We don’t want to be too hard on the 2019 handicap division, particularly those out west not named McKinzie, but even TVG hosts are using a bit of circumlocution when discussing the quality of this year’s older horses–the long distance ones, anyway.
It’s not like Del Mar’s Pacific Classic field is devoid of true Grade 1 types but let’s acknowledge that most of the entrants, replete with Grade 2 portfolios, are aspirational Grade 1 horses.
But the talent to step up is there. Pavel, e.g., runs well virtually everywhere. He runs up to his competition, putting in winning efforts. He just doesn’t complete the job often enough.
Quip is very talented. He has had his career interrupted with a few issues but now is back at full strength; see his G2 Oaklawn Handicap score, and his G2 Stephen Foster effort in which he was beaten a bob.
Third off the layoff is a good thing. It might even turn out to be a Grade 1 thing.
And what better spot to get a Grade 1 is a race in which 2015-16 California Chrome and Beholder gave the sport back-to-back performances for the ages? In today’s game, however, that’s almost ancient history.
What about the race favorite, Seeking the Soul (3-1). A Grade 1 title would surely suit a perfectionist like Charles Fipke. Seeking the Soul is a worthy early line choice who made great efforts in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and Pacific Classic–that damn City of Light!
Unless the connections of 20-1 Mongolian Groom want to announce they’re in this race, or Mr. Baffert wants to make a statement and have Martin Garcia quarter-horse 12-1 For the Top out of the blocks, Quip (9-2) could be lone F.
If that scenario develops, then Pavel (7-2), who breaks to Quip’s immediate right and enjoys the stalking game, or perfect-trip Johnny Velazquez places the favorite comfortably off both their flanks, this could be a rider’s race.
While the horses might not be certifiably Grade 1 at this stage of their careers, the riders either are in or are only-a-matter-of-time Hall of Famers. Strategy easily could become the deciding factor, especially at 10 furlongs.
We’ll take a deep dive into the PPs and report back with an analysis Friday