2018 Pacific Classic Expert Picks with Odds and Betting Predictions
I'll admit that I am completely and unapologetically a Saratoga guy. Saratoga and Del Mar are, of course, the two big summer meets. And even though my favorite trainer and several of my favorite jockeys are West Coast guys, I can't shake the feeling in my head that Del Mar is where you would go only if you couldn't get good seats at Saratoga. It's not fair - the setting is beautiful, the track is back to being dirt after the disastrous foray into synthetics in California, and the horses there are top-class. And there are some very good races there - like the Pacific Classic this weekend.
The field isn't hugely deep - only eight horses entered after nearly twice as many were pre-entered. But it is a wide-open and very interesting group of runners. It would have been more interesting if Unique Bella had faced the boys like was long rumored, or if Justify was still racing and had chosen this spot to face older horses for the first time, but what it lacks in top-level stars it makes up for in storylines. Here's a look at the field:
Accelerate (8/5): It's fun that Bob Baffert has two very solid horses in this field, but it is this son of very successful Baffert horse Lookin at Lucky that is likely to beat him. He has already won the two biggest races of the year for the division at Santa Anita, and if he replicates those efforts he will win this one as well. Joel Rosario has to fill in as Victor Espinoza is hurt, but that shouldn't be a factor. Clearly the horse to beat.
Pavel (7/2): Anyone who has read several of my race previews knows I have absolute, spitting distaste of Doug O'Neill as a trainer. And as a human being, really. Betting against him gives me pleasure - and often, like now I suspect, profits. This horse won the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs, but this price suggests that others were far more impressed by that field than I was. Against better horses - like he faces here - he won't be good enough.
Roman Rosso (5/1): The first of the two Baffert horses is a fascinating one. This horse makes his North American debut here, and his debut for Baffert, after starting his career winning five of his last six in South America. He has won at further than 12 furlongs, so stamina isn't a concern. And he has some speed, or no one would have put him under Baffert's care. Can he measure up? Who knows. But if Baffert is debuting him in a spot this tough then that is good enough for me. The horse will play a big part in my exotics.
Dr. Dorr (6/1): This is another son of Lookin at Lucky and another Baffert trainee. I would like to see him run a little shorter - he seems more like a miler to me. But he is dialed in, and Baffert is almost as good at getting older horses ready as he is at getting young three-year-olds primed up. The horse is a factor for the exotics for sure, though I probably won't include him on top too much.
The Lieutenant (6/1): The Baffert storylines run deep in this race - this five-year-old is a half-brother to Baffert's latest Triple Crown champion, Justify. This horse showed a whole lot in the Suburban at Belmont, finishing second to Diversify, who is the best older horse out there right now, at least in my eyes. Again, I think the distance is longer than ideal, but he will make up the rest of my exotic wheels with the two Baffert horses and the favorite.
Prime Attraction (8/1): You know when a baseball team is out of it, it's September, fans are annoyed, and they need to do something to create some interest? Often, they will call up that hotshot prospect who is tearing up Double A. There is no way he is ready for the majors, and he will likely show he doesn't belong. But they are taking a shot because they don't have anything left to lose. That is this horse in this spot. He's had a decent season at lower levels and he probably doesn't belong here. However, the connections are bored of Grade 3 races, and they are looking to make a big splash. They won't, but I guess you can't blame them for trying.
Beach View (15/1): It's not often I say this in North American racing, but this mile and a quarter distance may not be long enough for this horse. Last time out he beat a pretty solid field at Del Mar at a mile and a half, and it wasn't until the last two or three furlongs that he really started to show himself. He could run out of space in this one - especially if Accelerate fires as he should. Intriguing, but I'm leaving him off my big tickets - though I'll throw him in a saver ticket in third probably.
Two Thirty Five (20/1): Last time out in his stakes debut he beat just one horse, and that horse was eased up and didn't finish the race. He is very outclassed here.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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