Del Mar could offer Breeders’ Cup preview Saturday

Two standout horses that could be major Breeders’ Cup players in the fall at Keeneland will be on full display Saturday during Del Mar’s premier afternoon of its 27-day summer meet.

Maximum Security, the even-money favorite on the Pacific Classic’s morning line and one of the horses considered a strong contender in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 7, is scheduled to face five foes in the $500,000 Grade I Pacific Classic, the 10th race on an 11-race program that gives the winner an all-expenses paid berth into the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Three races earlier Saturday, in the $200,000 Grade II Del Mar Handicap, United, one of the nation’s top turf runners, will square off against nine others in the 1 3/8-mile grass race that is a “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup qualifier in the turf division.

In addition, the $250,000 Grade I Del Mar Oaks for 3-year-old fillies on the turf and a pair of $100,000 Grade III races – the Green Flash Handicap and the Torrey Pines Stakes – will also be run on a day when no spectators will be allowed because of COVID-19 precautions.

But the big fish is the Pacific Classic, which will be run for the 30th time and the first time with no fans at the track. It had its purse cut in half this year because of coronavirus-related economics.

The Classic is a rematch of the Grade II San Diego Handicap on July 25 when Maximum Security outfinished Midcourt by a nose in a stirring stretch duel. Midcourt is the 7-2 third choice on the morning line behind Higher Power’s 3-1 odds.

Higher Power, winless in five starts since his Pacific Classic score a year ago at 9-1, will again be ridden by Flavien Prat and will be bidding to join Tinners Way (1994-95), Skimming (2000-01) and Richard’s Kid (2009-10) as the only horses to win back-to-back Pacific Classics.

In addition, Higher Power’s trainer, John Sadler, will try to become only the fourth trainer to win successive Pacific Classics. The late Bobby Frankel won four consecutive from 1992-95 and won back to back with Skimming. Richard Mandella won in 1996-97 with Dare And Go and Gentlemen, and Bob Baffert found the winner’s circle two consecutive years with Richard’s Kid.

Maximum Security, who’ll be ridden for the second consecutive race by Abel Cedillo, was making his first start in five months when he won the San Diego Handicap and Baffert believes he’s ready to fire a big effort Saturday.

A 4-year-old son of New Year’s Day, Maximum Security was last year’s Eclipse Award winner as top 3-year-old male and became the first horse to cross the wire first in the Kentucky Derby and be disqualified for interference. He’s won 9 of 11 lifetime for earnings of $11.8 million.

Maximum Security will be making his second start for Baffert since joining his barn after his first trainer, Jason Servis, was one of 27 people indicted in March for alleged doping of horses.

Midcourt, trained by John Shirreffs, will be eyeing his first Grade I victory in a career that has seen him win five of 12 for earnings of $450,695. The 5-year-old Midnight Lute gelding won the Grade III Native Diver on Nov. 23 at Del Mar and followed that two races later with a victory in the Grade II San Pasqual at Santa Anita on Feb. 1. He’ll be ridden for the ninth consecutive race by Victor Espinoza.

United goes into the Del Mar Handicap on a roll, having won three consecutive Grade II stakes – the San Marcos and Whittingham at Santa Anita and the Eddie Read at Del Mar on July 26.

After the Eddie Read, Mandella said he was considering trying the 5-year-old gelded son of Giant’s Causeway on the dirt for the first time in the Pacific Classic, but he changed his mind the next day when he discovered the Classic’s purse had been cut from its original $1 million.

CLASSIC DAY

When: Saturday at Del Mar.

Top race: $500,000 Grade I Pacific Classic, which drew a field of six.

Other stakes races: $250,000 Grade I Del Mar Oaks, $200,000 Grade II Del Mar Handicap, $100,000 Grade III Green Flash Handicap and the $100,000 Grade III Torrey Pines Stakes.

First post: 2 p.m.

Classic post: The Pacific Classic is scheduled to go off at 6:30 p.m. and will be televised by TVG.

Note: Higher Power won the 2019 Pacific Classic and is bidding to become the fourth horse to win the race in consecutive years.

Menu