San Diego scouting report

Updated: July 30, 2009, 11:03 PM ET
By Jeremy Plonk | HorseplayerPro.com

Sunday, Aug. 2, Del Mar

The Low-Down: Defending champion WELL ARMED makes his Stateside return after winning the $6 million Dubai World Cup in March in authoritative style. The Eoin Harty trainee headlines a field of nine for this $250,000 prep for next month's $1 million Pacific Classic. Among the challengers Sunday include last year's Hollywood Gold Cup winner MAST TRACK, Grade 2 Californian winner INFORMED and veteran MAGNUM, who could surpass the seven-figure mark in career earnings with a victory.

Our Eyes: Speed was absolutely golden at Nad al Sheba when WELL ARMED roughed up his World Cup rivals. To boot, it likely was the softest field in Dubai World Cup history, which all played to a sensational visual onslaught when WELL ARMED picked a fantastic time to be completely on point. As we've seen with WELL ARMED, he's got one best gear and that's simply to take the race to the opposition from gate to wire. There are enough quality speed horses here to make him work awfully hard for the repeat. And based on the conditioning comments made by trainer Eoin Harty, it would not be the worst time to shoot for an upset.

The quality of the Hollywood Gold Cup got a nice boost opening week at Del Mar when Gold Cup also-ran Global Hunter made big strides forward to win the Grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap on turf. That speaks well of MAST TRACK, INFORMED, SONG OF NAVARONE and MAGNUM, all Gold Cup also-rans left in the wake of a truly sharp performance by leading west coaster Rail Trip. That quartet provides depth to the San Diego Handicap and all have a license to improve their finishes. Of that group, INFORMED brings the most lure, drawing much better than he did three weeks ago at Hollywood and owning a sharp 3: 1-2-0 record at Del Mar.

But the horse who might be most interesting here, especially given the solid pace scenario and fact that the Del Mar track has not been speed favoring in the least, is 3-year-old KELLY LEAK. He's had a handful of minor health issues that stunted his spring, but trainer Mike Machowsky has everything in his barn running lights-out the first two weeks at Del Mar. KELLY LEAK is training like a beast, and I thought he was one of the most promising sophomores I saw all spring from the west coast, in that same league with Pioneerof The Nile and I Want Revenge. He may not be 100 percent tight for the San Diego, but 1 1/16 miles should be right in his wheel house.

The Bottom Line: I'll be putting win money on KELLY LEAK while boxing him in exactas with INFORMED and WELL ARMED, the likely heavy favorite.

Horseplayer PRO Alerts - live "horses to watch" e-mailed to your inbox every morning. This service is a simulcast player's dream. For a free one-week trial, e-mail us at staff@horseplayerpro.com.


Get more handicapping picks, analysis and tools at Horseplayerpro.com!

In addition to being a longtime contributing writer to ESPN.com's Horse Racing section, Jeremy Plonk is the editor of The HorsePlayer Magazine.