Race of the Week: San Diego Handicap
July 21, 2018
by Joe Wulffe
Saturday July 21st: Race 7 at Del Mar. The $200,000 Grade 2 San Diego Handicap run at 1 1/16 miles on the dirt for three year olds and upward. (Post Time: 8:00 EDT)
(Disclaimer: It should be noted that there are several horses currently entered in Saturday’s field of ten runners that are expected to either scratch out or defect to other races. As a result we will keep our readers updated on any changes that may have a significant impact upon the top selections for the race and adjust those selections if necessary. At the moment the 3 Sharp Samurai will not be running on Saturday as he is entered into the (G2T) Eddie Read Stakes Sunday at Del Mar. In addition, James Cassidy’s 6 Prince of Arabia will not be running on Saturday as well. Finally, although trainer John Sadler has three entrants listed as running in the San Diego Handicap, he has stated that not all three of them will run so it is likely that either 1 Catalina Cruiser or 5 Curlin Rules if not both will scratch from the field. Please follow on Twitter and we will keep you updated on any other significant changes to the makeup of this field.)
(7) Accelerate: The barn of trainer John Sadler sends out this five year old son of Lookin at Lucky as he envisions continuing his recent dominance of the handicap division and building upon an impressive last out victory in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) back in May. In that most recent performance, with veteran jockey Victor Espinoza aboard, Accelerate initially sat back, stalked the pace while saving ground, and allowed his rival Dr. Dorr to set the early fractions. However, as the field went through the final turn, Accelerate swung out four wide and began to move up and challenge for the lead. He was able to seize command of the lead in midstretch and convincingly pulled away, eventually winning by four and a quarter lengths. Accelerate’s effort in the Gold Cup earned him a 111 Bris Speed Rating (BSR), which tied a career high (set in last year’s edition of the San Diego) and is the best last out speed figure amongst the entire field by a wide margin. Although the 1 1/16 miles distance of the San Diego does mark a significant cutback for Accelerate, he should have no issues handling the reduction in distance as he has managed to hit the board (5-1-2-2) in all five attempts at the distance. Furthermore, Accelerate has relished running at Del Mar, as he has a record of 5-3-0-1 from all of his starts at the track.
Accelerate has shown a preference for sitting back initially and stalking the pacesetters before striking late and challenging for the lead. In addition, he has displayed excellent tactical ability and speed and is equally comfortable rating just off the pace as well as being positioned further back and tracking the leaders from there. The TimeForm Pace Projector has indicated a fast pace for Saturday’s edition of the San Diego Handicap as there are a number of early speed type horses that have drawn into this current field of eight. However, keep in mind that there will likely be several horses that scratch out of the race. Even if a few of those scratches include horses that project to be forwardly placed, there are more than enough other runners entered into the field that have good early speed that should ensure that a fast pace scenario may still occur. Such a scenario will work out quite well for Accelerate, as it will allow Espinoza to once again take him back early on and stalk the leaders before putting that great tactical speed to use as the field turns for home.
John Sadler has done quite well over the past three years with getting his runners to fire again after winning their last races, He is currently winning at a 17% rate over his last 189 starts. Although Accelerate has not raced in 56 days, Sadler does fairly well with getting those trainees coming in off of layoffs of 46-90 days back into the winner’s circle, as he has been winning at a 15% clip from 294 starts. Moreover, Accelerate will once again have Victor Espinoza in the irons on Saturday. With Espinoza aboard, Accelerate has finished either first or second in all of his four starts dating back to February 3rd. While Espinoza has not been the greatest when racing at route distances this year (just 11% win rate), he has done much better when riding E/P type horses such as Accelerate as he is currently winning at a 15% clip.
Accelerate’s most recent workout on July 15th over four furlongs at Santa Anita was particularly sharp and should serve notice to his rivals that he is still in prime form and ready to fire off another huge effort on Saturday. Thus far this year, Accelerate has simply done nothing wrong and it appears that he just needed another year to fully mature and grown into himself in order to be in his prime. Additionally, Sadler has indicated that he is planning on using the San Diego as a prep race for next month’s Pacific Classic (G1), so it is entirely possible that he will not have Accelerate fully cranked up for Saturday’s effort. Even so, all indications point towards Accelerate being the horse to beat on Saturday. From a class standpoint, he towers over his rivals, and with that great tactical ability of his, he should be able to put them away with ease down the stretch. Thus Accelerate should be the most likely winner of this race but he will be likely going off at a very short price, so keep that in mind when wagering.
(4) Two Thirty Five: Trainer Richard Baltas sends out this four year old son of Stay Thirsty as he tries his luck against graded stakes competition for the first time. Following a third place effort against $25K claimers at Santa Anita back in January, Two Thirty Five was claimed and since then has done nothing but reward his connections, as he has won three of his last four starts. In his most recent effort on June 17th at Santa Anita, Two Thirty Fivd sat just back of his rival after breaking well. He proceeded to stalk the pace before bidding for and seizing control of the lead down the stretch and then eventually drawing clear of his competition by 4 1/4 lengths. His effort in that race garnered him not only a 100 BSR (which is respectable amongst this field’s last out efforts and was also a career high) but also a 102 Brisnet Late Pace figure which is tied for the highest amongst the entire field’s last out efforts. Additionally, the San Diego will mark the fifth straight race in which Two Thirty Five has competed at 1 1/16 miles, and he should have no issues handling the trip once again as he has already won three of his four previous tries at the distance.
Over the past three years, trainer Richard Baltas has done well with getting his runners that won their last race, back into the winner’s circle as he has won 15% of his last 268 starts. Moreover, Baltas does exceptionally well when entering his trainees into route races, as he has been winning at an 18% clip (from 935 starts). Additionally, Baltas has once again acquired the services of jockey Franklin Ceballos to ride Two Thirty Five on Saturday; thus far Ceballos has won all three starts onboard Two Thirty Five this year. Ceballos has done well when riding E/P type horses like Two Thirty Five as he is currently winning at a 17% rate. Yet, where Ceballos really excels is when racing at route distances as he has been winning with 19% of his mounts this year under those conditions.
Two Thirty Five’s preferred running style is that of a pace stalker and since being claimed he has shown much better tactical speed than he previously displayed. The TimeForm Pace Projector has indicated that there likely will be a fast pace scenario and has projected Two Thirty Five as being positioned about mid pack at the halfway point in the race. This situation should suit Two Thirty Five well as it will allow him to stalk the early pacesetters while conserving ground before trying to bid for the lead late once those horses on the front begin to tire and falter. Moreover, Two Thirty Five’s last workout over four furlongs at Del Mar was fairly sharp and should be a good indicator that he is in good form coming into this race on Saturday. However, the main concern for Two Thirty Five is how he will handle the major step up in class as he has yet to race against stakes competition. For Two Thirty Five to have any chance at success in the San Diego, Ceballos will need to work a good trip for him and avoid the temptation of trying to bid for the lead early on. It would behoove him if he were to take Two Thirty Five back and try and rate just off the pace instead. If Two Thirty Five can manage to give a good account of himself against this field and find some way to at least come close to replicating that last out performance, then he could possibly hit the board at a very nice price. Although it would be a surprise to see Two Thirty Five win on Saturday, this son of Stay Thirsty is not without talent and thus an in the money finish is not outside of the realm of possibility.
(2) Dr. Dorr: The barn of trainer Bob Baffert sends out this five year old son of Lookin at Lucky hoping to get back on track after a disastrous and somewhat puzzling ninth place effort in the Suburban Stakes (G2) back on July 7th at Belmont Park. In that ten furlong race, two weeks ago, although Dr Dorr broke alertly from the gates and was well placed initially, he simply had no response as the field turned for home and faded badly down the stretch. Even though he did earn a 100 BSR for his effort in that race, that speed figure is actually a regression from the 106 BSR he garnered in the Gold Cup (G1) when he led the field for a long way before finally succumbing to the pressure City of Light and then Accelerate applied throughout nearly the entire race. Dr. Dorr really did not have an excuse for his effort in the Suburban, although it could possibly be argued that he did not take to the sandy surface that is the Belmont Park main track. However, now he returns to Del Mar where unfortunately he has finished off the board in both starts at the track. Additionally, he will be competing at eight and a half furlongs for the first time in his career; yet, considering that he was able to acquit himself well against graded stakes company at nine and ten furlongs, he should have no issues handling the cutback in distance against a somewhat weaker field than he has previously faced.
Crossing out that effort in the Suburban, Dr. Dorr has shown a penchant over his last three starts for being forwardly placed as he does have very good early speed. The TimeForm Pace Projector has indicated that Dr. Dorr will take up a stalking role on Saturday, sitting just off and rating behind the pacesetters. However, if several of those horses that project to be the early front runners do indeed scratch from the field, it is more than likely that Dr. Dorr will once again display that brilliant early speed of his and seek to set fast fractions early on before trying to hang on late down the stretch. The main problem with that scenario is that it is very likely that Dr. Dorr will not be alone on the lead early on and could potentially get caught up in an unnecessary speed duel which would possibly prove to be his undoing. Thus although he has yet to employ such a strategy since he started racing at route distances, it would be to his benefit if his jockey, Joe Talamo, can try and restrain him early on and instead attempt to stalk the pace before bidding for the lead in the latter stages of the race. This approach would allow Dr. Dorr to conserve valuable speed and stamina early on that he could then unleash when moving up to challenge for the lead.
As mentioned previously, Bob Baffert is the trainer. Over the past three years Baffert has done exceptionally well when sending his trainees out to compete in route races (25% win rate from 597 starts) and when racing on dirt (27% win rate from 1167 starts). Moreover, Baffert has been one of the best trainers at getting his runners into the winner’s circle in graded stakes races as he is currently winning at a 28% clip from 321 starts. Additionally, Dr. Dorr will once again have Joe Talamo aboard on Saturday; with Talamo riding, Dr. Dorr has finished in the money in four of his last five starts, with three wins. Talamo has done quite well when riding early speed type horses such as Dr. Dorr as he is currently winning at an 18% rate. Yet, where Talamo really stands out is when riding in route races as he has won with 24% of his mounts this year under those conditions.
It is very interesting to see Baffert wheel back one of his horses to run on just two weeks rest as that is not normal for him to do; rather, he prefers to give his trainees as much time off as possible in between starts. While Dr. Dorr’s most recent three furlong workout at Del Mar was not the sharpest, it still was fairly good and does indicate that he came out of the Suburban in good form. While it would be no surprise if Baffert were to scratch Dr. Dorr on Saturday and point him towards another race instead, he has given no indications as to even considering that option. Thus it should be expected that Dr. Dorr will run in the San Diego and will likely give a much better account of himself as well. Considering how he fared against Accelerate the last time out in the Gold Cup, it would be incredibly shocking if Dr. Dorr could pull off an upset given his preferred front running style. Rather it is much more likely that Dr. Dorr will have to settle for another on the board finish behind Accelerate.
If there is one horse to think about using as an underneath in this field, it would be the 1 Catalina Cruiser. This is one of the three John Sadler trainees entered into the field; however, keep in mind it is possible that Sadler could elect to scratch this horse and run him against easier company on another day. However, if Catalina Cruiser does indeed run on Saturday, he is a horse that certainly could turn a few heads. He has yet to race beyond six furlongs, yet he posted a 106 BSR against $40K Optional Claimers back in May at Santa Anita, which ranks second amongst the entire field’s last out effort speed figures. Additionally, his pedigree (Union Rags out of a Mineshaft mare) suggests he should have no problems whatsoever handling the stretch-out in distance. Furthermore, he has a very versatile running style which should fit well with the projected pace scenario for the San Diego. Finally, Sadler has spoken very highly of this colt and considers him to be one of the best in his barn right now. Thus if Catalina Cruiser is still entered into the field at post time, make sure to consider including him in all of your wagers.