del-Mar as well as he did the Tapeta at Meydan? Crowded House's turn of foot could absolutely propel him to a victory in the Pacific Classic. IMO.

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