08/25/2011 11:09AM

Del Mar: Don Cavallo taking a shot at top level in Pacific Classic

Michael Burns
Don Cavallo, with Luis Contreras riding, wins the Dominion Day.

DEL MAR, Calif. – A sharp win by Don Cavallo in the Grade 3 Dominion Day Stakes at Woodbine on July 1 provided sufficient reason for owner-breeder Frank Stronach and trainer Roger Attfield to plan for an August start in a Grade 1 race in the United States.

The Sword Dancer Handicap on turf at Saratoga was considered before Stronach and Attfield opted for a race that played to Don Cavallo’s apparent strength. They chose Sunday’s $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar. run over 1 1/4 miles on a Polytrack synthetic surface. Woodbine also has a Polytrack synthetic surface, and Don Cavallo has won 3 of his 4 career starts on that track.

“The horse has run very well on synthetic tracks,” Attfield said. “We decided, Let’s go and try to win at Del Mar.”

Don Cavallo is listed as an 8-1 chance in the 11-runner Pacific Classic, which is led by Twirling Candy, the winner of the Grade 2 Californian Stakes at Hollywood Park in June. Trained by John Sadler, Twirling Candy is the 5-2 favorite on the morning line. His principal rival is Game On Dude, the winner of the Santa Anita Handicap in March. Game On Dude and Twirling Candy were second and third in the Hollywood Gold Cup last month.

Don Cavallo makes his California debut in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic. His performance will determine how he is campaigned in the later months this year. A colt by El Prado who has won 5 of 13 starts and $291,785, Don Cavallo won his first stakes in the Dominion Day, racing near the front throughout before winning by 3 3/4 lengths over James Street. The runner-up returned to win the Seagram Cup at Woodbine earlier this month. Stately Victor, who finished third, is another shipper for the Pacific Classic.

Attfield said that no plans, such as the Breeders’ Cup in November, have been made, but admits that Don Cavallo could easily show further improvement. “He’s an up-and-coming horse,” Attfield said. “I think it’s been through maturity. Mentally, he’s in a very good state.”

Attfield is Don Cavallo’s fourth trainer, preceded by the late Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel as well as Todd Pletcher and Sean Smullen.

In the Pacific Classic, Don Cavallo drew the rail, which discouraged Attfield. The colt tends to run near the front, but is not expected to lead the Pacific Classic because of the presence of the speedy Acclamation.

Attfield consulted with fellow trainer Neil Drysdale during Wednesday’s evening draw regarding an inside post. “I asked Neil about it, and he said the track is fair and the inside is fair,” Attfield said. “He’d be tracking the speed anyway. I’d rather not be in the one hole.”

Twirling Candy drew post 10 and will be ridden by Joel Rosario. Twirling Candy tends to race from just off the pace, so an outside draw with a long run to the first turn is unlikely to affect his chances.

“He runs behind and he runs close to the pace,” Sadler said. “We always think we take the best horse over there.”

Game On Dude, trained by Bob Baffert, drew post 9, and should be near the front.

The Pacific Classic field is likely to lose at least one runner. Bourbon Bay, who won the Cougar II Handicap over 1 1/2 miles on the Polytrack synthetic surface here on July 29, is more likely to start in the $200,000 Del Mar Handicap over 1 3/8 miles on turf on Sunday. Bourbon Bay has won four turf stakes in the last 18 months.

“I’d like to run in the Del Mar Handicap because of the distance,” Drysdale said.