Off as the 1-9 favorite in a field scratched down to four starters, Hronis Racing's Catalina Cruiser lived up to his name in Saturday's Grade 2 Pat O'Brien Stakes at Del Mar. The 4-year-old son of Union Rags, ridden confidently by Drayden Van Dyke, took the lead mid-way down the backstretch and pulled away down the stretch to win by open lengths and remain undefeated. Trained by John Sadler, Catalina Cruiser earned an expenses-paid berth to the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, defeating last year's winner Battle of Midway (5-2) in the process.
“He's something,” said Van Dyke. “He came away from there well and he was rolling by the second jump. Once he gets going, he's a little hard to stop. As big as he is and as long as he strides, he's got good balance to him. He's professional. He goes about his business well. I knew what was going on out there today; I knew where I was with him and who he was running against. He is something. I said he was one of the best horses I've ever been on. He just might be the best. He's a cruiser, for sure.”
Scratched from the O'Brien were both G1 Bing Crosby winner Ransom the Moon and defending Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Roy H, as well as St. Joe Bay and Horse Greedy. Catalina Cruiser was heavily favored in the remaining four-horse field, and appeared confident throughout Saturday's contest.
He broke sharply for Van Dyke, initially tracking Three Five India down the backstretch before taking command at the rail. Battle of Midway broke awkwardly, but was quickly into stride to be third early. After fractions of :22.23 and :44.82, Threefiveindia gave way, leaving Catalina Cruiser with a one-length lead over Battle of Midway.
Catalina Cruiser never looked less than the winner in the stretch, bounding away when asked by Van Dyke to win by open lengths.
Battle of Midway tried hard rounding the turn, but was no match for Catalina Cruiser in his first start since November of 2017. The horse had been retired to stud at WinStar Farm, but was found to be infertile and returned to training. Vorticity finished third.
Bred in Kentucky by W. S. Farish out of the Mineshaft mare Sea Gull, Catalina Cruiser was a $370,000 yearling purchase at the Keeneland September sale. He remains undefeated with four wins from four starts, earning over $300,000.
“Right now the plan is to run Catalina Cruiser in the (Breeders' Cup) Dirt Mile and Accelerate in the Classic,” Sadler explained. “And hopefully, in January this horse in the Pegasus. He'll be a little more seasoned and mature by then. They chose to press him early today, they figured that was their best chance, but he looked good turning for home and you know he's going to finish because he's such a nice horse. “
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