Saturday will mark the 28th edition of the Pacific Classic, Del Mar’s marquee race for the handicap division.
The race has always been contested at a mile and a quarter over the Del Mar main: polytrack from 2007 through 2014, and dirt otherwise. The race offers a $1,000,000 purse, as well as a Win and You’re In berth into the Breeders’ Cup Classic for the winner. Thus far, no winner of the Pacific Classic has gone on to win the BC Classic in the same year. Pleasantly Perfect (2004), however, had already won the BC Classic the year before. Bertrando (1993) finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic that same year, overtaken late by 133/1 longshot Arcangues. Recent winners have, like Bertrando, come close in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. 2016 winner California Chrome finished second behind Arrogate in that year’s Classic; the next year, Collected finished second behind Gun Runner in the same race.
Today’s Arlington second is a maiden special weight for two-year-old fillies, at five and a half furlongs on the polytrack. It’s a smaller field than most recent two-year-old maidens at Arlington, with just seven entered. It also, unlike most of the juvenile races over the last month or more, contains only first-time starters.
Thursday’s sixth race at Arlington, a turf mile for juvenile fillies, drew a field of eleven: a mix of first-time starters and more experienced horses, with pedigrees ranging from modest to Championship.
Tomorrow’s Million Day card at Arlington is full of stakes races — but a cashed ticket on the undercard is just as good as one in a stakes race!
Over at the TwinSpires blog, I have spot plays in three of the undercard races. Two of the plays are in juvenile maiden races — you know I love delving into and handicapping those two-year-old maiden races! — and one is in a claimer on the turf.
Take a look, and let me know your thoughts in the comments here. Good luck tomorrow!
The Bruce D. Memorial Stakes is the only one of Saturday’s five stakes carded for the polytrack, and the only ungraded stakes of the group. Originally run as the Straight Line Stakes between 2012 and 2014, it was renamed in 2015 to honour R. Bruce Duchossois (1950-2014), son of Arlington Park chairman Richard Duchossois. Bruce Duchossois was involved in horse sports as well — though he made his name in the eventing world, not the racing world. He rode Kim’s Song to the American Horse Shows Association Horse of the Year title in 1973, and served as vice president of the United States Equestrian Team Foundation.
Though the race is an open stakes, locals have done extremely well over its history.
This race is named after Pucker Up, the 1957 Champion Older Female Horse. Owned by Dan and Ada Rice (who campaigned 1965 Kentucky Derby winner Lucky Debonair) and trained by Jimmy Conway, she went on a tear at age four. At Arlington, she beat her own sex in the Arlington Matron. Out at Washington Park, she took on the boys in the Washington Park Handicap and emerged victorious. The daughter of Olympia also took her form out of the Chicago area, winning the Beldame Handicap at Belmont that year.
Arlington has carded a race in Pucker Up’s honour since 1961.
Secretariat’s Triple Crown run in 1973 ensures that he will remain top of mind as a dirt horse. Even the Arlington Invitational, his first race back after his historic Belmont Stakes, was a dirt race. However, the final two starts of Secretariat’s career happened over grass. His turf debut came in the Man o’ War Stakes (GI) at Belmont. The surface change did nothing to dull his dominance. He got to the front, and scored a five-length wire-to-wire victory. His final career start came in the 1973 Canadian International (GII) at Woodbine, also over the grass. He came from off the pace this time around, but the result remained the same: Secretariat won by daylight.
The next year, Arlington Park instituted the Secretariat Stakes.
When you have a racetrack, and want to honour your late wife, you can hardly do better than running one of the premier filly and mare turf races of the year in her name. The Beverly D. Stakes takes its name from Beverly Duchossois, wife of Arlington Park chairman Richard Duchossois. Beverly Duchossois passed away in 1980; this race has been run in her name since 1987. Once, a horse in Richard Duchossois’s silks won the race run in his late wife’s honour: in 2010, Eclair De Lune kicked home in the final furlong to win it for the home team. Other winners of the Beverly D have included Hall of Fame inductee Flawlessly (1991), as well as Eclipse champions Possibly Perfect (1995), Stacelita (2011), and Dank (2013).
The Beverly D. drew a competitive field of nine fillies and mares. To the winner goes the best share of a $600,000 purse, as well as a Win and You’re In berth into the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf. To date, just one horse has won both races: Dank, who did so her championship year.
The centerpiece of the summer meet at Arlington is the Arlington Million: the world’s first million-dollar Thoroughbred race when it was inaugurated in 1981. Its first running is commemorated with a statue overlooking the paddock at Arlington Park: a replica of the tight photo finish that went to John Henry over The Bart.
A field of ten, including last year’s Secretariat Stakes (G1) winner Oscar Performance, will vie for their shares of a million-dollar purse.
Today’s card at Arlington concludes with a juvenile turf mile that drew a full field of ten horses.
In my latest at Picks and Ponderings, I examine the pedigrees of all ten entrants — including one whose breeding (and connections) I love for a two-turn debut on the grass.