Catalina Cruiser, now 7-for-8, defends San Diego Handicap title

July 20, 2019 07:49pm
Catalina Cruiser, now 7-for-8, defends San Diego Handicap title
Photo: Benoit Photo

Catalina Cruiser was pushed Saturday in a four-horse field at Del Mar but had enough to score a gate-to-wire win in the Grade 2, $200,000 San Diego Handicap.

The 5-year-old son of Union Rags now has seven wins in eight lifetime starts, including five in Grade 2 company. Saturday marked Catalina Cruiser’s second straight San Diego Handicap victory.

Under jockey Joel Rosario, Catalina Cruiser broke to the lead from the No. 1 post and set fractions of :24.52, :49.94 and 1:13.04 as the 1-9 favorite in the 1 1/16-mile dirt feature.

Catalina Cruiser’s three rivals pressed him throughout, and runner-up Mongolian Groom charged late from the middle of the track. The John Sadler trainee had just enough left in the tank to hang on and win by a length, crossing in 1:44.2.

“He’s almost an undefeated horse,” Sadler said of Catalina Cruiser, whose only career loss came last November in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

“He’s a beautiful horse, one of the best-looking horses in training. He can really run. We’re just thrilled with him.”

The San Diego Handicap is a prep for Del Mar’s premier event, the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic (G1) on Aug. 17. That race is a Breeders’ Cup Classic “Win and You’re In” qualifier.

Catalina Cruiser bypassed the Pacific Classic last year, which was won by now-retired stablemate Accelerate, instead winning Del Mar’s Pat O’Brien Stakes (G2).

Kosta Hronis of ownership group Hronis Racing said connections haven’t yet decided which race Catalina Cruiser will point to next.

“This is always a target on the calendar at the beginning of the year,” Hronis said of the San Diego Handicap. “We’re really happy.

“Coming in here 1-9, that’s really hard. You want to be 1-9 but it’s really hard to be 1-9. It was a great race. It was just what we were looking for.”

 

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