Pacific Classic Stakes Preview

by Al McMordie

Ninety five percent of people who watch at least one horse race during the year are the casual sports fans who turn it on for the first Saturday in May (the Kentucky Derby).  It's a real shame that this weekend those same folks won't be tuned in to see the Pacific Classic Stakes, race # 9 at Del Mar Race track, because they would potentially be witnessing one of the greatest athletes in the country today -- equine or otherwise.  Race fans have longed for another Secretariat, Forego, John Henry, Zenyatta, etc. and we may finally have one in the four-year-son of Tapit named Flightline.  Below, we'll dig deeper into this freak of nature as well as some of the others in Saturday evening's big race -- which is basically the West Coast version of the Travers Stakes.


 Contenders: 


#5 Flightline.  This John Sadler-trained superstar is undefeated in four career starts.  He was not part of the Triple Crown series last year when he was a 3 YO because Flightline was a little slower to develop, but once he went to the track, he could not be stopped.  Nobody has really come close to beating him and it seems as though every subsequent race is more impressive than the last.  But Flightline is not without his doubters.  The main argument that he's not a sure thing today is the fact that all of his races have been at a distance of 8 furlongs (one mile) or shorter and he has never been around two turns in a race.  Against this group, it may not matter.  Regular rider Flavien Prat will be aboard for Sadler who won the Breeders Cup Classic a few years ago with Accelerate.  If he's successful today, that same Breeders Cup Classic (at the same distance as today) in November is likely next for this star.


#2 Country Grammar.  The only other horse in the field who appears to be even a slight threat to Flightline is this Bob Baffert-trained son of Tonalist.  While Flightline is a 4 YO with four races, Country Grammar is a year older and has raced 11 times and earned over $10 Million.  An afterthought after finishing 5th in the Travers as a 3 YO, Country Grammar came around in his four-year-old season, finishing first in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita and second in the Californian (also at Santa Anita).  He has been even better this year with second place finishes in the San Diego Handicap and $20 Million Saudi Cup and a victory in the Dubai World Cup.  Where Flightline has some question marks on being able to get the 1 1/4 mile distance today, there are no such concerns with Country Grammar who has done it multiple times already.  Johnny Velasquez comes in from New York to take the ride.  Clearly the second choice and if Flightline fades, this one is your logical winner.


Live Longshot: 


 #4 Express Train.  While there is likely no other winner of this race besides the two already mentioned, this son of Union Rags offers an intriguing choice underneath in the exactas.  John Sherrifs of Zenyatta fame trains Express Train who has been on quite a roll lately.  Since finishing 6th in this race last year, Express Train has three firsts, one second, and one third in his five races, all at Santa Anita.  He has a very nice record at this track however, with three wins and one second-place finish in five starts at Del Mar.  Express Train is 12-1 on the morning line and with two losses to #6 Stilleto Boy (20-1) on his resume, don't be surprised if he goes up from there before post time.  Regular rider Victor Espinoza climbs back aboard.  Use him underneath Flightline and Country Grammar.

Good luck, as always...
Al McMordie 

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