There are two Grade 1s are Del Mar this weekend, and the star attraction is Maximum Security in the 1m 2f Pacific Classic.
Now trained by Bob Baffert, the four-year-old New Year’s Day colt has more than made up for his controversial disqualification from the Kentucky Derby last season.
Maximum Security has won all four of his subsequent starts in graded company. They include the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park and Cigar Mile at Aqueduct.
After taking the valuable Saudi Cup in the Middle East, Maximum Security needed all of the extended mile trip on debut for Baffert to land the San Diego Handicap.
As he only got up on the nod, he clearly wants further. Maximum Security gets that in the Pacific Classic and should come on for his first start after 148 days off.
He now meets the nose runner-up, Midcourt, and third home, High Power, off 5lb better terms. That swing in weight should see Maximum Security confirm form.
Baffert has won the Pacific Classic five times before, so knows what’s required. There is o case against Maximum Security in his bid to follow-up off these terms.
Midcourt may not see the trip out, so last year’s winner Higher Power appeals more. Trained by John Sadler, the five-year-old son of Medaglia d’Oro was so impressive here 12 months ago.
Higher Power stayed on superbly well to score by more than five lengths in this. He also ran a cracking race in defeat when third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
After shaping as though something was amiss in the Pegasus World Cup in January, Higher Power had a break. On his return, he was beaten by just over three lengths in the Hollywood Gold Cup.
As Higher Power was giving 2lb to the winner, this was a fine effort. The trip of the San Diego Handicap was too sharp for him last time out, so this extra furlong-and-a-half should suit.
For that reason, Higher Power can reverse placings with Midcourt in the Pacific Classic and fill the forecast spot.
The other Grade 1 is the 1m 1f Del Mar Oaks for three-year-old fillies. French import Miss Extra makes her American bow and, if taking her form across the Atlantic with her, has claims.
After switching stables to the care of Pia Brandt, this daughter of Masterstroke did nothing but improve. In three runs, she went from a maiden in handicap company to a Group 2 winner.
Miss Extra confirmed the form of her Listed win at Deauville over Golden Crown by completing her hat-trick in the Prix de Sandringham at Chantilly.
The way that Miss Extra ran on strongly and led in the final 50 yards of that mile contest suggest she would get further. Although only seventh in the Group 1 Prix de Diane last time out, she was eased.
Miss Extra shaped fine for most of that race, so it may have been too big a step up in trip. Now down to nine furlongs, that distance could see her to better effect.
Her move to America is an interesting one. New handler Richard Mandella has won the Del Mar Oaks before, so Miss Extra looks worth a wager.
Laura’s Light has won her last three including in Grade 2 company at the track, so is feared most. Trained by Peter Miller, this Constitution filly also has a distance victory to her name.
That came in a Grade 3 at Santa Anita where Laura’s Light prevailed over Irish Group 3 scorer Stela Star by a neck. As that was her second victory at that level, she carried a penalty last time out but defied it for the hat-trick.
Laura’s Light gave 5lb and a three-quarters of a length beating to Guitty. Of the locally trained contingent in this year’s Del Mar Oaks, she is the clear pick.
This demands even more, but Laura’s Light is a filly in form and well worth a crack at the highest level. The remainder of this field just haven’t got a winning sequence like she has.
Therefore, Laura’s Light can give Miss Extra plenty to think about. The Del Mar Oaks concerns these two and the market agrees.