Jon White: Pacific Classic Selections, BC Classic Futures & More

Flightline puts his perfect record on the line as the headliner in a field of six assembled for this Saturday’s Grade I, $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar.

As Del Mar’s morning-line oddsmaker, I had to decide just how low to go in terms of Flightline’s price.

Knowing that Flightline is going to be odds-on, the options that I considered were 3-5, 1-2, 2-5 and 1-5. I immediately ruled out 4-5.

In tinkering with various lines, I whittled the options down to 2-5 or 1-5. I came very close to making him 2-5. But the more that I thought about it, the more I questioned whether his final odds will be higher than 1-5.

If I had made Flightline 2-5 or higher it would have enabled me to make the odds for other horses lower than I did by deciding to go with 1-5.

Flightline has won all four of his races by a combined 43 1/2 lengths. The hype is through the roof. After Flightline overcame a slow start and early trouble to win the Grade I Met Mile by six lengths, Andy Beyer, not one given to hyperbole, said he believes that Flightline is the best American horse since 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper.

So often in cases at tracks across the country when there is going to be an overwhelming favorite like Flightline in the Pacific Classic, the betting public will make the favorite a shorter price than he is on the morning line.

To cite an example, just last Sunday night at Los Alamitos, Ed Burgart -- a very good morning-line maker -- installed Quarter Horse champion Empressum a 2-5 favorite in the feature race at Los Alamitos.

Yes, 2-5 is a very short price. But what did the public do? They drove Empressum’s odds lower than even 1-5. He was sent away as a 1-10 favorite.

Empressum crushed his six foes to win the 400-yard dash by 2 1/2 lengths. Even though Empressum was “without significant urging from jockey Rodrigo Vallejo,” as Daily Racing Form’s Steve Andersen accurately put it, the 4-year-old Apolitical Jess gelding posted a final time of :19.31, second-fastest in the history of the 62-year race behind Jess You and I, who was clocked in :19.29 in 2009.

Empressum opened as a 1-9 favorite on the board and never budged.

Flightline is a lock to likewise open as a 1-9 favorite on the board. I think the probability is he either will stay at 1-9 or he might drift up a notch to 1-5.

Is it possible that Flightline then goes up another notch to 2-5 before race time? Yes, it’s possible. But I seriously doubt it.

The 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic will be the first time that Flightline is being asked to race farther than one mile. Will this fact keep enough bettors off him for his odds to go higher than 1-5? Maybe that will turn out to be the case. But again, I seriously doubt it.

Daily Racing Form’s Brad Free crafted preliminary odds for the Pacific Classic on Aug. 10. Free, like Burgart, is a good linemaker. On Aug. 10, Free obviously did not know what the Pacific Classic field would be, but he wasn’t far off.

“Fooling with an on early odds line, I settled on 3-5 as opening price for Flightline,” Free wrote. “Country Grammer is second choice at 4-1, and Royal Ship 5-1.

“Express Train is 12-1 on an early line…Tizamagician is 15-1, Stilleto Boy 20-1.”

Tizamagician was not entered in the Pacific Classic, opting to go instead in Saturday’s Grade II Del Mar Handicap at 1 3/8 miles on the grass. Extra Hope, absent from Free’s odds, is one of the six Pacific Classic entrants.

Following the Pacific Classic draw for post positions on Tuesday, Free wrote that Flightline’s “1-5 program price seems awfully short.”

It is awfully short because I think that’s what it’s going to be. Will Flightline’s final odds be closer to 1-5 or Free’s 3-5? We shall see how it turns out.

Trainer John Sadler certainly has enjoyed recent success in the Pacific Classic. He’s won three of the last four (Accelerate in 2018, Higher Power in 2019 and Tripoli in 2021).

As for Country Grammer, his trainer, Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, has won the Pacific Classic six times. That ties him with another Hall of Famer, the late Bobby Frankel, for the most Pacific Classic victories by a trainer. Baffert won his first Pacific Classic with General Challenge in 1999, followed by Richard’s Kid in 2009 and 2010, Game On Dude in 2013, Collected in 2017 and Maximum Security in 2020.

I had considered making Country Grammer anywhere from 5-2 to 4-1 on the Pacific Classic morning line. Country Grammer no doubt will get plenty of support because of his proven form at the Pacific Classic distance. He won Santa Anita’s Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup at 1 1/4 miles last year and the Group I, $12 million Dubai World Cup at about 1 1/4 miles this year.

In addition to Flightline’s hype, his snazzy Beyer Speed Figures are another hint that he might well get bet down to 1-5 or possibly even shorter and that Country Grammer won’t be lower than 4-1 Saturday.

Country Grammer’s top Beyer Speed Figure is a 108. Flightline’s worst Beyer -- I repeat, worst -- is a 105. Flightline’s most recent three Beyers have been a 114, then a 118, then a 112.

When there is going to be a horse “bet off the board,” as they say, too often I tend to make the second, third and fourth choices too low on the morning line.

And so, all things considered, I decided to put Country Grammer at 4-1. If he gets bet down some from that, so be it. But I do expect him to be closer to 4-1 than 5-2.

I put Royal Ship at 8-1 on the morning line. If I had made Flightline 2-5, I could have made Royal Ship 6-1 or maybe even lower at 5-1. But considering he was 9-1 when he won Del Mar’s Grade II San Diego Handicap on July 30, is he really going to be 5-1 or 6-1 against Flightline?

One thing Royal Ship has going for him is his trainer’s past success in the Pacific Classic. Hall of Famer Richard Mandella has won this race four times (Dare and Go in 1996, Gentlemen in 1997, Pleasantly Perfect in 2004 and Beholder in 2015).

In last year’s Pacific Classic, I made Express Train a 3-1 morning-line favorite. He went off as the 2-1 betting choice and finished sixth.

Express Train went into last year’s Pacific Classic off a victory in the San Diego Handicap. This time he's going into the Pacific Classic off a defeat and a layoff. He has not raced since finishing second to Stilleto Boy in Santa Anita’s Grade II Californian on April 30.

In terms of what to do with Express Train on the morning line in this year’s Pacific Classic, I was thinking of 8-1, 10-1 or 12-1. I would have made him 8-1 or 10-1 if I had made Flightline 2-5. But by going with 1-5 for Flightline, I pegged Express Train at 12-1.

I thought Stilleto Boy ran a splendid race when he won the Californian by 2 1/4 lengths. He recorded a lofty 108 Beyer Speed Figure. I thought it might signal that Stilleto Boy was going to be a major player in the older horse division in Southern California for the remainder of the year. But he has lost both races since the Californian.

Stilleto Boy finished fourth at odds of 3-2 in the Hollywood Gold Cup. Despite that five-length loss, I still gave him a little too much respect when I made him 6-1 on the San Diego morning line. He started at 9-1 in the San Diego and lost by 6 1/2 lengths.

Now that Stilleto Boy must face Flightline, I look for his odds to rise in the Pacific Classic. Thus, I made him 20-1.

The longest shot on the Pacific Classic morning line is Extra Hope at 30-1. He has lost seven in a row since winning the Grade III Native Diver Stakes at Del Mar way back on Nov. 21, 2020.

Mandella also trains Extra Hope. If Extra Hope somehow wins the Pacific Classic, it will be a shocker.

But keep in mind Mandella pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the history of American racing when he sent out Dare and Go to beat mighty Cigar in the 1996 Pacific Classic. Cigar, a 1-10 favorite, had his 15-race winning streak come to an end as a stunned Del Mar throng of 44,181 looked on.

Dare and Go, off at odds of 39-1, paid $81.20 for each $2 win wager.

In terms of my Pacific Classic selections, I am not about to pick somebody other than Flightline to win. Not the way the $1 million auction purchase has looked in both his races in the afternoon and his recent workouts.

Flightline has been pure poetry in motion in his recent drills. A prime example was his five-furlong workout in :59.20 at Del Mar on July 23.

Respected clocker Toby Turrell discussed Flightline’s July 23 workout the next day on the radio program Thoroughbred Los Angeles hosted by Mike William.

“The thing with this horse, I don’t think he knows what a maintenance drill is,” Turrell said. “In fact, when he hit the wire, he was galloping. But then the real running somehow just began as he was going around the turn. I mean, it was an amazing turn time on the gallop-out all the way back to the three-quarter pole for basically six furlongs in about 1:12. Just phenomenal. Words can’t even describe it.”

Steve Dennis, a turf writer in England, interviewed Sadler about Flightline earlier this month for Thoroughbred Racing Commentary. Sadler told the writer that Flightline might be equivalent to European superstar Frankel.

Frankel won all 14 of his races from 2010-12 and registered 10 Group I victories

“People who know me will say there’s no braggadocio about me. That’s not my style,” Sadler said. “But that’s just the way it is. Flightline’s the kind of horse who comes along every 20, 30 years. The numbers he runs are unbelievable. I don’t think there are many people who’ve ever had a horse this good.

“He’s been a ‘wow’ horse from day one. April Mayberry, who broke him at her farm in Ocala [Florida], said the first time she saw him breeze she knew he was special.”

My Pacific Classic selections are below:

1. Flightline
2. Country Grammer
3. Royal Ship
4. Express Train


In my Travers selections last week for and the 1/ST Travers Wager Guide, I picked it Epicenter first, Cyberknife second, Zandon third and Early Voting fourth.

Epicenter won. Cyberknife finished second. Zandon ran third. The 50-cent trifecta paid $13.75.

I wrote last week that I was picking Epicenter to win despite my concern that he had not recorded a Beyer Speed Figure higher than a 102.

“Based on recent history, I think there is a pretty good chance that it will require something bigger than a 102 to win the Travers,” I wrote.

Well, Epicenter stepped it up big-time Beyer-wise in the Travers. His emphatic 5 1/4-length Travers triumph produced a 112 Beyer Speed Figure, highest by any 3-year-old so far in 2022, as shown below:

BSF Horse (Finish Race, Track, Date)

112 Epicenter (won Travers, Saratoga, Aug. 27)
111 Charge It (won Dwyer, Belmont, July 2)
107 Expressman (won maiden race, Saratoga, Aug. 13)
107 Jack Christopher (won Woody Stephens, Belmont June 11)
105 Cyberknife (2nd Travers, Saratoga, Aug. 27)
105 Zandon (3rd Travers, Saratoga, Aug. 27)
105 Rich Strike (4th Travers, Saratoga, Aug. 27)
105 Early Voting (won Preakness, Pimlico, May 21)
104 Jack Christopher (won H. Allen Jerkens, Saratoga, Aug. 27)
104 Conagher (won alw/opt claimer, Churchill, June 3)
104 Nest (won Coaching Club American Oaks, Belmont, July 23)*



Epicenter completed his 1 1/4-mile Travers journey in an excellent 1:00.72 for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. The Kentucky-bred Not This Time colt’s 112 Beyer is the highest figure in the Travers since Arrogate’s gigantic 122 in 2016.

Arrogate, in what I called a “Secretariat-like performance,” won his Travers in front-running fashion by 13 3/4 lengths. His final time of 1:59.36, which translates to 1:59 1/5 in fifths, chopped four-fifths off Saratoga’s 1 1/4-mile track record set by General Assembly (a son of Secretariat) in 1979.

Below are Beyer Speed Figures for Travers winners going back to 1990 (the first year they were listed in the American Racing Manual):

2022 Epicenter (112)
2021 Essential Quality (107)
2020 Tiz the Law (109)
2019 Code of Honor (105)
2018 Catholic Boy (104)
2017 West Coast (108)
2016 Arrogate (122)
2015 Keen Ice (106)
2014 V.E. Day (102)
2013 Will Take Charge (107)
2012 Alpha (100)*
2012 Golden Ticket (100)*
2011 Stay Thirsty (101)
2010 Afleet Express (105)
2009 Summer Bird (110)
2008 Colonel John (106)
2007 Street Sense (108)
2006 Bernardini (116)
2005 Flower Alley (110)
2004 Birdstone (108)
2003 Ten Most Wanted (112)
2002 Medaglia d’Oro (113)
2001 Point Given (117)
2000 Unshaded (109)
1999 Lemon Drop Kid (110)
1998 Coronado’s Quest (107)
1997 Deputy Commander (110)
1996 Will’s Way (114)
1995 Thunder Gulch (110)
1994 Holy Bull (115)
1993 Sea Hero (109)
1992 Thunder Rumble (109)
1991 Corporate Report (109)
1990 Rhythm (104)

*Dead heat


Flightline not only is an odds-on favorite in this Saturday’s Grade I Pacific Classic at Del Mar, he is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in Breeders’ Cup Future Wager #2.

The Breeders’ Cup, in conjunction with Keeneland Race Course, is offering future wagering this week on the 1 1/4-mile BC Classic, which will be run Nov. 5 at Keeneland.

BC Future Wager #1 ran from Aug. 5-7.

If you are interesting in playing BC Future Wager #2 (which is being offered by Xpressbet and 1/ST BET), it opens on Friday, Sept. 2, and concludes on Monday, Sept. 5.

Win wagering only is offered. It’s a $2 minimum bet. There is no place, show or exotic betting.

Like the Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW), the BC Classic Future Wager consists of 23 individual horses and an “all others” option.

The only other two horses besides Flightline listed at lower than 12-1 on the BC Future Wager #2 morning line are Epicenter, who is 7-2, and Life Is Good, who is 4-1.

The same principles pretty much apply to the BC Classic Wager as the KDFW.

Remember, if you bet a horse in the future wager and it does not run, you do not get a refund, unlike if you bet the horse on race day and the horse scratches. And don’t forget that this is a pari-mutuel pool, not fixed odds. It’s advisable to wait as long as possible to make your wager or wagers in order to have a better idea of what the odds will be when the pool closes.

It’s probably a good idea to check out the results of two important races Saturday before getting involved in BC Classic Wager #2. Those two races are the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup at Saratoga and, most especially, the Pacific Classic. What Flightline does in the Pacific Classic could possibly have a significant impact on the BC Classic picture and future wager odds.

The goal whenever playing a future wager is to try to get value. A perfect example of getting value in BC Classic Future Wager #1 was Epicenter. If you bet on him at that time, you got 20-1 odds on a horse who is now 7-2 on the morning line for BC Classic Future #2.

By contrast, the odds have gone in the opposite direction for Olympiad. After being 9-2 in BC Classic Future Wager #1, Olympiad is 30-1 on the morning line for BC Classic Future #2.

As I wrote at the time for, the horse I was the most interested in playing in BC Classic Future Wager #1 was Grade I Santa Anita Derby winner Taiba, but only if he was 20-1 or higher. When his closing odds were 14-1, I kept my money in my pocket.

Taiba again is the horse I have the most interest in playing this week. The talented Gun Runner colt, a $1.7 million auction purchase, had a dandy six-furlong workout in 1:10.80 at Del Mar on Aug. 20, followed by another sharp six-furlong drill there in 1:12.00 on Aug. 27. He appears to be headed to the Grade I, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing on Sept. 24.

Taiba is 30-1 on the morning line for BC Classic Future Wager #2. Like last time, if Taiba ends up being 20-1 or higher, I will be putting some money on him in the hope that he wins the Pennsylvania Derby. But if it turns out that Taiba’s odds once again are lower than 20-1, I again will just say no.

The morning-line odds for BC Classic Future Wager #2 are listed below:

30-1 Americanrevolution
30-1 Art Collector
20-1 Charge It
12-1 Country Grammer
30-1 Cyberknife
50-1 Dynamic One
50-1 Early Voting
50-1 Emblem Road
 7-2 Epicenter
50-1 Express Train
35-1 First Captain
 5-2 Flightline
30-1 Happy Saver
20-1 Hot Rod Charlie
50-1 Keepmeinmind
 4-1 Life Is Good
50-1 Mandaloun
30-1 Mishriff
30-1 Olympiad
30-1 Rich Strike
50-1 Royal Ship
30-1 Taiba
30-1 Zandon
50-1 “All Others”


Following Epicenter’s victory in the Travers, he climbs to No. 3 in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll this week after being No. 5 last week.

The Top 10 is below:

Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

 1. 358 Life Is Good (22)
 2. 350 Flightline (12)
 3. 281 Epicenter (4)
 4. 222 Nest
 5. 183 Jackie’s Warrior
 6. 152 Country Grammer
 7.   94 Malathaat
 8.   89 Olympiad
 9.   60 Jack Christopher
10.   41 Clairiere


Travers victor Epicenter moves up one notch to No. 3 in this week’s Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic Rankings after being No. 4 last week.

The Top 10 is below:

Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

 1. 290 Flightline (23)
 2. 256 Life Is Good (4)
 3. 244 Epicenter (3)
 4. 187 Country Grammer
 5. 126 Hot Rod Charlie
 6.   98 Cyberknife
 6.   98 Olympiad
 8.   77 Happy Saver
 9.   53 Royal Ship
10.   37 Nest
10.   37 Taiba