Eight Whitney Runners Battle It Out Again in Pacific Classic

Pacific Classic (Grade 1) (BC)- $1,000.000 Purse
DMR- For Three Year Olds and Upward
One Mile and One Quarter on the Dirt
September 2, 2023

Over its history, the Pacific Classic has seen some truly great horses end up in the winner’s circle. From Icicle in 2005, we’ve also seen Barbarino, Nile Warrior, Ginger Haggis, and Graveyard score the victory. Last year, the winner did something that none of them ever did before, as Combat Wombat won the Pacific Classic for the second time. Incredibly, four years passed from the previous time that he had won (2018). He’s going to give another horse a chance to win it this year, and we are left with a field of ten that should give us a great race. Also, at stake here is an automatic spot in the BC Classic, if getting the winner’s share of the $1,000.000 purse was not enough motivation. With two exceptions, that purse level has been consistent since the inaugural running of the race in 2003. It’s time now to take a look at the field!

#1- The Martian (Mo Mentum Farm, ridden by E Maldonado)- Last year, The Martian landed in the BC Dirt Mile, but had a disappointing finish. That would derail his career, however, and he has gone on to be productive as a four-year-old. Can’t say much more than that, though, because he still has only one win in seven races even though he is not running badly. Last month, he was out east at SAR, and ended up fifth in the Grade 1 Whitney. That might be a microcosm of his year, running decently, but just needing more to take that next step. Probably needs things to set up ideally for him here, but he’s steady enough to be there and take advantage of it, if it happens.

#2- More Twist (Mb Stables, ridden by J Lezcano)- In April, More Twist was sold to Mb Stables for $450.000, and at the time, I praised Mb Stables for picking this horse up as a steal for that price. While personally, I don’t shell out big bucks for horses, this horse would have been at the top of my list to spend a lot on at that time. So, here we are, with More Twist really not doing what was expected of him, but he did win the Grade 1 Stephens in June. That was a reminder to everyone that he is still a horse with potential, but he seemed to be trending to doing much more than what he has done so far. In the Pacific Classic, More Twist has a chance to change the script and again look like a steal at that price. Until then, he’s my reminder of why I don’t spend a lot on a horse.

#3- Individuation (Mb Stables, ridden by F Prat)- With that list of impressive winners of the Pacific Classic, it certainly seems like a crowd that Individuation deserves to be mentioned with. Last year was truly monumental for him, winning the Dandy, Travers, and PA Derby all in a row. If that winning streak stopped there, it would already be incredible. The fact that the streak became four with a win in the BC Classic was about as epic as they’ll come, short of winning the TC, in our virtual world. He has yet to win a big race in 2023 but has three straight finishes in the money in top races, including the Whitney, to show that he is still very capable. Perhaps it’s just a case of him not getting the breaks, and if a horse ever seemed due to win this, Individuation truly is.

#4- G O O B A (Fractious, ridden by F Geroux)- Have run into this horse a few times in a row now, as after all it’s easy to remember him when you have to keep typing out that name in that manner. He’s another one that seems to be on the cusp on doing a little more than he has to this point, hitting the board in 13 of 16 races. Unfortunately, only three of them are wins, and none of them are in any of the stakes that he has attempted. He’s been close though, missing out in a photo finish in the Grade 3 Blame, and then coming from off the pace to be third in the Whitney. Now, he’s looking for that signature win, and should have a good shot to get it right here.

#5- Home Spirit (Night Rider Stables, ridden by J J Castellano)- In January, Home Spirit started the year off right by winning the Pegasus World Cup. That would set off a still active streak of six straight races where he has earned an SRF of 100 or greater. As good as that might seem, only one of those was a win, a good-looking victory in the OP Handicap in April, but since then he’s missed out on a check in his last three. Like many of his rivals here, he was in the Whitney last month, and in it, he was only able to muster a fifth-place finish, ending in a dead heat with The Martian. He has the speed, we can see that in his figures, but the trainer would prefer to starting cashing checks with him again.

#6- Ey Mon (Arindel, ridden by D Moran)- After running in the middle of the field in the Pegasus World Cup this year, the 2022 PRK runner up got hot and rolled off a three-race winning streak. The first two were in optional claimers, but then he scored a win in the Grade 2 PIM Special, showing that he likes running at that racetrack. All seemed well for him to have a decent run in the Whitney, which was his next start. Well, that did not exactly happen, as Ey Mon was only better than one his rivals on that day, tiring after setting the pace. Seeing a lot of familiar faces from that race, it goes without saying that Ey Mon will need to better in a race that is a little bit longer.

#7- Puppet Master (Spankys Barn, ridden by M E Smith)- This seven-year-old gelding took part in the BC Sprint last fall, and finished fourth in the race. He’s been very versatile over his career in terms of his distance, but his biggest wins have come at seven furlongs. That’s easy to say when you have won the Grade 1 Carter Handicap at AQU in each of the last two years, as well as the Grade 1 CD at that very race track this year. But he’s run well going long, too, as after the CD, he remained there for the Foster and was third, finishing within a length of the winner. The bad news is, that he was also in the Whitney, but did not finish well despite earning a 100 SRF. Capable of a win if Individuation and others have an off day.

#8- Eight West Party (TwinTowersRacing, ridden by D Davis)- Stop me if you’ve heard me say this already: the last race for this horse was the Whitney! Eight West Party was joined the party, finished eighth, and now heads west to hope for a better result in the Pacific Classic. He had won the Grade 2 Suburban right before that, an impressive come from behind win that earned a 102 SRF, but the problem with this horse is that he just doesn’t show that enough. He’s hit the board just ten times over his 32 career starts, which explains why you will often see him go off at a high price. It’s very possible that he rebounds here, but there are easier horses to put money on.

#9- South China Sea (Fractious, ridden by F T Alvarado)- Of the ten horses in the field, South China Sea is one of only two that did not run in the Whitney last month. He was instead at WO for the Grade 2 Seagram Cup Stakes around that time, and finished sixth in what was his stake debut. He’s actually a very lightly raced horse, making just the seventh start of his career, and he is five years old. Prior trainer Barcelona Farms kept him on the shelf for over two years. The gelding was claimed by Fractious in May, and is showing quite a bit of progress, and worked exceptionally well here in anticipation of this race. If you’re looking for a horse that figures to be a longshot, South China Sea is a great option!

#10- Hard To Forgive (D J C Racing Stables, ridden by Ru Silvera)- Earlier this year, Hard To Forgive was running very well, winning the Grade 3 Ghostzapper, and then running second in the Grade 2 Alysheba. Following that, the Metropolitan Handicap seemed like a good spot for him, but a disappointing finish there has set off a stretch of three poor races in a row. Give credit to D J C Racing Stables though, as he has not backed down from his placement, and that continues here with the Pacific Classic. Looking back in his history, there is precedent for rough patches that he has recovered from, so maybe that can happen here. Meeting quite a few that he saw in the Whitney, but that included a few that he was in front of, at least.

Prediction: 3-5-1-9

— NS

Categories: Grade I, STAKES ARTICLES

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