TVG Pacific Classic 2022 Entries: Flightline ... rivals queue up for takeoff

Trainer John Sadler has the 'favorite' on Saturday ... yes ... it's Flightline ... How will this talented horse run in the Grade 1 TVG Pacific Classic, find out in this Horse-by-Horse rundown!
Trainer John Sadler has the "favorite" on Saturday ... yes ... it's Flightline ... How will this talented horse run in the Grade 1 TVG Pacific Classic, find out in this Horse-by-Horse rundown!

Race 10: Dirt, 1¼, TVG Pacific Classic (G1), $1 Million, 3+ (Saturday)

The roll call of winners of the Grade 1 TVG Pacific Classic is long and distinguished. Recent victors include celebrated trainers like Bob Baffert (Game On Dude, Collected, Maximum Security), Jerry Hollendorfer (Shared Belief), Richard Mandella (Beholder), Art Sherman (California Chrome), and John Sadler (Accelerate, Higher Power, Tripoli) … what a list! Mandella’s Beholder was a fabulous female, and she captured the hearts of the nation with that victory against the boys. Once again, the Pacific Classic will take the Main Track at Del Mar, offering entry into the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Keeneland in November. Much is at stake!

Now, let’s find out about this field…


#1 Extra Hope (Jky: T. Baze/Trn: R. Mandella):

One of a pair of Dick Mandella runners, this son of Shanghai Bobby is going to be up against “it” … as in classier horses. He hasn’t won a race since the Grade 3 Native Diver S. in the fall of 2020 at Del Mar. Having a seasoned rider like Tyler Baze certainly helps, but this will be a big ask. The gelding is going to be a big price on Saturday. Mandella is one of the best at game-planning … maybe his only “hope” is to get loose on the lead … won’t happen.

Grade: C


#2 Country Grammer (Jky: J. Velazquez/Trn: B. Baffert):

A horse that is a power runner down the stretch, Bob Baffert’s son of Tonalist already has almost $11 million in earnings to his credit. A big chunk of that came when he rolled late in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup at Meydan back in March. Before that, he was pretty impressive in the Saudi Cup (G1), ending up 2nd behind the local hero that scored at boxcar odds. Baffert is hoping that his charge has it in him to makeup for that loss in the prep for this race—San Diego H. (G2). Royal Ship (BRZ) #3, his gate-mate, got the best of him in the end by running away with over a furlong to go. The HOF conditioner is going to have his runner cranked up, and expect him to come roaring back against Sadler’s favorite. The seasoned and consummate professional is coming to SoCal … John Velazquez. Not too shabby that fellow …

Grade: A-


#3 Royal Ship (BRZ) (Jky: M. Smith/Trn: R. Mandella):

The Brazil bred son of Midshipman was quite a runner back in his native country. He won the prestigious Rio (G1) in 2020, then came to the West Coast, ready for action. Richard Mandella could not be present for his signature win in the Grade 2 San Diego H., due to an illness. However, he must have beamed with pride when this one romped home down the lane. Does he have another race in him like that one? I am not so sure … He was 7th last year in this very spot, but we do know that HOF jockey Mike Smith will be doing everything in his power to see this one home. This gelding’s sharp workouts tell us that he came out of that Grade 2 in fine fashion. Nothing like confidence … still, it is going to take another monumental effort.

Grade: B-


#4 Express Train (Jky: V. Espinoza/Trn: J. Shirreffs):

The crafty Shirreffs does best when he is playing the role of the underdog. Last year, his horse by Union Rags was considered the favorite coming into the Pac Classic … it was not to be in the end. The” Train” did not live up to those odds. I would not write him off though. A glance through his form these past couple of years tells us that he can flip the script when you least expect it. His speed figs are maintaining a strong track, and his greatest asset is to run into a hot pace. If he gets the proper setup, then he can a serve as a destructive force to the good. Jockey Victor Espinoza knows how to handle this mount, and even though it will not be easy, the team that Shirreffs has assembled looks to be primed. Nothing like a crafty veteran conditioner …

Grade: B


#5 Flightline (Jky: F. Prat/Trn: J. Sadler):

The hype machine is churning … and churning … and churning … A generational horse … A high cruising speed … Such ability … unmatched in this day and age … The plaudits are being handed out in droves. With only 4 races to his credit so far, pundits are jumping on board, and there is no question that this Tapit colt is talented. John Sadler has managed his ’22 program very well. Everything comes down to this race … can he go 2-turns, facing a field that includes some runners that have a wealth of different experiences? I think it comes down to his maturity, and if that has progressed since we last saw him in the Met Mile (G1) at Belmont, then he has a big chance to live up to the hype. Flavien Prat comes back to SoCal to ride, and his job is to manage this one’s pace. Not too fast, but maybe loose up front, controlling those fractions. What a talent!

Grade: A-


#6 Stilleto Boy (Jky: J. Hernandez/Trn: E. Moger Jr.):

The Mogers got together and have brought along a nice gelding by Shackleford. Their charge is still looking for that breakthrough race … could this be it? You have forgotten that Moger’s 4-yr-old braved the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) last year, running 5th to Knicks Go, Medina Spirit, and Essential Quality. His ability to take on sprints and routes is impressive, and even though he did not win the Malibu S. (G1), the Pegasus WC (G1), or the “Big ‘Cap” (G1), he acquitted himself well. Right now, rider Juan Hernandez is hustling with the best of them for the title of the “King of the SoCal” in the saddle. He gives every horse an added advantage that others do not. It will take a best effort to get the job done in this Grade 1, but he is not without a chance … Could be an excellent “sleeper pick.”

Grade: B+


Join us Saturday for all of our Del Mar selections! Should be a great set of races from “where the surf meets the turf!” Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter … Horseracing_USA !!!