Defending Pacific Classic (gr. I) champion Lava Man, trained by Doug O'Neill, drew the rail and has been made the 5-2 morning-line favorite among a field of 13 entered for Del Mar’s $1-million signature event Aug. 19.
The 6-year-old California-bred Slew City Slew gelding will need a bit of fortune to overcome the inside post. The post position selections were announced after a draw party at The Lodge at Torrey Pines the evening of Aug. 15.
If all 13 go to the post in the 1 1/4-mile race on Del Mar’s new Polytrack surface, it will be the second-largest field to run in the series that began in 1991. The largest field came to the gate in 2002, when Came Home triumphed in a field of 14 horses. Several of the trainers credit the Polytrack for bringing out such a great number for this running.
Second choice at 9-2 on the morning line is Big Booster, who finished third to Lava Man as he captured his third consecutive Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) June 30. Big Booster is one of two entrants from the barn of trainer Mike Mitchell. The other is Sun Boat (6-1), winner of Del Mar’s San Diego Handicap (gr. II) July 21.
Should Lava Man win his second Pacific Classic, he will have swept Southern California’s three premier races for older horses – the Santa Anita Handicap, Gold Cup and Pacific Classic – in consecutive years.
The presence of three 3-year-olds in the race adds another dimension. The trio is made up of Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) and Swaps Stakes (gr. II) winner Tiago (6-1), Swaps runner-up Albertus Maximus (15-1), and Time Squared (15-1), unsuccessful so far in graded stakes races. The 3-year-olds carry 117 pounds and the older horses pack 124.$1 Million Pacific Classic (gr. I, Race 8, 4:30 p.m. PDT), 3 & Up, 1 1/4 Miles (All Weather)