How to Bet the Pacific Classic With Arrogate and Accelerate

Arrogate at Del Mar

By Vance Hanson, courtesy Brisnet

The conventional wisdom is that only three horses look at all likely to capture Saturday’s $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar, a “Win & You’re In” prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). But the major question bettors will have to ask themselves is whether they trust ARROGATE (1-1) to bounce back from a dreadful drubbing in last month’s San Diego H. (G2).

Trainer Bob Baffert has seemed generally satisfied with Arrogate’s preparations for the Pacific Classic, and it won’t take long after the start for jockey Mike Smith to determine whether the champion son of Unbridled’s Song will have his mind on running compared to four weeks ago in the San Diego.

Baffert has a powerful second string in COLLECTED (5-2), who’s run roughshod over three fields this year, including wins in the Californian (G2) by 3 3/4 lengths and the Precisionist (G3) by 14 lengths. Although his pedigree doesn’t exactly scream 1 1/4 miles, he could be the one setting the pace and forget to stop.

ACCELERATE (3-1) holds the distinction of having out-finished Arrogate in both of the star’s losses. The first was in their mutual debut at Los Alamitos in April of last year, when Accelerate beat Arrogate by a neck for second. Accelerate won the San Diego by 8 1/2 lengths, responding to the addition of blinkers and leading all the way for the first time in his career. The John Sadler trainee simply adores Del Mar as he’s undefeated in three starts over the main track.

It would be biting for Arrogate backers to take it on the chin again at short odds, although something around 4-5 or even-money is far better than the 1-20 on offer in the San Diego. Fans can take solace that a mile and a quarter will be more in his wheelhouse with electric wins in the Travers (G1), Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and Dubai World Cup (G1) to look back on.

Collected might very well be as good as advertised, and he need only dispense with a potential early threat from DONWORTH (15-1) and have something left in the tank to post a mild surprise. He drummed Accelerate in their only previous meeting in the Precisionist, although that rival was well below par that day.

Accelerate will more than likely try to rally from slightly off the pace on Saturday with horses like Collected and Donworth in the field, but the concern is that type of strategy has not produced dividends since his narrow wins in last year’s Los Alamitos Derby (G2) and Shared Belief.

Unless you’re totally against Arrogate, which we’re not, the Win and Exacta pools don’t look that enticing. However, the Trifecta pool might be an opportune way to play the Pacific Classic, and you can also build in some insurance in case Arrogate doesn’t come through.

We’ll key Arrogate and Collected in the top slot of our Trifecta, and put the top three choices in the second and third slots. We’ll also toss Donworth into the show slot as he might be sitting on a peak effort in his third start following a lengthy spell. A $1 ticket on that combination would cost $8, and we’ll be playing it multiple times.

The other “Win & You’re In” challenge race on Saturday is the $250,000 Del Mar H. (G2), a 1 3/8-mile prep for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1).

ASHLEYLUVSUGAR (7-2) is looking to repeat in this race off a surprise second-place finish to HUNT (3-1) in the Eddie Read (G2), while horse-for-the-course BIG JOHN B (12-1), who won this race in 2014 and 2015, has a chance to surprise after a pair of dull tries on the main track.

Our win play, however, will be on ITSINTHEPOST (4-1). Although winless in seven starts on this course, the Jeff Mullins-trained gelding has taken a turn for the better this season with a pair of graded stakes wins in the San Luis Rey (G2) and Elkhorn (G2).

His last race, the United Nations (G1) at Monmouth Park, was better than it looks on paper. From the start, the five-year-old found himself dueling on the lead with Beach Patrol. Despite poking his head in front at the eighth pole, the early exertion took the starch out of both horses. Beach Patrol hung on gamely for third, while Itsinthepost finished fifth, but only 2 1/4 lengths behind the winning Bigger Picture.

Beach Patrol, of course, rebounded to take last week’s Arlington Million (G1), also a “Win & You’re In” challenge race for the Turf. Itsinthepost can follow suit with a more sensible trip in this heat.