Catalina Cruiser likely to return on Belmont Stakes weekend

May 21, 2019 10:47am
Trainer John Sadler has a "huge" Memorial Day ahead with Gift Box headlining the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1), Catapult representing the barn in the Shoemaker Mile (G1) and a newcomer to Sadler's care, Ollie's Candy, going in the Gamely (G1).

One other big name, however, is likely to wait for his next race.

Sadler said Tuesday he's leaning toward one more workout with come-backing Catalina Cruiser, then a trip to New York on Belmont Stakes weekend for the June 7 True North (G2) at 6 1/2 furlongs. The local option, Santa Anita Park's 7-furlong Triple Bend (G2), runs Saturday.

“He looks really good," Sadler said of Catalina Cruiser, a 5-year-old by Union Rags who last appeared in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. "He had a beautiful work yesterday. I think he’s going to be a really exciting horse for us again this year.”

The Dirt Mile marked the lightly raced charge's first defeat in five starts. Before that, he won Del Mar's San Diego Handicap (G2) and Pat O'Brien Stakes (G2 with ease.

There was no major issue exiting the loss, but "he lit up a few places on the MRI," Sadler said. The trainer added: "He just needed some time off, and then I gave him some extra time — kind of the old school way. Take the winter off and wait for the second half of the year.”

Beyond the True North, Sadler will point to a defense of the 1 1/16-mile San Diego on July 20 as Catalina Cruiser stretches back out. The barn has Kona Gold (G2) winner Cistron for the Triple Bend assuming Catalina Cruiser waits for his New York trip.

Last year, plans called for Catalina Cruiser to supplant champion Accelerate as the big handicap horse for principal client Hronis Racing upon Accelerate's retirement. But then Sadler and Hronis Racing privately purchased Gift Box, who is 2-for-2 on the West Coast and the last out winner of the Santa Anita Handicap (G1).

“That’s going to be the really interesting part going forward," Sadler said of Catalina Cruiser's preferred distance. "'We don’t know' is the answer.”

Looking beyond the Memorial Day card, Sadler is also anticipating the return of 3-year-old Nolo Contesto, another Hronis Racing runner who finished fourth last time in the Santa Anita Derby (G1). The trainer said his horse, a ridgling, has since had an undescended testicle removed.

"He's back 
 probably on the (work) tab this week  and looks like a monster," Sadler said. "He's going to have some redemption."

The 1 1/16-mile Affirmed (G3) is a possibility on June 16.


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