La Jolla Handicap Odds, Field & Betting Prediction

There are questions to be answered in the G3 La Jolla Handicap, the highlight of Sunday afternoon at Del Mar, in which Preakness seventh Armagnac makes his debut on turf against the upgrading and in-form Sumter and the recently gelded G3-placed Cabo Spirit.

La Jolla Handicap

Grade 3, $150,000, 1m 1/16 turf, 3yo

The La Jolla is often a ‘Plan B’ race, an ideal opportunity for horses who failed to make it on the Triple Crown trail to try another angle, and Sunday’s feature at Del Mar is built firmly on that premise.

The latest high-profile runner to switch surface to the lawn – Wit narrowly missed at Saratoga on Friday, Ethereal Road tries his luck at the Spa on Saturday – is Armagnac, who cut out the early fractions in the G1 Preakness before dropping quickly away to finish seventh behind Early Voting.

An enthusiastic front-runner, he will be suited by the cutback in distance – he won a Santa Anita allowance optional claimer at a mile-sixteenth two starts ago – and is back in the care of Bob Baffert after three races with Tim Yakteen, although it remains to be seen how effective he is on turf.

That also applies to Perfect Flight, who switches from the main track after breaking his maiden at the fourth attempt at Churchill Downs. Not only is he an unknown quantity on this surface, but he also takes a huge rise in class.

We know what Sumter can do on the weeds, as he has never been out of the first two in five starts on turf since his debut on the main track. He is bidding for a four-timer here, stepping up in class after two wins in mile stakes at Santa Anita, most recently when going gate-to-wire and hanging on by a nose from recent stakes-winner Balnikhov. He and Armagnac may get locked into a duel on the front end, which could set the race up for a closer.

The versatile Cabo Spirit , who goes on dirt, synthetics and turf and has been gelded since his last start, finished a place ahead of Armagnac when fifth in the G2 San Felipe at Santa Anita in March, and was left a little too much to do when rallying into second spot in a mile-eighth stakes on turf at Santa Anita last time out (Balnikhov only fourth). He will enjoy having pace to run at, although he is zero-for-four at Graded level and needs to pull out a little more.

Brit’s Wit has never won above claiming grade and was a longshot fifth behind the aforementioned Balnikhov in a stakes here over a mile last month, which gives him plenty of ground to make up on Sumter and Cabo Spirit. A better option may be Stayincotai , an Irish import who won an AOC over course and distance on his debut Stateside and is worth a try up in class.

La Jolla Handicap Betting Prediction 

There are lines of form here that suggest CABO SPIRIT, who will be suited by the likely pace set-up, can finally make his breakthrough at Graded level.

ArmagnacFlorent Geroux+250
Stayincotai (IRE)Umberto Rispoli+600
Perfect FlightRamon A. Vazquez+800
SumterMike E. Smith+180
Cabo SpiritJoe Bravo+250
Brit’s WitDeclan Cannon+800

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