Updated on 09/15/2011 12:51PM

Skimming (enough said)

Michael J. Marten/Horsephotos
Skimming gets a bath at his favorite beach resort: Del Mar, where he is 3 for 3 going into Sunday's Pacific Classic for trainer Bobby Frankel.

DEL MAR, Calif. - Bobby Frankel's stranglehold on the Pacific Classic is so tight he has won the race five times without starting a single favorite. That will change Sunday at Del Mar, where Frankel speedball Skimming guns for his second straight win in the $1 million race.

His timing is impeccable. Horse of the Year Tiznow already has missed most of the season and does not return until next month. Rival Captain Steve has tailed off, and even Futural's connections acknowledge that Skimming, 3 for 3 at Del Mar, is a bona fide freak at the beach. Said Futural's trainer Craig Dollase: "We'll just hope [Skimming] has an off day."

It is not likely. Skimming wired the San Diego Handicap and Pacific Classic here last year, and scored another front-running win three weeks ago in the San Diego. Said Frankel: "He's good everywhere, but he steps up a notch down there."

Skimming will be Frankel's 12th Pacific Classic starter and his first favorite in the mile and a quarter race, which goes as the fifth race on a 10-race card and is the first leg of a pick six that will have a guaranteed pool of $1 million. First post Sunday is 90 minutes earlier than usual, at 12:30 p.m Pacific.

In addition to Futural and Captain Steve, the field includes potential upsetter Dixie Dot Com, 3-year-old Until Sundown, and longshot Dig for It. Although pace-presser Dixie Dot Com could compromise Skimming's front-running tactics, Frankel does not anticipate a pace duel.

"The only way [Dixie Dot Com] will affect [Skimming] is if he goes suicide out of there, but he's not going to do that," Frankel predicted. "I've got the inside position on him . . . and I'm going to go. They're not going to go

44 [seconds]. Maybe Skimming's a little more laid back this year, but he's every bit as good."

Skimming has two wins and two forgivable losses in four starts this year. He returned May 5 from a six-month layoff and finished second to Futural. On June 10, Skimming turned the tables and beat Futural by a length. On July 11 in the Hollywood Gold Cup, jockey Garrett Gomez inexplicably rated Skimming and he finished third; he rebounded July 29 by racing gate to wire in the San Diego.

Frankel will be at Saratoga on Sunday to saddle Aptitude, but will speak to Gomez before the Pacific Classic. "I might just remind him . . . don't [fool] around. Don't worry about being a race rider, let the horse do the thinking. He knows what he's doing, he's not going to let anyone get past him."

Skimming, owned by Juddmonte Farms, has won seven races and more than $1.5 million from 18 starts. His recent pace and speed figures are virtually identical to last season, and he would become the second two-time winner of the Pacific Classic, following Frankel-trained Tinners Way (1994-95).

Skimming's main threat is nemesis Futural, the most improved and consistent handicap horse in California. Futural's last seven starts include four wins (one a disqualification) and three seconds. The dilemma for Futural and trainer Dollase is how to catch the front-running favorite. That was the purpose of a quick midweek work in 47.40 seconds.

"I put a little speed in him because he might need to be a little closer," Dollase said. Futural finished a length behind Skimming in the San Diego, and Dollase hopes someone pushes Skimming early. The obvious candidate is Dixie Dot Com.

A 6-year-old whose last three starts are among the best of his 21-race career, Dixie Dot Com is quick enough to press Skimming. However, the mile and a quarter distance of the Pacific Classic weighs into strategy.

"Sure, the distance is on our mind," trainer Bill Morey said. "But he gives me hints he can do it. I don't see anybody on top of Skimming. Three times in [Dixie Dot Com's] life he's been on the lead, and three times he's finished second. I was surprised to see him on the front end in the Cornhusker."

Dixie Dot Com finished second in that July 7 race at Prairie Meadows, which followed a 16-hour trip into searing heat. Dixie Dot Com set the pace and was run down by Frankel-trained Euchre. Dixie Dot Com will be racing Sunday for the first time since part-owner Bart Heller passed away Aug. 10.

Captain Steve merits a chance on his best day, though trainer Bob Baffert said, "he's going through a little lull spot. But the way he worked the other day he looked like he's starting to turn the corner. And it's not like it's a stellar field. It's not like Point Given is in there."

Captain Steve finished fourth in the Hollywood Gold Cup and third in the San Diego. It does not matter; Captain Steve already got the money in the $6 million Dubai World Cup. "He's done so much, the horse owes us nothing," Baffert said. "We're just having fun with him."

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