10/31/2017 2:56PM

TimeformUS Pace Projector: Dirt Mile could favor a closer

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TimeformUS Past Performances include a Pace Projector for each race. This tool tries to predict the position of the field at the official first call of the race. The official first call is after a quarter-mile for races at less than a mile and after a half-mile for races at a mile or longer. The Pace Projector also attempts to predict when the pace might be fast or slow, based on the composition of the field along with the distance and surface of the race. With those things in mind, here is a race that appears most likely to be hotly contested and fast early. Closers usually take the worst of it in horse racing, but this race could be an exception.

Dirt Mile

The Dirt Mile drew “only” a field of 10. The run-up for mile races on the dirt at Del Mar is quite long, but it still is a short run into the first turn compared to most races. Three horses are identified as “Leader” or “Speed” by TimeformUS and figure to make things lively up front. These include Sharp Azteca, the most likely to lead according to the Pace Projector, Mor Spirit, and Gato Del Oro.

Mor Spirit beat Sharp Azteca handily on Belmont Stakes Day after tracking him early on, but that race was nearly five months ago and was the last time Mor Spirit has been seen in a race. Gato Del Oro led the Oklahoma Derby early in his last start and has never been farther back than one length after the opening quarter-mile.

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There is plenty of other second-wave speed. Iron Fist, Giant Expectations, Cupid, and Battle of Midway are all listed as “Trackers” by TimeformUS and have won graded stakes this year.

Accelerate is shown fifth in the Pace Projector, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he is closer, based on his last two starts since adding blinkers.

Whichever horse or horses survive the early battles will have to deal with some very talented closers, led by Practical Joke. The talented 3-year-old has won all five starts at one mile or less, though none of those have been around two turns.

Top late threats: Practical Joke, Awesome Slew