Catalina Cruiser re-rallies to repeat in Del Mar's Pat O'Brien

August 24, 2019 08:35pm

Catalina Cruiser made it consecutive wins in the Grade 2, $200,000 Pat O'Brien Stakes, prevailing by a head after a thrilling stretch duel with 2017 Pat O'Brien winner Giant Expectations at Del Mar on Saturday.

Under new rider Flavien Prat, Catalina Cruiser pressed a contested pace of 22.13 and :44.52 set by longshot Chief Cicatriz while racing four wide. Meanwhile, Giant Expectations and Drayden Van Dyke were content to race in the back of the seven-horse field, but only about three lengths off the lead. 

Giant Expectations then ranged up to the outside of Catalina Cruiser when leaving the turn and looked like a winner when taking a short lead to the eighth pole reached in 1:09.36. However, Catalina Cruiser wasn't finished. The defending champion re-rallied in deep stretch and surged to the front to score his second graded stakes win at the current Del Mar Meet. 

Catalina Cruiser completed seven furlongs in 1:22.00 and paid $3.00 to win. Giant Expectations, who had been sidelined since May for trainer Peter Eurton, finished well clear of American Anthem for second. 

Winning trainer John Sadler told TVG following the race he was confident Catalina Cruiser would be able to battle back in the stretch.

"He is a big horse and he's got a lot of heart," Sadler said. "He's trained well for this race so I knew he'd fight."

Owned by Hronis Racing, Catalina Cruiser won the 1 1/16-mile San Diego Handicap (G2) at the start of the Del Mar meet, a traditional prep for the 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic (G1). Trainer John Sadler elected to skip Del Mar's signature race for this spot and it paid dividends.

The 5-year-old son of Union Rags earns a berth in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, which he ran sixth as the odds-on favorite in 2018. That effort was Catalina Cruiser's only loss in seven career starts. Meanwhile, the same connections won the Pacific Classic with Higher Power.

The Pat O'Brien was the eighth stakes win of the meet for Sadler and 75th all-time at Del Mar, which moves him ahead of Hall of Famer Charlie Whittingham (74) in third on the all-time list.

Sadler noted having a Breeders' Cup berth in the bag opens up options for Catalina Cruiser.

"It locks us into a good spot," Sadler said. "We'll get him up to Santa Anita and see if we want to run him one more time before the Breeders' Cup. I get a feeling this was a very fast race on the speed figures with a 22 on this track. Most races are 23 and 23 and high change.

"The other horse in second ran a great race, so you need to give him props too. But Catalina is just a special horse."


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