Hronis Racing's Catalina Cruiser got the job done in Friday afternoon's Grade 2 True North Stakes, rebounding off-the-board finish in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile to best Strike Power by about a half length. The 5-year-old son of Union Rags was sent to post as the 8-5 favorite under jockey Joel Rosario, and completed the 6 1/2 furlongs over Belmont's fast main track in a stakes-record time of 1:14.85. A winner of five of his six lifetime starts, Catalina Cruiser is trained by John Sadler.
“He's a horse that wants to win,” said Rosario. “He wanted to win today. I was very confident in him. He's a nice horse. I just let him be where he wanted to be. He was always comfortable.”
Strike Power broke on top and led Recruiting Ready through a first quarter in :22.38, while Catalina Cruiser conversely left the gate a bit slowly. Rosario had room to run up the inside to improve his position down the backstretch, pushing up into a three-way tie for third position entering the far turn.
Entering the stretch run, Catalina Cruiser found room to angle to the outside. The horse pinned his ears flat against his head and dug in to overpower his dueling rivals in the final eighth of a mile, crossing the wire a determined half-length in front. Strike Power held second over Recruiting Ready, while Nicodemus got up late to finish fourth.
The 5-2 second choice Whitmore finished last in the eight-horse field, and Do Share was a vet scratch before the start of the race.
Bred in Kentucky by W. S. Farish, Catalina Cruiser was a $370,000 yearling at the Keeneland September sale. He broke his maiden at first asking late in his 3-year-old season, then won three back-to-back starts including a pair of graded stakes in Southern California. The horse finished sixth in the Breeders' Cup last fall, but made his 2019 debut a winning one in the True North to improve his overall earnings to over $450,000.
“He's been training really well and John [Sadler] has been really pleased with his workouts and he had enough confidence to send him out here and give him a run,” said Stephanie Hronis. “The Breeders' Cup race was tough, but sometimes that happens when they just need a little break: rest and reset. That's where John Sadler is great. He's patient with the horses and he can back them up, shift the gears down a little bit, then build them back up again. This says a lot for [Catalina Cruiser] to travel and run as well as he did.”
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