Updated on 07/26/2011 2:42PM

Del Mar: San Diego may be key for Pacific Classic

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Benoit & Associates
Golden Itiz will make his first start over Del Mar's Polytrack in Saturday's Grade 2 San Diego Handicap.

First Dude, Game On Dude, and Twirling Candy were the first three across the line in the Hollywood Gold Cup on July 9, and they looked like the ones to beat in the Grade 1, $1 million Pacific Classic here Aug. 28, but there’s now room for opportunistic older horses, what with the retirement of First Dude on Monday and the possibility that Twirling Candy could go in a different race.

The Pacific Classic remains under consideration for Twirling Candy, but trainer John Sadler said over the weekend that the Grade 2, $200,000 Del Mar Mile on turf on Aug. 27 and the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on Sept. 3 are in the mix, too.

Those developments make the Grade 2, $200,000 San Diego Handicap on Saturday far more important than at first glance. The San Diego, at 1 1/16 miles, is a prep for the Pacific Classic, and it also is a Win and You’re In race for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

Among those pointing to the San Diego are Aggie Engineer, Golden Itiz, Kevlar Kid, Spurrier, Tres Borrachos, and Uh Oh Bango. Coffee Boy and Don Tito will go in either the San Diego or the Bing Crosby, which is coming up much tougher.

Golden Itiz is “doing well,” trainer Ron Ellis said.

“This is his third race into his comeback,” Ellis said. “He’s never run over this track. This will be his first time over this main track. Hopefully, he likes it. That’s the key down here. If they like it, they run. And if they don’t, they don’t.”

Saturday’s supporting feature is the $100,000 Fleet Treat Stakes for California-bred 3-year-old fillies going seven furlongs. California Nectar, Chokecherymary, Magic School, Screaming Regal, Sugarinthemorning, and Zenidekka are all pointing to that race.

Track officials pleased with new wagers

Del Mar officials were largely happy with the response to two bettor-friendly developments first introduced this weekend, a head-to-head wager on Saturday and a pick-six seeding on Sunday that helped produce a larger carryover than the norm into Wednesday’s races.

On Sundays this meet when there is no carryover from Saturday, Del Mar will put $50,000 into the pick six as a bonus, to be divided among winning tickets. That incentive drew $354,709 in fresh money Sunday. But if no one hits the pick six, which happened Sunday, that extra $50,000 goes right into the carryover to Wednesday. As a result, the carryover from Sunday to Wednesday was $239,490 instead of $189,490.

“It’s almost like turning a one-day carryover into a two-day,” said Craig Dado, Del Mar’s vice president of marketing.

The head-to-head bet is offered on the feature race every Saturday and has a low takeout of just 10 percent. This past week, it matched Caracortado vs. Acclamation, who went off the higher price of the two and not only beat Caracortado but also won the Eddie Read Stakes. The head-to-head bet handled $31,413 and Acclamation paid $4.80 for the wager.

“I was kind of hoping for $40,000,” Dado said. “It’s an experiment. We’ll see how it goes. It was an interesting matchup, with a horse on the lead and a horse from behind.”