The stakes are high for the horses, jockeys, trainers and owners entered in the 2014 Pacific Classic at Del Mar, with a big chunk of change and a Breeders' Cup Classic berth on the line.
Everyone involved certainly wants to earn a spot in the Breeders' Cup Classic, but only one horse will clinch an automatic entry. Game On Dude accomplished the feat last year, and he is among the top contenders to do so again in 2014.
In order to win for a second consecutive year, however, Game On Dude will have to overcome stiff competition from the likes of Shared Belief and Majestic Harbor.
With storylines abound, Sunday night's race promises to be a great one. Here is everything you need to know about the Pacific Classic, including a rundown of the entire field along with betting odds.
Where: Del Mar racetrack in Del Mar, California
When: Sunday, Aug. 24 at 8:46 p.m. ET (per NewsObserver.com)
Watch: NBC Sports Network
Purse: $1,000,000 (per DMTC.com)
Pacific Classic Field
|1||Frac Daddy||Alan Garcia||Kenneth McPeek||15-1|
|2||Irish Surf||Elvis Trujillo||Dan Hendricks||8-1|
|3||Imperative||Kent Desormeaux||George Papaprodromou||20-1|
|4||Ice Cream Truck||Tiago Pereira||Mike Puype||30-1|
|5||Game On Dude||Martin Garcia||Bob Baffert||3-1|
|6||You Know I Know||Edwin Maldonado||John Sadler||15-1|
|7||Majestic Harbor||Tyler Baze||Sean McCarthy||9-2|
|8||Toast of New York||Victor Espinoza||Jamie Osborne||10-1|
|9||Clubhouse Ride||Joe Talamo||Craig Lewis||8-1|
|10||Mystery Train||Fernando Perez||Darrell Vienna||20-1|
|11||Shared Belief||Mike Smith||Jerry Hollendorfer||5-2|
Horses to Watch
With a perfect record of 5-0 to his credit, Shared Belief is favored to cross the finish line first at Del Mar Sunday. The three-year-old gelding has all the tools necessary to be elite, and he has dominated the California racing circuit throughout his young career.
In addition to that, Shared Belief will be under ideal guidance. According to The Associated Press, Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith has chosen to ride the younger Shared Belief over defending champion Game On Dude.
Despite having Smith on his side, Shared Belief certainly has some obstacles to overcome. As pointed out by well-known sports radio host Jim Rome—who owns Shared Belief—he is at a disadvantage both in terms of his experience and post position:
Drawing the outside post is generally not desired, but it certainly doesn't eliminate Shared Belief from contention. In fact, Smith isn't at all worried about breaking from No. 11, per Ed Zieralski of UTSanDiego.com.
"Going a mile and a quarter, we have a quarter-mile before the turn, so it's not a problem," Smith said. "All the speed is inside, so hopefully it will separate a little bit for us."
Regardless of where Shared Belief has started in races to this point, he has been dominant. Nobody has been able to beat him yet, and that is why the oddsmakers love him leading up the Pacific Classic.
Game On Dude
At seven years of age, Game On Dude has pretty much done it all in the sport of horse racing. He is the defending Pacific Classic champion, and he has thrice run in the Breeders' Cup Classic, including a second-place finish in 2011. Even so, Game On Dude still has plenty to prove.
His ability to keep up with and beat younger horses is uncanny. His team would love another shot at the Breeders' Cup Classic, but Game On Dude will need to beat a formidable star in the form of Shared Belief.
Smith's choice to ride Shared Belief over Game On Dude adds even more intrigue to the race than there would have been otherwise.
That is a decision that didn't surprise Game On Dude trainer Bob Baffert, though, and it is one he understands as well, per Sports Network (h/t NewsObserver.com).
When Shared Belief won the Los Alamitos Derby, as soon as they crossed under the wire I thought, 'Oops, I'm going to need a new jockey.' Mike has been a big part of the (recent) success of Game On Dude. With Mike, we learned some things we didn't know about the horse before. ... I don't blame him for going with the younger gelding.
Smith will be replaced by Martin Garcia, who is an extremely successful jockey in his own right. He won the 2010 Preakness Stakes aboard Lookin At Lucky with Baffert serving as the trainer. That means this combination knows what it takes to win big races.
Even more importantly, though, Baffert is very confident in Game On Dude's current form, according to Zieralski:
Game On Dude worked 5F in 59.60, galloped out in 113.40 for 6F. Trainer Bob Baffert says "He looked great. He's ready." for Pacific Classic— Ed Zieralski (@EdZieralski) August 18, 2014
Even though Game On Dude is established as a great horse, he is only No. 2 as far as the betting odds are concerned. That likely means that Baffert, Garcia and everyone else involved will have chips on their shoulders Sunday.
With that in mind, Game On Dude may have enough in him to win another Pacific Classic and make another run at the Breeders' Cup as well.
Who will win the 2014 Pacific Classic?
He may not be quite as seasoned as Game On Dude, but Majestic Harbor isn't too far off. The six-year-old horse will run in the Pacific Classic for the first time, and he enters the race with a great deal of momentum on his side.
Majestic Harbor won the Gold Cup at Santa Anita at the end of June over a number of his competitors in the Pacific Classic. He has already shown that he can beat some of the better horses in this race, but it remains to be seen how he measures up to the likes of Shared Belief and Game On Dude.
In the eyes of Horse Racing Nation's Brian Zipse, Majestic Harbor can hang with them, and he favors him to beat them as well:
Game On Dude is a warrior, and Shared Belief is a super talent, but Majestic Harbor is my Pacific Classic pick.— Brian Zipse (@Zipseatthetrack) August 21, 2014
Majestic Harbor is No. 3 in terms of the betting odds, but he is viewed by most as an afterthought with Shared Belief and Game On Dude stealing most of the headlines. Flying under the radar is often a good thing in horse racing, so don't be surprised if Majestic Harbor steals the biggest victory of his career.
If anyone outside the top two is capable of winning the Pacific Classic, it is most definitely a great all-around horse like Majestic Harbor.
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