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There was a changing of the guard in Sunday’s $1,000,000 Pacific Classic as shipper and recent private purchase STUDENT COUNCIL pulled off the upset at 23-1. Shipped to trainer Vladimir Cerin just six days before the race, ‘COUNCIL took advantage of a perfect trip/ride under Richard Migliore, surged to the lead into the lane, then held off the late run of AWESOME GEM (10-1). The longshot brigade was completed by HELLO SUNDAY (13-1), which made for a very healthy trifecta of more than $2,500. As for LAVA MAN, he got a gorgeous trip, challenged for the lead at the 1/4-pole, then came up empty in mid-stretch. Although it’s way too early to write him off after this subpar performance, he had to be considered vulnerable after his all-out win in the Hollywood Gold Cup. Here’s what I wrote in the blog posting following the Gold Cup: “As a handicapper and one who tries to dispassionately analyze races, my first thought after the initial thrill of a great stretch run was: What a lousy race for a Grade I…if that sounds cynical to the casual fan, so be it. The name of the handicapping game is properly analyzing what you see and trying to use it to your advantage next time.”

In hindsight, I would have to say that was a pretty good analysis. LAVA MAN ran sixth in the Pacific Classic, right behind BIG BOOSTER (third, beaten less than a length in the Gold Cup), then it was all the way back to ninth to find A. P. XCELLENT (beaten a nose in the Gold Cup). Assessing the Gold Cup as a “negative” key race, one reasonably could have thrown these three out of consideration. That still didn’t make the winner easy to find but it might have made the task a little easier.

CROSSING THE LINE was awesome again in winning the Del Mar Mile, his third consecutive win in this country…GREG’S GOLD stalked the soft trip set by BORDONARO, switched leads late and held off SURF CAT to wrap up top sprinter of the meet.

On Saturday, RUTHERIENNE got the jump on VALBENNY and impressively won the Del Mar Oaks. As we wrote before, no one is better at shipping and winning than trainer Cristophe Clement…RIVER’S PRAYER made it five straight when winning Friday’s Rancho Bernardo. She is a major contender for the BC Filly and Mare Sprint race.

On Thursday night, the racetrack community came together for a poker tournament and silent auction benefit for Lava Man’s injured groom Noe Garcia. The night was a huge success, raising more than $120,000 to help towards Garcia’s medical bills and a new, state-of-the-art prosthetic arm. Although this a very competitive business/sport with a tremendous amount of backbiting, racetrackers do have a history of taking care of their own. Congratulations to the O’Neill families for their tireless work on this project, which came together in a matter of only two weeks. Honorable mention to horse owner and former Syracuse basketball player George Hicker, who made the final bid ($12,000) on a Hawaiian vacation package, then handed the vacation over to Garcia and his family.

Sight of the week: Dennis O’Neill rented a U-Haul truck to bring all the silent auction memorabilia down from Los Angeles. With no other mode of transportation to Wednesday’s post position draw party at The Lodge at Torrey Pines, O’Neill was left with no option but to drive the big orange truck. Watching O’Neill leave valet parking at the end of the night, I am quite sure he made history as the first person to ever valet park a U-Haul at swanky Torrey Pines.

To view Free Samples of last week’s Premium Plays, click on the links below: Premium Plays for Aug. 15Â Â Premium Plays for Aug. 16Â Â Â Premium Plays for Aug. 17Â Â Â Premium Plays for Aug. 18Â Â Premium Plays for Aug. 19Â Â Â Premium Plays for Aug. 20

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