09/02/2009 11:00PM

Colonel John favored in Pacific Classic

Benoit & Associates
Colonel John, who has run just once this year, is the 5-2 favorite for the Pacific Classic.

DEL MAR, Calif. - Colonel John won the Santa Anita Derby and the Travers Stakes last year, but his resume this year is rather skimpy. He has had just one start, and though it was a victory, describing him only as Wickerr Stakes winner Colonel John hardly seems sufficient.

He goes big-game hunting again on Sunday. Colonel John is among 12 runners who were entered on Wednesday night in the Grade 1, $1 million Pacific Classic, the richest race of the season at Del Mar. Such is Colonel John's reputation that Russell Hudak, who makes the morning line at Del Mar, installed Colonel John as the 5-2 favorite, ahead of Einstein and Rail Trip, who have won the two biggest races for older horses in Southern California thus far this year.

Einstein, who came west in March and captured the Santa Anita Handicap, is 7-2 on Hudak's line, with Rail Trip, the winner of the Hollywood Gold Cup in his last start, next at 4-1. They are the only three horses in the race who are less than 10-1, yet no one is higher than 20-1, speaking to the depth and competitiveness of this field.

"A lot of these horses have a race over this track, which goes against us," said Helen Pitts, the trainer of Einstein, who, along with her horse, is visiting here for the first time.

Informed and Mast Track, the one-two finishers in the San Diego Handicap here last month, are also in the field, as are Awesome Gem, who is making his third straight appearance in this race, and Global Hunter, who the first weekend of the meet won the Eddie Read, this track's biggest turf race. The Pacific Classic is enhanced by Parading, another invader from the East Coast, and Misremembered, who won the Swaps Stakes and will now step up to face older runners in a stakes race for the first time.

Also in the field are Song of Navarone, Richard's Kid, and Tres Borrachos.

Under the weight-for-age conditions of the race, Misremembered carries 118 pounds, six pounds fewer than the others.

The Pacific Classic goes as the ninth race on an 11-race card that begins one hour earlier than usual, at 1 p.m. Pacific. Preceding the Pacific Classic are three other stakes races, two graded, including the Grade 1 Pat O'Brien Stakes for sprinters.

Zensational, the fastest gun in the West, drew the rail in the seven-furlong O'Brien and will face five others, including Talkin to Mom Roo, who finished second to Zensational in the six-furlong Bing Crosby Stakes last month. Zensational is seeking to become the sixth horse since 1986 to sweep Del Mar's premier sprint stakes races in the same season. With Zensational figuring to be an overwhelming favorite, the O'Brien was carded as the fourth race to keep it out of the pick six. The pick six has a guaranteed pool of $750,000.

The Grade 2, $350,000 Del Mar Derby kicks off the pick six as the sixth race on the card. Battle of Hastings, who won the Colonial Turf Cup and Virginia Derby in his last two starts, faces eight others in the 1 1/8-mile grass race, including Triple Crown refugee Papa Clem, who is making his first start on turf. Afleet Eagle, who won the opening-day Oceanside Stakes, and Meteore, who rallied to capture last month's La Jolla Stakes, are also in the field.

The $100,000 Torrey Pines Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at one mile goes as the second race with Chalula One and Third Dawn, both allowance winners earlier in the meet, heading a field of six.

:: HOVDEY: (DRF Plus)