San Diego Handicap: An Unexpected Powerhouse as the Key Pacific Classic Teller!

The Deep and Talented Field of the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap

The Grade 2 San Diego Handicap is a prestigious race that serves as the major prep for Del Mar’s flagship event, the Grade 1 Pacific Classic. This year’s edition features a nine-horse field that is brimming with talent and potential, making it an exciting and highly competitive race to watch. With a lineup that includes four Grade 1 winners, a Kentucky Derby champion, a Dubai World Cup winner, and a Hollywood Gold Cup winner, handicappers are presented with a myriad of intriguing options to consider.

A Field Overflowing with Star Power

Among the notable contenders in the San Diego Handicap is Tripoli, the defending champion of the Pacific Classic. Despite being priced at 6/1 on the morning line, Tripoli’s presence adds to the already star-studded lineup of this race. However, Tripoli will face stiff competition from a field that boasts an array of top-class horses.

The Hollywood Gold Cup, a significant race in its own right, has made a significant contribution to the San Diego Handicap field. Not only does it feature the winner of that prestigious race, There Goes Harvard, who is listed at 5/1, but also the second, third, and fourth-place finishers – Defunded (5/1), Royal Ship (4/1), and Stilleto Boy (6/1). This influx of talent from the Hollywood Gold Cup elevates the level of competition and adds another layer of excitement to the San Diego Handicap.

Overall, seven out of the nine horses in the field have morning line odds in the single digits, indicating the level of competitiveness in this race. Del Mar’s morning line writer, Jon White, faced a considerable challenge in accurately setting the odds for each horse, considering the depth and quality of the field.

Country Grammer: A Middle Eastern Superstar Returns to California

Country Grammer, the Dubai World Cup winner, stands out as the favorite with odds of 5/2. Trained by the renowned Bob Baffert, this 5-year-old horse returns to the United States after a successful campaign in the Middle East, where he accumulated a staggering $10.46 million in prize money. Country Grammer’s most recent victory was in the Hollywood Gold Cup in May 2021 before taking a break due to injury.

Despite not racing for the past four months, the absence of recent runs should not be a major concern when evaluating Country Grammer’s chances. Baffert’s training methods often involve quick drills to refine speed and maintain fitness during breaks between races. Country Grammer has responded well to this approach, showcasing impressive form in three consecutive workouts, including a remarkable 1:11.40 six-furlong work that was the best time among nine horses on July 24.

Mandaloun’s California Adventure

Another intriguing contender in the San Diego Handicap is Mandaloun, the winner of the 2021 Kentucky Derby. Trained by Brad Cox, Mandaloun has experienced a slump in his recent races, finishing a disappointing ninth in the Saudi Cup and then faltering in the Grade 2 Stephen Foster, where he finished fourth by a margin of nine lengths.

With Mandaloun making his debut in California, the question arises as to whether this change of scenery can reignite his spark and propel him back to his previous form. Bettors must decide if Mandaloun’s second race after a layoff will be the turning point for a resurgence or if his best days are behind him.

Will Tripoli Regain His Winning Form?

The defending Pacific Classic champion, Tripoli, faces a crucial moment in his career. Since his victory in last year’s edition of the race, Tripoli has failed to secure a win in three subsequent starts. Notably, he has struggled to be competitive, finishing fourth twice and seventh, failing to achieve a triple-digit Equibase Speed Figure in any of those races. One of his fourth-place finishes came on turf in the Grade 3 American Stakes, which took place during Santa Anita’s closing weekend in June.

There Goes Harvard: A Rising Star

Among the Hollywood Gold Cup ex-pats participating in the San Diego Handicap, There Goes Harvard arrives with a three-race winning streak. After capturing two allowance races, There Goes Harvard triumphed in a Grade 1 event at odds of 8.80/1. In his seven-race career, There Goes Harvard has consistently performed well, never finishing worse than second in any race, although it is important to note that some of these races were against lesser competition at Ellis Park.

Defunded: The “Other Baffert” with Consistent Performances

Defunded, trained by the renowned Bob Baffert, has delivered impressive results in his last five outings, never finishing outside the top two – claiming two victories, along with three second-place finishes. Notably, Defunded has shown consistent improvement in his performances, as reflected in his three consecutive increasing Equibase Speed Figures. Unlike his Hollywood Gold Cup conqueror, There Goes Harvard, Defunded has consistently competed against high-quality opposition, making him a strong contender in this field.

Royal Ship’s Return After Eight Months on the Sidelines

Royal Ship, who finished third in last year’s San Diego Handicap and seventh in the Pacific Classic, returns to Del Mar after an eight-month hiatus. Following his comeback race in April, where he triumphed in the Listed John Shear Mile at Santa Anita, Royal Ship secured a third-place finish in his subsequent outing. This seasoned Brazilian-bred gelding certainly cannot be overlooked, given his prior success at Del Mar and his impressive record.

The Exciting Lineup for the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar

The morning lines for the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar are as follows:

  • There Goes Harvard, 5/1 (Diego Herrera/Michael McCarthy)
  • Defunded, 5/1 (Abel Cedillo/Bob Baffert)
  • Mandaloun, 4/1 (Florent Geroux/Brad Cox)
  • Stillleto Boy, 6/1 (Juan Hernandez/Ed Moger Jr.)
  • Señor Buscador, 20/1 (Edwin Maldonado/Todd Fincher)
  • Parnelli, 15/1 (Victor Espinoza/John Shirreffs)
  • Tripoli, 6/1 (Tiago Pereira/John Sadler)
  • Country Grammer, 5/2 (John Velazquez/Bob Baffert)
  • Royal Ship, 4/1 (Mike Smith/Richard Mandella)

Among these talented horses, there is a real sense of excitement and anticipation for the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap. The field is packed with accomplished runners showcasing their skills, and it will undoubtedly be an exhilarating race to witness.


The Grade 2 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar promises to deliver an exceptional display of talent and competition. With renowned horses such as Country Grammer, Mandaloun, and Tripoli vying for victory, the outcome of this race is far from certain. Each contender brings their unique strengths and storylines, making it a race that captures the attention of both horse racing enthusiasts and casual fans alike. Watch closely as these elite competitors battle it out on the track, showcasing the incredible athleticism and determination that makes horse racing such a thrilling sport.


1. What is the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap?

The Grade 2 San Diego Handicap is a prestigious horse race held at Del Mar Racetrack in California. It serves as a major prep race for the Grade 1 Pacific Classic and attracts a field of top-quality horses competing for a significant purse.

2. Who are the top contenders in the San Diego Handicap?

The San Diego Handicap features a deep and talented field, including horses like Country Grammer, Mandaloun, and Tripoli. These accomplished runners have all achieved success at the highest levels of horse racing and are expected to put on a thrilling display of competition.

3. Which trainers and jockeys will participate in the San Diego Handicap?

This year’s edition of the San Diego Handicap will see skilled trainers like Bob Baffert, Brad Cox, and Richard Mandella prepare their horses for the race. Accomplished jockeys such as John Velazquez, Florent Geroux, and Mike Smith will guide these top-class athletes around the track.

4. How does the San Diego Handicap impact the Pacific Classic?

The San Diego Handicap is considered a major prep race for the Grade 1 Pacific Classic, which is Del Mar’s most prestigious race. Horses that perform well in the San Diego Handicap often use it as a stepping stone to the Pacific Classic, where they can face a larger field of top-quality contenders.

5. What makes the San Diego Handicap a must-watch race?

The San Diego Handicap is a must-watch race due to its highly competitive field and the presence of renowned horses in top form. With the opportunity to witness the likes of Country Grammer, Mandaloun, and Tripoli battling it out on the track, spectators can expect a thrilling and memorable race that showcases the best of thoroughbred horse racing

Doug I. Jones

Doug I. Jones

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