08/28/2011 2:38PM

HandiGambling the Pacific Classic

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Today's HandiGambling 248 exercise is the ninth race from Del Mar, the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at 1 1/4 miles over polytrack. 

Remember that you have a mythical $100 with which to wager on the race, and the entrant with the highest money total will receive a "Monthly Enhanced 60-Card Past Performance Plan."

Anyone going over the $100 limit will be disqualified.

Please post your plays and analysis to the blog.

Please separate the play from the analysis and label the play "HG" with the program numbers instead of the names of the horses.

Past performances are available at the previous blog post.

In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference.

One entry per person please.

I reserve the right to approve or deny any entries.

I know that there is a time issue for some of you, but let's remember why we began the HandiGambling races in the first place. The goal was to share ideas on why we like these horses, and why we're betting them the way we are. I'm not asking for a novel, but if you could spare a sentence or two outlining your handicapping angles and thought processes about wagering, it would be appreciated.

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Let's scratch #7 GREAT WARRIOR and #8 BOURBON BAY.

I've become a fan of #9 GAME ON DUDE, the courageous winner of the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap on dirt.  I liked him in the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup last time, his first run on synthetics, and he was only beaten a dirty nose after setting the fractions.  With the speedy #5 ACCLAMATION in the race, Game On Dude may have to utilize stalking tactics under Chantal Sutherland, but Game On Dude has won from slightly off the pace in the past and he seems like a true stayer.  Breaking from near the outside, it wouldn't be surprising if Sutherland attempts to float #10 TWIRLING CANDY wide going into the first turn before settling her mount just off the leaders.  Game On Dude figures to start gearing up midway on the final turn and we'll see if he's good enough to put away the other speeds before holding off the closers.  Although Game On Dude ran well in the Gold Cup, I still have some concerns about his ability to recreate his best form over Del Mar's polytrack surface. 

#10 TWIRLING CANDY is an immense talent, but ten furlongs may be a tad out of his scope.  He pressed Game On Dude every step of the way in the Gold Cup, but just couldn't get by that one when the money was on the line.  In his other start at 10 furlongs, the Big 'Cap, Twirling Candy was bounced around in midstretch, but some have argued that he was already beginning to flatten out when the trouble occurred.  Twirling Candy, at times, can be his own worst enemy.  He has a tendency to pull hard coming out of the gate and that may sap some of his stretch stamina.  Still, he is a good, good horse.  He may be forced wide going into the first turn, but is certainly fast enough to win this race on his best day.

#5 ACCLAMATION has blossomed into one of the top turf runners in the country and he enters the Pacific Classic following three graded wins on grass between nine and twelve furlongs.  His dangerous early speed should have him on or near the lead at the pace call of the Pacific Classic, but there are questions about his ability on this surface.  He has never won on the main track and is 0-6 over synthetic surfaces.  Acclamation is razor-sharp and shouldn't have trouble with the distance, but he could feel pressure from Game On Dude, Twirling Candy and, perhaps, Setsuko.  If Game On Dude and Twirling Candy get caught up in a cat and mouse game, however, they may leave Acclamation alone on the lead.  In that case, Acclamation could make them pay.

#5 SETSUKO runs to the level of his competition.  He got beat a nose by Game On Dude in the Big 'Cap and 1 1/4 lengths by Twirling Candy in the Grade 2 Californian, but also lost by a length to Pode Ir in an entry-level optional claimer.  He's still eligible for a 'n2L' race somewhere, but his greatest asset, his tactical speed, should serve him well in this spot.  Setsuko should find a spot in the second flight behind the three main speeds and could be in the thick of things if those runners burn themselves out.  He's certainly not reliable enough to single, but I can see him running his usual race here.

#11 QUINDICI MAN is a cool little horse that may be a tad overmatched at this level, but the late-runner should get some pace to attack and he figures to be charging hard in the stretch (ala his third-place finish at astronomical odds in the Big 'Cap).  His most recent try going a mile on grass should be viewed strictly as a prep for the Pacific Classic and he is liable to run much better this time around.  He can contend for a board spot at another big price.

#2 JERANIMO was forced to show his hand way too early in the Grade 1 Eddie Read as Acclamation was the lone speed in the race and somebody had to go after him.  That unfortunate foe was Jeranimo, who was taken a bit out of his game, but still held on for second over Caracortado (who returned to win yesterday).  Jeranimo is capable on synthetics, but he's still trying to run back to his perfect-trip win in the Grade 2 San Gabriel over "good" turf earlier this year.  He's a solid performer that will likely be allowed to settle and finish this time around, but he could be just a cut below.

#1 DON CAVALLO ships in sharp from Canada for Roger Attfield and he draws an advantageous inside post position for the Pacific Classic.  Proven at ten furlongs over polytrack, Don Cavallo may tuck himself into a nice spot just behind the early leaders and he could get the jump on the one-run closers turning for home.  In his most recent outing, Don Cavallo defeated James Street, a runner that came back to prevail in the Grade 3 Seagram Cup at Woodbine with a 92 Beyer.  Don Cavallo is sharp, likes the distance, and projects for a good trip.  This will be his acid test for class, however.

I've chased #3 STATELY VICTOR high and low since he finished a good third in the Grade 2 Fayette Handicap at Keeneland last fall.  I haven't cashed a red penny on him since and am washing my hands of him (which means he is a mortal lock this afternoon).  A one-run closer that handles distance and polytrack, Stately Victor should get pace to run at (something he didn't have when chasing Don Cavallo last time out).  Let's see if he gets a trouble-free trip as he attempts to rally through/around the majority of the field.

#4 TRES BORRACHOS is a nice story.  Prior to his most recent start, the 2008 Swaps winner was riding a 13-race losing streak dating back to May 25, 2009.  He showed his grit by rallying to win the local prep for the Pacific Classic, the Grade 2 San Diego in his first start for new ownership and it looks like he's gotten more settled as he's aged.  In the past, Tres Borrachos was a bit speed-crazy, but he's willing to sit now.  It looks like he's getting back into form, but still must improve in order to take down these salty foes.

Here's my HandiGambling pick:

$40 Exacta - Game On Dude - Twirling Candy (9-10)
$40 Exacta - Game On Dude - Acclamation (9-5)
$10 Exacta - Game On Dude - Setsuko (9-6)
$10 Exacta - Game On Dude - Quindici Man (9-11)

Best of luck to all.