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ELMONT, NY – Catalina Cruiser made a triumphant return to the races with a stirring stretch run to win the Grade 2, $250,000 True North on Friday at Belmont Park, one of five stakes races on the second day of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.
Sent off as the 9/5 favorite in a field of eight 4-year-olds and up, Catalina Cruiser broke near the back of the pack and settled into third place with Strike Power leading and Recruiting Ready in hot pursuit.
As the two dueled for the lead into the stretch, Catalina Cruiser, under Joel Rosario, closed with a flourish and won by a 1/2-length over Strike Power, with Recruiting Ready a nose back in third.
Hronis Racing’s Catalina Cruiser, a 5-year-old son of Union Rags, was making his first start of the year following an impressive 4-year-old season in which he won three in row, including a pair of Grade 2 wins at Del Mar, and then finished a disappointing sixth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs on November 3.
Given a long rest by trainer John Sadler, Catalina Cruiser was in fine form once he got rolling after the start. Strike Power set the pace throughout, clicking off fractions of 22.38 seconds for the first quarter and 44.96 for the half mile. Catalina Cruiser’s winning time for 6 1/2 furlongs was 1:14.85 on the fast main track, just .39 seconds off the track record.
“He’s a horse that wants to win,” said Rosario, aboard Catalina Cruiser for the first time. “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.”
With the victory, Catalina Cruiser improved his career record to five wins in six starts. Bred in Kentucky by W. S. Farish’s Lane’s End Farm, Catalina Cruiser earned $137,500 for the win to boost his career total to $451,100. He paid $5.60 to win.
Nicodemus finished fourth, followed by Stan the Man, Gold for the King, Mr. Dougie Fresh, and Whitmore. Do Share was a late scratch.
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