The first of three graded stakes races on the Pacific Classic Day card is the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap.
Trainer Phil D’Amato has won 3 of the last 4 renditions and looks to make it back-to-back wins in the event after Hunt got to the wire first in last summer’s edition for owner Michael House. D’Amato sends out a trio of runners in #1 Kenjisstorm, #4 Ya Gotta Wanna and #12 Fashion Business.
Kenjisstorm ran huge when last seen in the Charles Whittingham (G2) at Santa Anita Park in late May. The six-year-old stalked the early pace and ran second to odds-on favorite #6 Itsinthepost and has been freshened up since the runner-up performance. He enters the Del Mar Handicap having hit the board in all 3 starts in 2018, but does lose the services of leading jockey Flavien Prat. Hall of Famer Gary Stevens is a capable replacement, but will need to avoid an early tussle from his inside draw if he wants to best this bunch.
Fashion Business has taken on graded stakes company in consecutive starts after a 2 ¼ length score in his first try of 2018 versus optional claiming foes back in May. The son of Frankel possesses absolutely no early speed and may prefer shorter distances, but should be running on late if the pace is honest upfront. The fact Prat opts to ride him is a huge positive, but he will need to avoid significant ground loss from the extreme outside post if he wants to get back to the winners’ circle. I will include him underneath in the exotics.
Ya Gotta Wanna failed to hit the board in two starts versus high-level optional claimers and will need to put forth an effort well above what he has thus far in his 9-race career if he wants to be a factor on Saturday.
The aforementioned Itinthepost is the class of the field having won 10 of 36 and earned over $1.2 million dollars. He has been extremely consistent since arriving in the Jeff Mullins barn back in the spring of 2016, but he has failed to get his picture taken at Del Mar in ten lifetime tries. Last time out in the Eddie Read (G2) he put forth a rare poor performance finishing ninth.
Despite the lack of victories over the Jimmy Durante Turf Course, the son of American Post did perform well in last year’s Del Mar Handicap when he was arguably best, but got a less than ideal voyage under regular rider Tyler Baze. The veteran gelding should bounce back with a better performance on Saturday, but I still prefer others that will likely provide more value.
The horse that intrigues me most from a wagering perspective is #7 Multiplier. The four-year-old colt has moved to the lawn in his last 3 starts after competing in both the Preakness Stakes (G1) and the Belmont Stakes (G1) in 2017. The son of The Factor won by a head in his initial try over the lawn in May and has been more competitive than his two off the board finishes may suggest in the Manhattan (G1) and Eddie Read (G2.)
In the Eddie Read, jockey Martin Pedroza had him too close to the pace early, which led to him faltering late. I love the rider change to Tyler Gaffalione who should be able to relax him much better in the early stages. The fact that he looks great on the Optix EQ plot is always encouraging. Multiplier is my top choice.
#8 Ashleyluvssugar won this race in 2016 and then went off at 3-1 in the 2017 rendition and took a brief lead before tiring late, but has not been the same horse this year for trainer Peter Eurton. I would be surprised if he was a factor.
#11 Cashman makes his first start in the States for trainer Neil Drysdale and Team Valor International. The five-year-old son of Soldier of Fortune won 4 of 18 in Europe and is a relative unknown given the lack of published drills or races in North America. The outside draw may make things difficult, but I have seen Drysdale pop with runners like this before.
#3 Whoop Whoop had no shot when last early in his first start in the States for trainer Jeff Mullins. It is a big step up for the son of Savabeel, but it is not out of the question for him to run on late for a minor share.
#2 Flamboyant, #5 Unapologetic, #9 Colonist, and #10 Ritzy A.P. are not for me.
$20 Win 7 = $20
7 with 1+3+6+11+12 = $10
$1 Trifecta Wheel
7 with 1+6+12 with 1+3+6+11+12 = $12