Express Train, Rushie Look Toward Pacific Classic Next – Horse Racing News | Paulick

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Express Train and jockey Juan Hernandez win the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar.

The top three finishers in Saturday’s $251,500 Grade 2 San Diego Handicap all came out of the race in good shape, their trainers reported, with all indications pointing to a rematch in the $750,000 TVG Pacific Classic on August 21.

Express Train got a stalking trip just off front-running Rushie in the 1 1/16 mile G2 San Diego then took over in the stretch and won by a half-length under jockey Juan Hernandez for trainer John Shirreffs. Tripoli was second, three-quarters of a length in front of favored Royal Ship.

Shirreffs said that Express Train “looked good, looked bright this morning” after covering the distance in 1:43.37 and providing the veteran trainer with his second San Diego Handicap victory (Giacomo, 2006) and the 18th of his Del Mar career. Shirreffs will go by his proven horseman’s instincts regarding a program for the son of Union Rags owned by the C R K Stable of Lee and Susan Searing of Arcadia.

“This is a good time to vary whatever you usually do,” Shirreffs said.

A Pacific Classic appearance would complete participation in the three major Grade 1 handicap division races in Southern California for Express Train. He was second, a half-length behind Idol, in the Santa Anita Handicap in March and third to Country Grammer in the Gold Cup there on May 3.

Conversely, Tripoli made his stakes debut in the San Diego. And the way the 4-year-old Kitten’s Joy colt acquitted himself in only his second dirt experience in 13 career starts was encouraging to trainer John Sadler.

“He came out of it well and we’re very happy,” Sadler said. “You want to win, sure, but he ran a very good race for his first time at that level.”

A question about the Pacific Classic for Tripoli, owned by two-time Classic winning Hronis Racing, brought a moment’s hesitation from Sadler. Then: “Yeah, we’ll see how the summer goes, but he’s certainly an improving horse on dirt.”

Royal Ship, the 8-5 favorite coming off a runner-up finish in the Gold Cup, also appeared fine on Sunday morning, trainer Richard Mandella said. “He ran a good race, just not good enough. We’ll try to do better next time … the Pacific Classic.”

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