The San Diego Handicap at Del Mar Saturday has enticed a half-dozen candidates led by superstar and king of the hill Arrogate.
The five brave souls that will be facing Arrogate all have their work cut out in this Grade 2, $300,000 mile and a sixteenth fixture.
The San Diego Handicap is a premier prep for the $1 million Pacific Classic. The stakes was inaugurated in 1937 and some legends have graced the winner’s circle.
California star Native Diver won this race in three consecutive years in the 1960s. In 1986 Skywalker won the San Diego Handicap and went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo won the San Diego in 2006 and last year California Chrome was the San Diego Handicap hero.
Trainer John Sadler will saddler the Number 1 horse, Accelerate. This is a true horse for the course as both of his wins came at Del Mar. He took the $100,000 Shared Belief here last year and then parlayed to a win in the Los Al Derby. Fans can draw a line through his last race as he caught Collected, who won the Precisionist Stakes by 14 lengths. He was flattered a bit when the winner of the May finale, Danzing Candy, returned to win a Grade 3 at Lone Star. Danzing Candy then won his next start in the Grade 2 San Carlos Stakes. Accelerate is a son of Lookin at Lucky and he has trained fast for this including a best of the morning: 59 flat drill on July 9. Fans are looking at 8 or 10-1 here.
El Huerfano was on the fence for this race but his trainer Peter Miller decided to take a shot with this speed ball. The gelding was third in his only race at Del Mar but he brings: 44 and change speed to the table. Look for rider Evin Roman to be aggressive and put this runner on the lead.
Arrogate needs no introductions. He is clearly the best horse in America if not the world. After a troubled debut, this colt by Unbridled’s Song has won seven in a row. He was favored in his first four races and then was disrespected in the Travers Stakes. In that August stakes last summer at Saratoga, Arrogate was let go at 11-1 and he posted the best race of his career winning by nearly 14 lengths with a 122 Beyer Speed Figure. Trainer by Bob Baffert, who is a master at bringing back a horse to the races, Arrogate was rested until the Breeders’ Cup Classic and then showed he doesn’t need to lead to win when he came from fifth to prevail. He beat a soft field in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup to end 2016 and won his only race this year. That race was the $10 million https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChoW7QAHfKADubai World Cup. He has not missed a beat in the mornings and recorded a best of the day 1:11 flat workout on July 15. This is strictly the one to beat.
Donworth has a bit of talent as he finished a neck behind Accelerate last time. His lone stakes win came in the $50,000 event at Delaware against just five runners. His best race arguably was a third in the Grade 2 San Antonio last year. This runner has some semblance of speed and could see him in the first flight today. He will need to improved big time after being beat by 16 lengths.
Cat Burglar is another Baffert student. The feeling is that Baffert put this horse into the San Diego Handicap to push the pace. This would take the early pressure off of Arrogate to keep up with the Peter Miller student and Cat Burglar is no slouch. He has been in the exacta in 11 of 19 starts and his rider Rafael Bejarano has been aloft for the last three wins.
Dalmore will try to overcome the outside post in the San Diego Handicap. This runner has only won three of his 18 starts but he has won thing going for him and that is he is a first-time gelding. A horse is gelded for a number of reasons. One of those reasons is to keep his mind on business and not get distracted by the other horses around him. Often times, when a horse runs as a first-time gelding, he puts up a commendable effort. Hall of Fame rider Kent Desormeaux will be aloft.
If fans think Arrogate is vulnerable in this race, their case has to include the fact he has been sidelined. Returning to race after running across the world in Dubai is not the best way to succeed and horses have at times had trouble with this layoff. The term that has been used is the ‘Dubai bounce’ and if one is going to take a shot against the Baffert star, that term has to come into play.
As far as how the race sets up, there is a fair amount of speed in here. El Heurfano has made the lead in three of his last six races and can be projected to be the leader here. The rail entrant Accelerate generally comes from the middle of the pace but he was forwardly placed in his Del Mar races. Donworth could push the issue, but he doesn’t seem to have the needed speed to really contend early. Cat Burglar will be pushing El Heurfano from the sound of the bell.
The horse that is left in this scenario is Arrogate. With Baffert entering two horses in the San Diego Handicap, the feeling is that jockey Mike Smith will let Arrogate settle and run his own race. There should be an honest pace for this star to track and in his only race at Del Mar, he sat comfortably in third early before making the lead at the top of the stretch and then he extended.
The last thing that Arrogate has going for him is that the Dubai World Cup came back as a live and productive race. The place horse Gun Runner won his next start. It came in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Stakes and Gun Runner won by seven lengths with a 107 Beyer. The seventh finisher in the Dubai World Cup also won his next start. That runner, Keen Ice, took the Grade 2 Suburban Stakes next out with a 106 Beyer.
Key Arrogate in the gimmicks and hope the longshots fill in the blanks.
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