2021 Pacific Classic Cheatsheet
By TwinSpires Editorial Team, Sponsored Content

By James Scully (TwinSpires.com)

1. TRIPOLI (5-1) moved to the main track two starts back, recording an allowance win at Santa Anita and a fast-closing second in the July 17 San Diego H. (G2), and the four-year-old colt may have more to offer in the Pacific Classic. By Kitten’s Joy, and closely related to turf stakes winners Blind Ambition and Starfish Bay, Tripoli raced exclusively on turf for his first 11 starts, recording only two wins, but he’s improved significantly with the surface switch, registering outstanding Brisnet Speed ratings (106 and 102). The stretch out to 1 1/4 miles appears favorable, and the chestnut shows a six-furlong bullet work in preparation for John Sadler. A serious win contender, Tripoli should receive a ground-saving stalking trip from his innermost post with Tiago Pereira.

2. TIZAMAGICIAN (5-1) exits a romping win as the odds-on favorite in the July 18 Cougar II H. (G3) at Del Mar, and the four-year-old colt has found a comfort zone at longer distances, making his last three starts at 1 1/2 miles. He’ll face tougher in this spot while cutting back in distance, but Tizamagician’s tactical speed should benefit him in a field lacking pace. Trained by Hall of Famer Richard Mandella, a four-time Pacific Classic winner, Tizamagician can’t be dismissed from top three consideration with Flavien Prat.

3. DR POST (4-1) invades for Todd Pletcher after a comfortable triumph in the July 17 Monmouth Cup (G3). Runner-up in the 2020 Belmont S. (G1), the Quality Road colt also placed in the Haskell S. (G1) before heading to the sidelines in early September. Dr Post has won 2-of-3 starts this season, and the four-year-old packs a finishing punch, generating Brisnet Late Pace ratings as high as 111 this year. The dark bay will look to make an impact in the final furlongs with Joel Rosario.

4. ROYAL SHIP (7-2) earned his first main track victory when taking the Californian S. (G3) three starts ago, and the Brazilian Group 1 turf winner ran well in in the 1 1/4-mile Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) next out, recording a head second. The five-year-old gelding came up a little short most recently in the 1 1/16-mile San Diego H. (G2), checking in third, but he’s eligible to show more stretching back out in trip for Richard Mandella on Saturday. Mike Smith owns a record four wins in the Pacific Classic, and Royal Ship’s tactical speed should play well given the projected pace scenario.

5. EXPRESS TRAIN (3-1) enters in good form for John Shirreffs, gamely prevailing in the San Diego H. (G2), and the four-year-old colt has registered triple-digit Brisnet Speed ratings in four of his last five outings. The likely favorite has also shown an affinity for Del Mar (4-3-1-0). One concern might be the 1 1/4-mile distance – Express Train was in perfect position before coming up a short in the latter stages of the Santa Anita H. (G1) and Hollywood Gold (G1) – but he still performed respectably in both attempts. Juan Hernandez will be up, and Express Train should be in position to threaten turning for home.

6. MAGIC ON TAP (20-1) admirably returned from an 18-month layoff earlier this year, posting a convincing win in the seven-furlong Triple Bend S. (G2) in his third start back, but the Bob Baffert-trained gray will face a stiff class test in the Pacific Classic. Given how poorly he’s performed in a pair of two-turn stakes this year, the 1 1/4-mile distance looms as a major concern, as well.

7. INDEPENDENCE HALL (5-1) opened 2021 in a promising manner, finishing third in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) at Gulfstream Park, but he did not carry his form forward in the next two starts, weakening to fourth in the Santa Anita H. (G1) and recording a well-beaten third as the favorite in the Californian (G2). He’s been freshened four months since the latter effort, and trainer Michael McCarthy will add blinkers to keep him focused throughout, but the 1 1/4-mile distance doesn’t appear ideal for Independence Hall, who has logged all four career wins at a mile or less.

8. SHERIFF BROWN (30-1) reeled off three consecutive wins over allowance rivals earlier this season, but the five-year-old gelding has been drilled in his last two stakes attempts, most recently finishing seventh of eight runners in the San Diego H. (G2). The Sunland Park stakes winner probably needs easier competition to be effective.

9. CUPID’S CLAWS (15-1) loves a route of ground, upsetting the 1 1/2-mile Tokyo City (G3) last fall and finishing a clear second in the Cougar II (G3) last out. The reformed claimer doesn’t fit at the Grade 1 level, but the six-year-old gelding possesses some tactical and could be in position to grab a small share if a couple of logical contenders falter.