07/26/2012 2:34PM

Del Mar: Rail Trip has much to prove in San Diego Handicap

Benoit & Associates
Rail Trip needs a win in Saturday's San Diego if he is to move on to the Pacific Classic.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Rail Trip is more than two years removed from his last stakes win, the Grade 2 Californian Stakes at Hollywood Park. Nearly three years have gone by since his only start on the Del Mar Polytrack surface, a game third in the 2009 Pacific Classic.

Those two facts make his appearance in Saturday’s $200,000 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar all the more intriguing. A 7-year-old with two losses earlier this year, Rail Trip has a chance to prove he is back to his best, the form that led to a win in the 2009 Hollywood Gold Cup.

Bettors have a right to be cynical about Rail Trip’s chances. Owned by Samantha Siegel, Rail Trip was fourth in the Grade 3 Los Angeles Handicap for sprinters on May 28 at Betfair Hollywood Park and second to John Scott in an allowance race a month later.

John Scott, who is part of the San Diego field, won that race by a half-length. Rail Trip raced wide throughout and was 5 1/4 lengths clear of the third-place finisher. Trainer Ron Ellis said he was not disappointed by the loss.

“You’d like to win but he was three or four wide the whole way,” Ellis said. “The other horse was on the rail. That can’t help.

“I didn’t push on him and he probably came up a little empty. They drew away from the field. I underestimated that one horse in there. All in all, I wasn’t disappointed.

“I have hopes that he’s rounding up to form. If he wins the race, we can go on to the Pacific Classic.”

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The $1 million Pacific Classic is on Aug. 26. The leading contenders for that race, reigning Hollywood Gold Cup winner Game On Dude, and defending champion Acclamation, are not part of the field for the Grade 2 San Diego, which is run over 1 1/16 miles.

Rail Trip is part of a field of seven that includes four other stakes winners – Kettle Corn, Mobilized, Prayer for Relief, and Tres Borrachos. The 5-year-olds John Scott and Take Control are seeking their first stakes wins. They won their last starts and are capable of winning the San Diego.

Tres Borrachos won the 2011 San Diego, but is winless in eight subsequent starts. Third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs last fall, he was fourth in the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap over seven furlongs at Hollywood Park on June 30, his first start in 10 weeks.

“I thought he ran okay,” trainer Marty Jones said. “He hadn’t run in a while and it was probably a little short for him. He tries. If things go his way, he can be right there.”

The San Diego winner receives a fees-paid berth to the BC Dirt Mile at Santa Anita on Nov. 3, provided the horse is nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program.