2014 Pacific Classic at Del Mar Picks, Odds and Betting Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 8/21/2014
This year's edition of the Pacific Classic, the last to be run on a synthetic surface, is being billed as an epic showdown. Shared Belief (the 5/2 favorite on the morning line) is the reigning two year old champion. He had his Kentucky Derby dreams derailed by injury, but he has come back very strong and has not lost yet in his career. He's taking a big step up in competition, but there are very few who don't think he is up for it.
In the other corner is Game On Dude (3/1), a gelding like Shared Belief, the seasoned veteran. He is seven years old, and he is about to run this race for the fourth time, having won it last year. He has not won the Breeders' Cup Classic despite several good chances, but he has been the class of the older-horse field in California for as long as Shared Belief has been alive. It's a battle of generations. To add to the drama, the legendary Mike Smith had been the regular rider for Game On Dude for quite a while, but has opted off of him to take the reins of Shared Belief. There are other strong horses in this deep field, but this is the storyline that everyone will be looking at.
To further add to the drama, both horses would, all things being equal, prefer to be near the front of the race early on. That preference will be tested by the youngster as he was drawn into the far outside post in the 11-horse field. Smith will have to decide how important the lead is to the horse. It's adversity for the horse to overcome, so we will unquestionably find out just how good the horse really is. Game On Dude breaks from the fifth spot, so, all things being equal, he has a better chance at gaining his preferred position early.
While those two are the stars, they are far from the only contenders here. Among the other highlights:
Majestic Harbor (9/2): The six year old was the somewhat shocking winner of the Gold Cup last time out at 14/1 - a race that Game On Dude had won the previous two years. He is a talented horse, but he had failed to put it all together up to this point in his career. The trick now is to decide whether he has turned a corner or if he just had a really good day last time out in his dominating win. I lean towards the latter, but I am admittedly awed by the favorite here.
Frac Daddy (15/1): The best news with this horse is that he has stayed in California since his last race - a disappointing fourth in the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar in late July. Before that he had had a frenetic season, with races in two other states and Canada. He hadn't handled the change well, and it meant that his immense talent hadn't been realized. Hopefully, settling in and getting comfortable here will allow him to run his best.
Toast of New York (10/1): This three year old won a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate with his win in the UAE Derby in Dubai, but he opted out of making the trip. Instead, he came over for the inaugural Belmont Derby Invitational on turf, but he was a lousy sixth. His inclusion in this field feels like a stretch.
Imperative (20/1): A son of the great Bernardini, this horse is best known for his shocking win over Game On Dude in the Charles Town Classic in April at 26/1. The odds tell you how unlikely that result was, and he has not even remotely matched the effort in two starts since - or in his career up to that point.
Irish Surf (8/1): The breeding of this four year old is spectacular - a son of Giant's Causeway out of a Seattle Slew mare. He's coming off a very impressive win over a mile and a half at Del Mar last time out as well, perhaps discovering that synthetics suited him more than the turf in the process. This is an ambitious spot for him, and at this price I just don't see it.
Clubhouse Ride (8/1): He was an underwhelming fourth in that Charles Town Classic that Imperative won. Since then, though, he has won the Californian and finished second in the Gold Cup. Last year he enjoyed finishing second to Game On Dude so much that he did it three times. He is a solid horse, but he doesn't have good synthetic form, and I am not a big fan.
2014 Pacific Classic Picks: Recommended Bet
Sometimes you just have to embrace the chalk. Shared Belief is unproven and has a lot against him here, but he has the chance to be a truly special horse. I have a lot of respect for some of the others in the field, but they all have bigger flaws. Game On Dude just doesn't look like he once did, and the others need to have their best possible day to win. You need faith to be a horse racing fan, and I am going to believe in the potential magic of the youngster.
$100 bet - Shared Belief to win.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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