The coronavirus pandemic has led to purse reductions around the country and Saturday’s Grade I Pacific Classic at Del Mar is no exception, with the purse cut from $1 million to $500,000 for 2020.
Due in part to the purse decrease, the Pacific Classic has drawn just six entrants, the fewest since Candy Ride set the Del Mar track record of 1:59.11 for 1 1/4 miles besting just three rivals in 1993.
What the Pacific Classic lacks in numbers, however, it makes up for in intrigue. After all, favored Maximum Security is surrounded by controversy wherever he goes.
Maximum Security finished first in the 2019 Kentucky Derby, only to be the first horse in the history of the Derby to be disqualified for a racing infraction when he was placed 17th for interfering with War of Will and others. Owners Gary and Mary West filed a federal lawsuit against the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission over the disqualification, but the lawsuit was thrown out.
In February, Maximum Security won the $20 million Saudi Cup, the world’s richest race. However, his trainer at that time — Jason Servis — was among 27 trainers, veterinarians, and others federally indicted March 9 on doping-related charges. The $10 million winner’s share of the Saudi Cup purse was subsequently put on hold while Saudi officials began an investigation into the charges. Maximum Security was transferred to trainer Bob Baffert.
Last week, the purse payments were awarded for the Saudi Cup runners who finished second through 10th behind Maximum Security, but the winner’s purse has yet to be released. The ownership behind Maximum Security issued a letter stating that their horse was tested multiple times before and after his Saudi Cup victory and “if any of those tests would have been positive, Maximum Security would have been disqualified long ago.”
Maximum Security made his first start for the Baffert stable in the July 25 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar, which he won by a nose over fellow Pacific Classic entrant Midcourt while carrying 127 pounds. Baffert was quoted after the race that he had Maximum Security “80-85%” fit for the race, but after a strong seven furlong drill on Sunday in 1:25.40 (he galloped out one mile in 1:38.20), Baffert said simply, “He’s ready now.”
Midcourt again appears to be his primary pace rival. Defending Pacific Classic champ Higher Power, who finished a distant third behind Maximum Security and Midcourt in the San Diego, will appreciate stretching back out to 10 furlongs. Both were getting five pounds from Maximum Security in the San Diego, but this time all will carry equal weight of 124 pounds.
Will there be more drama on Saturday? When Maximum Security is in the mix, don’t bet against it.
Top jocks skip Derby
Churchill Downs late last week amended a previous set of protocols for out-of-state jockeys planning to ride the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks.
The deadline to arrive in Kentucky is now Aug. 31, a week later than the previously announced Aug. 24. Despite changing the date, many top jockeys will be no-shows at Churchill Downs.
The revised deadline still restricts riders from competing during the final week of the prestigious Saratoga and Del Mar meets, and with a prohibitive Kentucky Derby favorite in Tiz the Law, many top riders have decided to remain where they are.
Brothers Jose Ortiz and Irad Ortiz Jr. are locked in a battle for leading rider at Saratoga. Both will bypass the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby to remain at the Spa. Fellow leading Saratoga jockeys Joel Rosario and Luis Saez will also remain at Saratoga.
Flavien Prat is in a battle with Umberto Rispoli to repeat as leading jockey at Del Mar. Prat will stay in San Diego with multiple live stakes engagements closing week.
Lindo Report Play for Gaming Today: Del Mar Saturday, Race 4 — Harvest Moon (No. 3). The Grade III Torrey Pines Stakes is part of the Pacific Classic Day undercard. Secret Keeper and Provocation figure to insure a legit early pace and should set the table for Harvest Moon, who comes off an easy route win at Del Mar and has improved with each start.