DEL MAR — Trainer John Shirreffs didn’t have the opportunity to see Skinner compete in the Kentucky Derby this past spring, but he’ll watch his 3-year-old colt run in Saturday’s 33rd renewal of the $1 million Grade I Pacific Classic at Del Mar.
Skinner, a son of Curlin, was scratched from the Derby the morning before the race with an elevated temperature. He’s raced only once since, a runner-up effort behind Reincarnate in the Los Alamitos Derby on July 8.
“That was very disappointing,” Shirreffs said of Skinner’s defection from the Derby. “We’re excited to try him at a mile and a quarter. We think he’ll like (the distance), but until you do it you don’t really know. He’s a horse that finishes well. If you watch his races, he makes a big move on the turn and is able to finish.”
Skinner is one of three sophomores who were entered Tuesday at The Brigantine for Del Mar’s signature race. Five 3-year-olds have won the race since its inception in 1991, most recently Shared Belief in 2014. Geaux Rocket Ride, the 5-2 morning-line favorite, and Arabian Knight join Skinner as the lone 3-year-olds in the 11-horse lineup, a race record. They will each receive a 5-pound weight allowance.
This will be the trio’s first test against older horses, something Shirreffs believes is important heading into the big races on the schedule for the rest of the year. Skinner, who will be ridden by Hector Berrios, drew post position No. 11 and is 10-1 on the morning line.
“If we hope to get to the Breeders’ Cup Classic then we’ve got to test ’em a little bit against older horses,” he said. “This will give him an opportunity and then maybe the Awesome Again (Sept. 30) at Santa Anita will be another opportunity. The timing seems to be really good.”
After Geaux Rocket Ride, who won the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on July 22, Arabian Knight is the second choice at 3-1, followed by Defunded (4-1) and Stilleto Boy and Slow Down Andy (both 8-1). Arabian Knight finished third in the Haskell.
“I think it’s very interesting,” Shirreffs said. “There are three 3-year-olds in there. I think Stilleto Boy is as solid as a horse can be. He’s salty, he’s tough and he’s training well. It’s a good field. Bob’s (trainer Bob Baffert) got that Defunded, who’s run some really big numbers.”
And Shirreffs likes his horse’s chances, too. He’s been training well and goes into the race off a strong comeback effort at Los Alamitos. He hadn’t run in three months between a third-place finish in the Santa Anita Derby and the Los Alamitos race.
“I was very pleased with that,” he said. “He hadn’t run in a long time by then. He was a horse that probably needed a race at that time, and I thought Bob’s horse (Reincarnate) ran an unbelievable race that day. He went wire to wire. I knew we were up against a very tough horse. I think Skinner ran a good race that day.”
Four Grade I stakes winners were entered for the Classic, won last year by Horse of the Year Flightline – Geaux Rocket Ride, Tripoli, Defunded and Stilleto Boy.
The field, in position order from the rail out with riders and morning-line odds, for Saturday’s $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar:
1. Geaux Rocket Ride, Mike Smith, 5-2
2. Katonah, Antonio Fresu, 20-1
3. Stilleto Boy, Kent Desormeaux, 8-1
4. Tripoli, Tiago Pereira, 20-1
5. Defunded, Juan Hernandez, 4-1
6. Order and Law, Edwin Maldonado, 30-1
7. Slow Down Andy, Mario Gutierrez, 8-1
8. Senor Buscador, Geovanni Franco, 10-1
9. Arabian Knight, Flavien Prat, 3-1
10. Piroli, Umberto Rispoli, 20-1
11. Skinner, Hector Berrios, 10-1
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