2017 Pacific Classic Picks with Odds and Expert Betting Predictions
Let's be totally, obviously clear - the Pacific Classic, taking place this Saturday at Del Mar, may have eight horses entered, but it's only about one: Arrogate. It could have been about so much more, but trainer Jerry Hollendorfer again took the path of least resistance with his great filly Songbird, and Bob Baffert logically didn't run his very good Cupid against his great Arrogate. So, the race is only about whether Arrogate can look like the Arrogate we have been ready to build statues for, or if the last, disastrous outing was more than just a strange fluke. Because if Arrogate is even 80 percent of what he is at his best then he'll win this race against this group by daylight. If…
Arrogate, Mike Smith (even): If you missed it, Arrogate came out less than a month ago in the San Diego Handicap against a field he should have eaten for breakfast and finished fourth without any obvious excuses. It was a bizarre and concerning effort for a horse that hadn't looked even remotely mortal since his Travers win last August. And now we are forced to figure out what it means. He was coming off a break, so was he just stale? Or are there issues lingering from his very tough stretch from the Breeders' Cup through the Pegasus World Cup to the Dubai World Cup? Did we get ahead of ourselves in our praise, or did the greatest just have a bad day? Heck, even Wayne Gretzky didn't score every game.
All of this wouldn't matter so much if it weren't for the location. He's racing at Del Mar this weekend, which is where the San Diego also was and where he scored an allowance win that was much tougher than it should have been last summer. He doesn't seem to love this track - at least not on race day. That's an issue because the Breeders' Cup is being held at Del Mar for the first time this fall, and it's blindingly obvious that that is the only race that matters on the calendar this year for Arrogate. If he can't effectively defend his crown then he might as well head to the breeding shed now.
Arrogate has trained well and looked like himself leading up to this race. But the same was true leading up to the last race. He drew the outside gate in the field of eight, but it is hard to see how that matters at all - the starters face a long run before the first turn, and it's only eight horses. If he looks like the Arrogate of old then handicapping the Breeders' Cup Classic just got impossibly easy. If he struggles again, though, then who knows what happens.
Perhaps more interesting than the race itself here is going to be the public reaction. In the San Diego Arrogate went off at 1/20. He was installed at even money on the morning line here. In a fair fight even money against this field would be one of the great overlays of our time. He's all but certain to go down from that price by post time, but how far down will be very telling of the public sentiment.
The problem with Arrogate in this race is that, short of a win bet for fun, he makes the race essentially unbettable. He's so much more talented than the rest that it's not fair, but we don't know what we will get from him. There is no sense betting him heavily given the uncertainty, and the price make exotics very tough to consider seriously, but there is really no one in the field you can get excited about as an option to go against Arrogate seriously with. This race is just an academic exercise.
Collected, Martin Garcia, 5/2: It's telling that the biggest contender to Bob Baffert's Arrogate is also trained by Baffert. And it's far from his second-best older horse. Collected has won three straight this year and has beaten a couple of horses in this field, but he has beaten short fields devoid of stars and has not shown enough to make us believe that he is ready for the top levels of his division. He gets a lot of credit for winning his last race by 14 lengths. If Usain Bolt beats a group of high school runners by 20m, how impressive is it really, though? And this horse is nothing like Bolt, which further challenges the strength of this field. He's a nice horse - very nice - but just not good enough on this day at this distance against this horse - unless Arrogate falters, in which case Collected will likely win.
Accelerate, Victor Espinoza, 3/1: This horse is at far lower odds than he should be because he was the horse lucky enough to pick up the pieces and cross the line first when Arrogate didn't fire in the San Diego. It means nothing. Against real competition this horse has not proven to be good enough - he was smoked by Collected two back, and this doesn't seem like his best distance. The fact that this is the third-best horse in this race according to the odds, and well ahead of the rest of the field which is all at 15/1 or more, shows you how crushingly significant it would be if Arrogate does anything other than win by a mile.
And the rest: There are five other horses in the race. And that is precisely all it is worth saying about any of them.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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