08/23/2013 12:00PM

Steve Klein: Delegation belongs in Pacific Classic exacta play

Michael Burns
Delegation has won 5 of 6 races on Woodbine’s Polytrack.

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Game On Dude is clearly the horse to beat in Sunday’s 1 1/4-mile $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar. He has won five straight races, and 8 of his last 10, so why is he only the tepid 5-2 morning-line favorite?

His highest odds showing among his past performances in 11 U.S. races dating back to February of last year are the 13-10 that was available in March in the Grade 1 San Antonio, and last year in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Pacific Classic. With that in mind, it would be surprising if his odds are actually as high as 5-2 when he enters the starting gate Sunday. Nevertheless, that morning line is still significant, since it reflects the concern some handicappers have about Game On Dude’s previous record on Del Mar’s synthetic Polytrack surface, where he shows no wins and one second-place finish from two previous starts.

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Is that concern valid? Game On Dude missed by only a half-length in this race last year and earned a 110 Beyer Speed Figure that is quite similar to the 108 he earned in his previous start, a victory on Cushion Track in the Hollywood Gold Cup. It also closely resembles the 109 Beyer he earned on dirt one race later at Santa Anita in the Grade 1 Awesome Again.

Game On Dude finished fourth on Polytrack in this race two years ago. He earned a 98 Beyer, but that Beyer wasn’t unusual for him at the time. He raced eight times in 2011, and his average Beyer from all of those races was nearly identical at 98.3.

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Game On Dude has trained well at Del Mar for this race and should be ready to deliver a very good performance.

Dullahan, who defeated Game On Dude by a half-length in this race last year, is the second choice on the morning line at 7-2. But he is winless from five races since that victory, with only a single third-place finish to his credit. I’ll see if I can beat him at underlaid odds in both of the exacta slots.

Kettle Corn is the third choice on the morning line at 6-1. He improved with blinkers added when he finished second, only a length behind Game On Dude, two races ago in the Hollywood Gold Cup. He edged Paynter last time in the Grade 2 San Diego.

The most interesting threat to Game On Dude is Delegation, who has won 5 of 6 races on Woodbine’s Polytrack. He lost by only a neck in his lone defeat there. Delegation was especially impressive last time when he won the Grade 3 Dominion Day easily, by 9 1/4 lengths. He has trained strongly since that win, including a swift 58.80-second breeze, the fastest of 73 five-furlong workouts at Woodbine 15 days ago. His 8-1 morning-line odds are an overlaid price.

Game On Dude is the most likely winner. Delegation is the best overlay. I’ll box them in the exacta, and I’ll use them both over Kettle Corn in the exacta. I’ll also bet Delegation to win.

Personal Ensign

The other Grade 1 race on Sunday is the Personal Ensign, a $600,000 1 1/8-mile race at Saratoga that attracted five fillies and mares. Royal Delta ended a two-race losing streak last time with a 10 3/4-length win in the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap. The margin could have been significantly larger if she hadn’t been allowed to coast during the last furlong.

Authenticity and On Fire Baby are the most logical candidates to complete the exacta if Royal Delta wins, but the exacta won’t pay enough to make it wise to play both combinations. I’ll go with a cold exacta using Royal Delta over Authenticity.

Del Mar Mile

Earlier on the Pacific Classic card at Del Mar, the Grade 2, $200,000 Del Mar Mile is the fifth race, a turf race with a field of five older horses. The appropriately named Obviously stands out. He won this race by a nose last year, then won the Grade 2 Arroyo Seco Mile. His most impressive performance last year was a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile, two lengths behind Wise Dan and only a half-length behind Animal Kingdom.

Obviously took 5 1/2 months off, then finished a close second in the Grade 3 San Simeon in his return. He has since won the Grade 2 American Handicap and the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile. He won both of his previous starts on this turf course and should be formidable again Sunday.

Obviously is my selection to win, and I’ll use him on top of two improving horses, Tigah and El Commodore, in the exacta.

Pat O’Brien

The Grade 2 Pat O’Brien is the seventh race at Del Mar. The contention in this race runs deep, so it won’t be a good idea to settle for a horse at low odds. Many of the contenders are likely to be in the rear half of the pack early, but I’d prefer a horse with more tactical speed.

If he is ridden aggressively enough to get good early position, Batti Man would be a serious threat at overlaid odds. He set the pace, then fought hard down the stretch when Kettle Corn and Paynter caught him in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap at 1 1/16 miles. He was beaten by only 1 1/4 lengths in that race, and he shouldn’t mind cutting back to seven furlongs in this spot. He’s a much better horse now than he was the last time he raced at a sprint distance. I’ll bet Batti Man to win and place.