Colonel John and Einstein, who were expected to clash in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) this past spring, should finally have their first meeting as the favorites in the $1 million Pacific Classic (gr. I) at Del Mar on Sept. 6.
Einstein, trained by Helen Pitts-Blasi, dropped into Southern California to win the Big 'Cap rather handily by one length after early line favorite Colonel John was scratched the morning of the race with a fever.
Colonel John, winner of the Santa Anita Derby and Travers Stakes (both gr. I) last year, has had a fitful 4-year-old campaign. The gorgeous son of Tiznow had not raced since finishing fourth in the Malibu Stakes (gr. I) in December before he captured the Wickerr Stakes July 31 on the Del Mar turf by two lengths. He ran the one-mile distance in 1:32.77 in one of the best performances of the current seaside track's season.
As a result, he is the 5-2 morning line choice in a field of 12 for the 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic. The Pacific Classic carries a "Win and You're In" classification for the 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I), to be run Nov. 7 at Santa Anita.
Trainer Eoin Harty seems to finally have Colonel John where he wants him. After Colonel John completed his training for the race Sept. 1 with a crisp five-furlong work in :59 2/5 on the Polytrack, the trainer announced, "We're ready to roll."
The WinStar Farm homebred has won six of 12 lifetime starts while earning more than $1.5 million. The bay colt is set to break from post 6 with Garrett Gomez aboard.
Einstein, a five-time grade I winner who made his reputation on turf, showed he is not adverse to synthetic tracks with his impressive win in the March 7 Santa Anita. The 7-year-old returned two months later to capture the Turf Classic (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs, then ran third in Churchill's Stephen Foster (gr. I) on dirt June 13. In his last start, the Arlington Million (gr. IT), the Brazilian-bred son of Spend a Buck turned in his only out-of-the-money performance of the year when he faltered to finish fifth, 8 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Gio Ponti.
An earner of more than $2.7 million with 11 victories in 27 lifetime starts, Einstein will race for a new owner, Frank Stronach, in the Pacific Classic. Stronach Stables purchased the dark bay horse for an undisclosed sum from Bill Gallion and Shirley Cunningham’s Midnight Cry Stable in a deal completed Aug. 31. Einstein, who arrived at Del Mar from Kentucky the same day, has been kept at Bob Baffert's barn this week.
Einstein, 7-2 on the morning line, drew post 10 and will have the services of regular rider Julien Leparoux.
Rail Trip, who slipped in under the radar to score a 9-1 upset in the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) July 11, is pegged at 4-1. The Jay Em Ess Stable's gelding was dominant in winning the first five starts of his late-blooming career. But after the 4-year-old son of Jump Start ran second in Hollywood's two major prep stakes for the Gold Cup, bettors questioned whether he could handle the 1 1/4-mile Cushion Track distance. Rail Trip shamed the doubters when he rolled to an easy three-length win over Pacific Classic foe Tres Borrachos.
The bay has not raced since, however, and his most recent drill, a one-mile workout in 1:36 Aug. 30, did not please trainer Ron Ellis, who complained that Rail Trip went way too fast.
Jose Valdivia Jr. retains the mount on Rail Trip, who has won six of eight lifetime starts and $667,790. The contender will leave from post 3.
Informed, who won the Californian (gr. II) prior to a difficult sixth-place finish in the Gold Cup for trainer Doug O'Neill, came back to win the San Diego Handicap (gr. II) Aug. 2 by a nose over Mast Track in a determined effort over a game foe. The latter, winner of the 2008 Gold Cup, was able to dictate the pace in the San Diego but may not have that luxury with Rail Trip, Tres Borrachos and Misremembered in the field.
The 3-year-old Misremembered, conditioned by Baffert, takes on older horses in stakes competition for the first time following an impressive front-running victory in the Swaps Stakes (gr. II) in his last start July 18. The son of Candy Ride is the only 3-year-old in the lineup and will receive six pounds from his rivals while toting 118.
Baffert also entered Richard's Kid , second by a nose to Unusual Suspect in the 1 1/2-mile Cougar II in his all-weather track debut at Del Mar Aug. 5. The son of Lemon Drop Kid has been working in spectacular fashion over the surface since.
Phipps Stable's Parading, a grade II winner on grass this spring, returns to Southern California for Shug McGaughey after a fifth-place showing in the Gold Cup. The 6-year-old son of Pulpit won the Ben Ali (gr. III) on Keeneland's Polytrack by 7 1/2 lengths.
Global Hunter upset the Eddie Read (gr. IT) on turf at odds of 14-1 in July, then ran third in the Bing Crosby (gr. I) for sprinters Aug. 8. The 6-year-old Argentina-bred horse can be expected to make a big late charge.
West Point Thoroughbreds' Awesome Gem has been inconsistent for trainer Craig Dollase this year, but the 6-year-old has looked good in his most recent starts. He followed a conditioned allowance win on the Hollywood turf in June with solid runner-up showings in the Eddie Read and the Longacres Mile (gr. III) at Emerald Downs, where he was favored Aug. 16.
Song of Navarone has worked well under the watchful eye of Walther Solis since a closing third-place finish in the San Diego.
$1 Million Pacific Classic (gr. I, Race 9), 3 & Up, 1 1/4 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Trainer, ML Odds
1. Informed, T. Baze, D. Oneill, 10/1
2. Song of Navarone, J. Rosario, H. Dominguez, 20/1
3. Rail Trip, J. Valdivia, Jr., R. Ellis, 4/1
4. Richard's Kid , M. Smith, B. Baffert, 15/1
5. Mast Track, D. Flores, R. Frankel, 15/1
6. Colonel John, G. Gomez, E. Harty, 5/2
7. Misremembered, V. Espinoza, B. Baffert, 12/1
8. Global Hunter, C. Nakatani, A.C. Avila, 20/1
9. Tres Borrachos, J. Talamo, B. Greely, 20/1
10. Einstein, J. Leparoux, H. Pitts-Blasi, 7/2
11. Parading, R. Bejarano, C. McGaughey, 10/1
12. Awesome Gem, A. Solis, C. Dollase, 12/1
Each assigned 124 pounds except Misremembered, 118.