Haskell (G1) winner Geaux Rocket Ride heads a field of 11 entered in Saturday’s 33rd running of the $1 million Pacific Classic (G1) at Del Mar. Trained by four-time Pacific Classic winner Richard Mandella, Geaux Rocket Ride will break from the rail with Mike Smith, who has logged a record-tying four wins in the 1 1/4-mile race.
As part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win & You’re In” program, the Pacific Classic will award the winner an expenses-paid berth to the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 4.
One of a trio of three-year-olds entered, Geaux Rocket Ride has been installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite. The son of Candy Ride opened his racing career with a maiden win in late January. Following a runner-up in the San Felipe (G2), he missed the Santa Anita Derby (G1) due to a minor setback. Geaux Rocket Ride came back from a three-month layoff with an easy win in the Affirmed S. in early June, and the bay colt overcame the rail post in the Haskell, driving to a 1 3/4-length victory.
Arabian Knight, the 3-1 second choice on the morning line, will seek to bounce back from his first setback, a third as the favorite in the Haskell. A speedy three-year-old son of Uncle Mo, the Bob Baffert-trained colt easily captured his first two starts, including the Southwest (G3) at Oaklawn in late January, before returning from a six-month hiatus at Monmouth Park. Flavien Prat, who notched his second Pacific Classic win aboard Flightline last year, picks up the mount on the expected pacesetter, and Arabian Knight breaks from post 9.
Skinner completes the sophomore triumvirate. Pegged at 10-1, the Curlin colt was entered in the Kentucky Derby following a pair of thirds in the Santa Anita Derby and San Felipe, but an illness forced the late runner to scratch. Skinner exits a closing second in his comebacker, the Los Alamitos Derby in early July, and Hector Berrios will pick up the mount for John Shirreffs.
Multiple Grade 1 winner Defunded, a gate-to-wire winner of the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) two back, leads eight older horses in the field. Listed as the 4-1 third choice with regular rider Juan Hernandez, the five-year-old gelding does his best running on the front end, faltering to fourth as the odds-on favorite in the July 29 San Diego (G2) after failing to make the early lead. Stablemate Arabian Knight is a confirmed frontrunner, and it will be interesting to see the tactics on speedy Defunded.
Senor Buscador, who rallied last-to-first to upset the San Diego, is also back from the San Diego, along with runner-up Slow Down Andy, a three-time graded winner. Santa Anita H. (G1) hero Stilleto Boy, a neck third in the Oaklawn H. (G2) two back, deserves mention. He’s the 8-1 co-fourth choice with Kent Desormeaux, who will seek his first Pacific Classic win since capturing the second edition with Missionary Ridge in 1992.
Katonah, Order and Law, Piroli, and Tripoli complete the field.