HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, September 1, 2023 — As we take keystroke to tablet on the eve of one of the greatest equine performance of this or any other era, there is no Flightline to thrill the turf and surf crowd in Oceanside or the simulcast masses looking on.
Where have all the big-time Saturday horses gone? Not to Saratoga for the storied Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Maybe those horses shipped to Belmont by mistake, the track that should host this legendary fall classic. And neither did they show up at Del Mar where 11 will go post-ward but none worthy enough to rate as the overnight favorite. The top two early line choices both are three-year-olds.
The Haskell winner, Geaux Rocket Ride (5-2), and show-finisher Arabian Knight (3-1), both exit the Shore Track’s centerpiece. Should either one, or Santa Anita Derby third-finisher Skinner (10-1), win the Pacific Classic, it would become only the sixth sophomore to win Del Mar’s signature event.
The JCGC favorites are Rattle N Roll (9-5) and Proxy (2-1). Arguably, the latter is the more accomplished of the two. But there’s also intrigue, too.
Two newcomers to the lofty Grade 1 ranks are interesting: Tyson (5-1), has won four of five career runs but is making his dirt debut coming off the Woodbine Tapeta and Bright Future (6-1), a Saratoga optional allowance winner in fast time earlier at the meet.
If that’s not glamorous enough, there’s an All-Stakes Pick 3 at Kentucky Downs where turf specialists will be run in the $1 million Gun Runner, the $1 million Music City, and the $2 million G3 Mint Million in races eight through 10. We’ll be back with the A, B, C’s for each of these feature’s throughout the weekend.
G1 PACIFIC CLASSIC Race 10
A: Geaux Rocket Ride (forward development, pedigree, race shape, gets six pounds from elders); Stilleto Boy-8-1 (last strictly a prep, tactical speed, well posted, pocket rocket)
B: Defunded-4-1 (most consistent of elders, strong work-line); Arabian Knight (hot-pace compromised in Haskell, first race since January)
C: Skinner (suited by anticipated lively pace; big late engine); Slow Down Andy-8-1 (good mid-move when second in prep; likes DMR)
G1 JOCKEY CLUB GOLD CUP Race 11
A: Proxy (very consistent at highest levels all year, very sharp in MTH prep); Rattle N Roll (3-for-5 at 4; added trip helps); Bright Future (late developing 4YO, huge effort in Spa win)
B: Clapton-8-1 (having great season, purchased pointing for this; gets Irad)
C: Tyson (might love the dirt, might not)
GUN RUNNER STAKES Race 8
A: Talk of the Nation-3-1 (good recent development, forward figures, bullet for this)
B: Gaslight Dancer-15-1 (unlucky in recent trips, bred for added ground, Maker strong start opening day, good LAY-2 stats); Wadswoth-5-2 (2-for-2 returning from layup, live Cox-‘Flo’ team; turnback suits); Major Dude-4-1 (arguably most accomplished, used hard in CNL prep; Tyler re-ride)
C: Escape Artist-10-1 (pointed here, purposeful recent works, Johnny for McCarthy)
G3 MUSIC CITY Race 9
A: Danse Macabre-4-1 (wins when fresh, won over course and trip 2022; ‘Biscuit’ fits perfectly); AE Playlist-9/2 (big improvement winning last two in fast time; sharp recent works and Johnny re-rides); Mohawk Trail-6-1 (uncoupled Danse Macabre mate, 1-for-1 at trip; suited by turnback, Julien a good fit)
B: Secret Money-5-1 (suited by turnback, game 3rd G3 Lake George at Spa); Mamma’s Girl-8-1 (talented Euro barn, trip + Flo suits); American Apple-12-1 (broke maiden here at the trip, improved speed recent starts); Malleymoo-15-1 (tough recent trips, conditioning on turnback, first-time Todd);
C: L J’s Emma-7-2 (last lifetime best at Spa going shorter, short rest and ship); Accede-10-1 (turf debut for Chad Brown, attracts Johnny)
G3 MINT MILLIONS Race 10
A: Annapolis-8-5 (most accomplished;  3-3-0 at trip; switch to Tyler fits well here); Ancient Rome-8-1 (Euro 3-for-9 at trip, company lines; Jamie Spencer here for this); Atone-8-1 (speed conditioner in Arlington Million, G1 winner; second in this last year, Jose Ortiz off favorite lands here)
B: Churchtown-4-1 (very rough trip in WO prep; strong works since; Julien fits well); Max K.O.-30-1 (5-for-14 at trip, 2-for-2 at KD, the “other” Maker)
C: Smokin’ T-9-2 (prepped for this at Spa; strong blowout; Johnny re-ride); Cabo Spirit-15-1 (Classy Californian ships in from DMR, trip suits well); Gray’s Fable-30-1 (pointed here, closed ground late in this LY); Hozier-30-1 (hard used on pace last year, recent winner under patient ride, Archard fits this one well)
this is a live column and will be updated