Scratched down to a field of five on Saturday, the G2 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar nevertheless saw a strong performance from Hronis Racing's Catalina Cruiser. The 4-year-old Union Rags colt led throughout for trainer John Sadler, crossing the wire 6 3/4 lengths ahead of his nearest rival. Off as the 6-5 favorite under jockey Drayden Van Duke, Catalina Cruiser covered 1 1/16 miles over the fast main track in 1:42.95.
“The nickname of this horse around the barn is 'The best horse nobody's heard of.'” said Sadler. “Today we changed it to 'the next big thing.' We've loved this horse from day one. He's showed a lot of potential, but we've had to be patient with him. Today he showed us what we thought he could do. We're not going to run two in the Pacific Classic. We're going to run one horse to be determined. We're going to see how these horses (Accelerate, Catalina Cruiser) train over the track and pull up.”
The expected morning-line favorite, Accelerate, owned and trained by the same connections as the winner, was scratched in favor of a possible next start on the east coast.
Catalina Cruiser took command shortly after the start of the mile and one-sixteenth race, rated comfortably on the lead and drew off impressively when asked in the stretch, scoring by six and three-quarter lengths. Dr. Dorr, who pressed the pace throughout, held second, a length and three-quarters in front of Dabster, with Two Thirty Five fourth in the field of five older Thoroughbreds. Harlan Punch completed the field.
“He felt good all the way; nice and relaxed,” said Van Dyke. “He's a super talented horse. I knew that right from the beginning. John (trainer John Sadler) said 'Just get him comfortable.' He didn't care if I was in front or coming from off it. I figured we'd be in front – as long as someone didn't do something stupid. Then he really pulled me into that first turn and he was going easy from there. Big race for him.”
Bred in Kentucky by W.S. Farish, Catalina Cruiser was a $370,000 yearling purchase at the Keeneland September sale. Undefeated in three career starts, the colt has earned $183,600.
The winner returned $4.60, $2.80 and $2.40. He carried 115 pounds. Runner-up Dr. Dorr paid $3.40 and $2.60, while Dabster returned $2.60 to show.
The San Diego Handicap is the major steppingstone to the Grade I $1 million TVG Pacific Classic which will be run Saturday, August 18 at a mile and one-quarter.
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