DEL MAR, Calif. -- Student Council is a different horse than he was last year when he pulled a 23-1 upset in the Pacific Classic.
Student Council went into that race with the Maxxam Gold Cup at Sam Houston in early 2007 as his only stakes win. Since then, he has become a fixture in the handicap division. When Student Council tries to defend his title in Sunday's $1 million Pacific Classic, he will be after his second Grade 1 win of the year, having won the Pimlico Special in May.
Yet, the Pimlico Special is not trainer Steve Asmussen's favorite performance by Student Council this year. He was more impressed by Student Council's runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga on July 26, when he closed from 10th in a field of 11 to finish 4 3/4 lengths behind the front- running Commentator.
"I think the circumstances of the Whitney made it a better race," Asmussen said. "Commentator got loose on the lead and there was a lot of traffic. It was as good as the Pimlico Special."
Student Council, 6, is nearing the end of his racing career. He will go to stud in 2009. His reputation has been enhanced by races such as the 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic. He won the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup over that same distance last fall, when trained by Vladimir Cerin, and was third in the Hollywood Gold Cup over 1 1/4 miles in June.
"He's one of those rare horses that can go that far," Asmussen said. "He's very strong about everything he does."
Student Council, who will be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, probably will not be favored in the Pacific Classic. The role is likely to go to Go Between, the runner-up in the Hollywood Gold Cup who is trained by Bill Mott. Like Student Council, Go Between is based on the East Coast.
The other probable starters are Awesome Gem, Barcola, Delosvientos, Mast Track, McCann's Mojave, Mostacolli Mort, Out of Control, Surf Cat, Tissy Fit, Well Armed, and Zappa.