Photo by Alex Evers/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup
Other races might offer larger and more competitive fields, but for pure excitement and intrigue no race this weekend can match the $1 million Pacific Classic (gr. I) at Del Mar, in which the amazingly talented Arrogate will face seven rivals going 1 1/4 miles.
As little as one month ago, Arrogate would have been an overwhelming favorite to win the Pacific Classic, perhaps going off at odds of 1-10 or so. After all, the son of Unbridled’s Song had won four straight Grade 1 races in spectacular fashion, including track record-breaking romps in the Travers Stakes (gr. I) and Pegasus World Cup (gr. I), plus a gutsy win over Horse of the Year California Chrome in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) and a sensational victory in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), in which he overcame a terrible start to win going away.
Notably, three of those four victories came at the same 1 1/4-mile distance of the Pacific Classic, and during that win streak Arrogate received jaw-dropping BRIS speed figures of 124, 115, and 115, his 124 being the highest BRIS speed figure ever assigned. Thus, when Arrogate returned to action in the San Diego Handicap (gr. II) on July 22nd at Del Mar, victory appeared to be a mere formality, and Arrogate was sent off at odds of 1-20.
Then the seemingly impossible occurred, and Arrogate never seriously challenged en route to a fourth-place finish, beaten more than 15 lengths by runaway winner Accelerate, who showed a new dimension setting the pace while adding blinkers and cruised to an 8 1/2-length win while earning a career-best 111 BRIS speed figure.
No definite excuse emerged for Arrogate’s poor showing, though many theories have been proposed. In any case, the Bob Baffert-trained colt has returned with a solid series of workouts and will attempt to rise to the top once again in the Pacific Classic, where the return to 1 1/4 miles could play in his favor.
But thanks to his defeat in the San Diego, the Pacific Classic is suddenly a much more intriguing race. Accelerate will be back to face Arrogate once again, and Arrogate will be joined by his talented stablemate Collected, who is unbeaten in three starts this year and most recently won the 1 1/16-mile Precisionist Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita by 14 lengths with a 111 BRIS speed figure.
Five other horses have been entered as well, though it seems probable that it will take a 110+ BRIS speed figure to win the Pacific Classic, and only Arrogate, Accelerate, and Collected have the form to suggest that they can earn such a lofty figure.
So with the Pacific Classic seemingly shaping up to be a three-horse race, which horse is the best play? Obviously, if Arrogate runs as well in the Pacific Classic as he did in the Dubai World Cup, Breeders’ Cup Classic, or Travers Stakes, it would take a phenomenal performance to defeat him. Thus, handicapping the race becomes a question of whether you believe Arrogate will rebound to his best form, or if you believe that–for whatever reason–he’ll disappoint like he did in the San Diego Handicap.
I’m in the camp that believes Arrogate will rebound in the Pacific Classic, and while it’s difficult to pin down an exact percentage representing his chances of winning, if the Pacific Classic were run ten times I believe Arrogate would win at least seven of them, putting his “fair odds” — at least in my opinion — in the 2-5 range, significantly lower than his morning line odds of 1-1.
In contrast, I believed Collected has about a 20% chance of winning and Accelerate a 10% chance, setting their fair odds at 4-1 and 9-1, respectively, and substantially higher than their morning line odds of 5-2 and 3-1.
To put it another way, if the morning line odds hold up, Arrogate could represent “value” at anything higher than 2-5, even though betting him to win at such a price isn’t exactly appealing. But perhaps more significantly, if the morning line odds hold up, I can’t really be interested in playing Collected or Accelerate at prices considerably lower than their chances of winning, at least in my opinion.
In other words, my wagering strategy for the Pacific Classic will take one of two approaches. Either I’ll key Arrogate in everything and hope he rebounds at somewhat higher odds than he should be, or I’ll simply pass the race and watch what should be an exciting and fascinating race. At the moment, I’m leaning toward the latter approach; after all, there’s nothing wrong with watching a great race as a fan!
For additional insight on betting Del Mar and the Pacific Classic, check out the Pacific Classic Betting Guide available for free at TwinSpires.com, In addition, the TwinSpires Blog is filled this week with Pacific Classic news and handicapping thoughts.
If you enjoyed this article, be sure to sign up for email newsletters and special offers from The Turf Board!