(Edited Del Mar press release)
Ten horses were entered Aug. 24 to run in the 20th edition of the grade I, $1 million Pacific Classic -- Presented by TVG Aug. 28 at Del Mar. The 1 ¼-mile event will anchor an 11-race card that also includes two other graded stakes and has an early first post of 1 p.m. (PDT).
The deep and competitive field includes the 4-year-old The Usual Q. T., the 5-year-old Richard's Kid , and the 7-year-old Awesome Gem. Del Mar's morning line maker, Russell Hudak, listed those three as his top choices with The Usual Q.T., owned by Don Van Racing, Nentwig, and partners, the lukewarm favorite at 3-1. Zabeel Racing International Corp.'s Richard's Kid, the winner of this race last year, is the second choice at 7-2, and the veteran Awesome Gem, owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, was next in line at 9-2.
While entries for Del Mar's most lucrative and prestigious event were taken the morning of Aug. 24, the post position draw was held later the same day in the evening at a party for race participants at Rancho Valencia in Rancho Santa Fe just inland from the racetrack. At the draw, The Usual Q.T., who'll be handled by regular rider Victor Espinoza, drew Post 10, while Richard's Kid (Mike Smith) was slotted for Post 6, and Awesome Gem (David Flores) was assigned Post 9.
The Pacific Classic will go as the 8th race on the Aug. 28 program with a post time of 4:45 p.m. All horses in the lineup will carry 124 pounds under the race's weight-for-age conditions. The winner's share of the purse will be $600,000 and, as part of the Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" program, will guarantee the horse home first entry into the $5-million Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I), which will be run Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs in Kentucky.
The Usual Q.T. comes into the 10-furlong Classic off a smashing score in the grade I Eddie Read Stakes earlier in the meet on the Del Mar lawn. The California-bred son of Unusual Heat, trained by veteran Jim Cassidy, has eight wins from 15 starts and a bankroll of $993,320. All of his victories have come on the grass. The Pacific Classic is run on Del Mar's Polytrack main track.
Richard's Kid was a 24-1 surprise in this race last year when Smith got him up from far back after a furious stretch run. The Lemon Drop Kid horse raced in the silks of Arnold Zetcher that day, but subsequently was sold to his current connections. The Bob Baffert trainee has seven wins from 25 starts and earnings of $966,370.
Awesome Gem, a gelded son of Awesome Again who has raced his whole career out of the barn of trainer Craig Dollase, runs for a record fourth time in the Classic (he's been 2nd and 7th twice) off a sparkling tally in the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) July 10. The old pro has started 36 times, finished in the top three in 24 of them, and banked $2,274,682 in the process.
The others in the Classic field are Battle of Hastings, Brice Blanc the rider; Crowded House (Corey Nakatani); Dakota Phone (Joel Rosario); Hold Me Back (Garrett Gomez); Isle Of Giant's (Patrick Valenzuela); Temple City (Rafael Bejarano); and Unusual Suspect (Alonso Quinonez).
The Pacific Classic field with riders and morning line is listed below in post position order:
POST HORSE JOCKEY MORNING LINE
1 Battle of Hastings B. Blanc 10
2 Isle Of Giant's P. Valenzuela 30
3 Dakota Phone J. Rosario 6
4 Temple City R. Bejarano 5
5 Unusual Suspect A. Quinonez 20
6 Richard's Kid M. Smith 7-2
7 Hold Me Back G. Gomez 8
8 Crowded House C. Nakatani 20
9 Awesome Gem D. Flores 9-2
10 The Usual Q.T. V. Espinoza 3
Free live video streaming of the Pacific Classic will be available at the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s website. The Pacific Classic will be broadcast live on TVG and selected Fox Sports regional affiliates around the country.