Updated on 09/16/2011 9:05AM

A 10-1 shot can stay off Classic pace to pick up pieces


PHOENIX - The scariest thing about War Emblem in Sunday's Pacific Classic is that the thing that makes him so good is also the thing that may lead to his downfall: his speed.

He couldn't have asked for a much tougher assignment for his first try against older horses. Not only must he deal with Santa Anita Handicap winner Milwaukee Brew and Hollywood Gold Cup one-two finishers Sky Jack and Momentum, but another top-class 3-year-old, Came Home, is in the field, too. He will face a daunting task on the lead against the one-dimensional speed horse Sky Jack and Bosque Redondo, who is in the race to burn the pace early for entrymate Came Home.

Of course, it could be that War Emblem is simply the best horse. Most handicappers thought there was a ton of speed in the Kentucky Derby, but once War Emblem cleared the field, everyone was content to chase him. "He'll come back to us," the other riders thought. Oops. Now everyone knows what he is capable of.

War Emblem has worked like a monster this week. Trainer Bob Baffert has commented frequently that the horse loves the Del Mar track. Baffert opted for this very tough assignment even though it would have been easy to ship back to Saratoga for the much easier Travers Saturday.

But War Emblem is at his best when he is free-running. That puts him right on fast, contested pace with the gutty Sky Jack. War Emblem may well win the battle, but what about the war? And since he will be 6-5 or so, you have good cause to look around a bit for your wager.

The closer, Milwaukee Brew is certainly a candidate, but when he won the Santa Anita Handicap the pace completely broke down. It would be a bit surprising if War Emblem, Sky Jack, and a pace-pressing Came Home all staggered home Sunday. And if that does happen, isn't Milwaukee Brew vulnerable to a closer positioned nearer the lead who gets first run?

Which brings us to Momentum. After his Native Diver Handicap win against older horses last December, he looked ready to make a big splash in the Strub series. But he was injured and given plenty of time off by Craig Dollase. He has come back strongly, topped by a super effort in defeat in the Hollywood Gold Cup. He bided his time early, pounced on Sky Jack turning for home, only to find him just a bit too tough to get by in one of the best races of the year. The defeat validated him as a quality handicap horse.

He should get a super trip here. He is not quick, but he is not a deep closer either. Should War Emblem and Sky Jack kick off a 46-second half and a 1:09 or 1:10 six-furlong clocking, Momentum will be licking his chops. He has shown he can go 1 1/4 miles and with the speedsters could be ripe for the plucking after knocking heads early.

At 10-1 or so Momentum is certainly worth a long, long look.

Beat Hollow more than vulnerable

I don't want hear anymore that Beat Hollow is far and away the class of the turf division.

Yes, he had a little bit of trouble in his Arlington Million victory, but did you see Sarafan get shuffled back, or Falcon Flight get shut off? And Forbidden Apple ran a terrific race, at a distance longer than he likes.

Beat Hollow will cut back in distance and run in the Breeders' Cup Mile. But that race is going to have a bigger, tougher field. Maybe Sarafan and Falcon Flight won't have trouble. Forbidden Apple will love the two-furlong cutback. Chuck in some major Europeans, and I'll be wagering that the 'Beat' will not go on.

Golden Apples looked tremendous winning the Beverly D. Golden Apples has a terrific kick, and her tactical speed edge over Astra was the difference.

Astra ran decently, but she simply doesn't show the same oomph away from California. Or maybe she needs firmer footing.

England's Legend was a bit disappointing. The quick three-week turnaround may have been a factor, but she got the easiest of leads and still failed. Maybe she will show more in next month's Flower Bowl at Belmont.

Of course, none of this may matter if European stars Banks Hill and Islington come over for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.