DEL MAR, CA – Trainer Peter Miller’s recent claim C Z Rocket emerged victorious from a three-horse stretch duel in Saturday’s $150,000 Pat O’Brien Stakes (G2) at Del Mar.
The Pat O’Brien is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with C Z Rocket receiving an automatic berth in the Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile at Keeneland this November.
Sent from post 5 as the even-money favorite under Flavien Prat, C Z Rocket settled into a stalking position while the rail-breaking Law Abidin Citizen went to the lead.
With P R Radio Star, Flagstaff, and C Z Rocket stacked behind him, Law Abidin Citizen posted opening fractions of :23.10 and :46.04 down the backstretch and through the far turn.
Flagstaff and C Z Rocket moved up while cornering and straightened for home flanking the pacesetter, but Law Abidin Citizen refused to give up without a fight.
The trio battled heads apart the length of the stretch, but C Z Rocket surged ahead in the late stages to win the 7-furlong fast dirt sprint by a 1/2-length in a final time of 1:22.25.
“We saw that he’d been breaking slow in his races, so we were prepared for that,” Prat said. “But he broke well today and we were right in the race, then the pace wasn’t that fast, so we were right there. When I asked him, he was good. He’s a willing horse.”
Law Abidin Citizen continued to fight gamely despite being buried on the inside and finished 3/4 of a length behind runner-up Flagstaff, who was attempting to give trainer John Sadler his third straight victory in the event.
Blameitonthelaw, Giant Expectations, Manhattan Up, and P R Radio Star completed the order of finish.
Vertical Threat was scratched, with his connections opting to compete in the Pat Day Mile Stakes (G2) on next Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (G1) undercard.
C Z Rocket’s win was his fourth from as many starts since Miller and owner Tom Kagele claimed him for $40,000 in April, and it followed a track record-breaking effort while covering 6 1/2 furlongs at Keeneland in mid-July. The Florida-bred 6-year-old City Zip gelding improved his overall record to 21-8-1-2 with $431,641 in career earnings.
“Tom Kagele actually called me (about claiming the horse) and I said, ‘His form is bad right now, but he’s a runner,’” Miller said. “You could see he had run some really fast races. I like old class horses that have shown talent. If you can get them going in the right direction, they can run back to past form. Tom claimed him and the rest is history.”
C Z Rocket returned $4.20 to win, $2.60 to place, and $2.20 to show. Flagstaff brought back $3 to place and $2.40 to show, while Law Abidin Citizen paid $3 to show.