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Pat O’Brien Preview: C Z Rocket Ready to Fire
C Z Rocket winning recently at Keeneland (Credit: Coady Photography)

Pat O’Brien Preview: C Z Rocket Ready to Fire

DEL MAR, CA – Tom Kagele’s recent claim C Z Rocket is ready to fire on the biggest stage yet for his new connections in Saturday’s $150,000 Pat O’Brien Stakes (G2) at Del Mar.

The winner of the Pat O’Brien will receive an automatic position in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile (G1) this fall at Keeneland. Pre-entry and entry fees will be paid and a nominator award of $10,000 will be given to the nominating person. Also, all Breeders’ Cup starters based outside of the state of Kentucky will receive a travel allowance of $10,000 if based in North America and $40,000 if based Internationally.

The Pat O’Brien is a 7-furlong dirt sprint open to horses ages 3 and up. The 2020 edition attracted a diverse group of eight runners ranging from recent maiden-breakers to a former champion of the event.

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Let’s look at the full field:

#1 Law Abidin Citizen – The versatile veteran counts Grade 3 stakes wins on both dirt and turf as part of his 27-7-4-5 career record. While he’s yet to find success at Del Mar or while covering 7 furlongs, jockey Abel Cedillo has piloted him through 2 wins from 4 mounts and they were third in the local Bing Crosby Stakes (G1) last time out.

#2 P R Radio Star – He’s undefeated since his connections claimed him for $25k in mid-June and shipped him to Del Mar, where he’s twice defeated optional claiming rivals. Those were perhaps the best efforts of his career, a good sign as he attempts to win his first start beyond 6 1/2 furlongs after failing to do so in his past 4 tries.

#3 Manhattan Up – He returns as a first-time gelding after spending five months on the bench following an empty effort in the San Carlos Stakes (G2). He posted back-to-back career-best efforts in his 2 starts before then and has won at this distance in the past, plus trainer Phil Oviedo and jockey Tiago Pereira have teamed up to win 6 of their past 25 mounts together.

#4 Flagstaff – He’s developed into one of the west coast’s top dirt sprinters, putting together a 6-2-2-1 record at the stakes level. Trainer John Sadler and co-owner Hronis Racing won the past two editions with Catalina Cruiser and jockey Victor Espinoza has won six – more than any other rider in the race’s history.

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#5 C Z Rocket – Like P R Radio Star, he’s also unbeaten since getting claimed earlier this year, when his connections tagged him for $40k and saw him successfully climb the ladder back to the graded stakes ranks. While this marks his Del Mar debut, Peter Miller leads all trainers with 18 wins at the current meet and Flavien Prat is second (34) among jockeys.

#6 Vertical Threat – The field’s lone sophomore may scratch out in favor of the Pat Day Mile (G2) on the Kentucky Derby (G1) undercard. He stands a god a chance as anyone if he runs – he won the 6-furlong Smiling Tiger Stakes over the local course last month, and since 2019, trainer Richard Baltas and jockey Heriberto Figueroa click at a 17% rate together with a positive ROI.

#7 Giant Expectations – He won this race in 2017 to earn his first of three straight trips to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, where he finished sixth, then fifth, then tenth. Though unraced since last year’s World Championships in early November, he was a game second in the 2019 Pat O’Brien, missing by just a head, and the meet’s leading rider Umberto Rispoli will ride.

#8 Blameitonthelaw – Though he enters the race still seeking his first victory in 2020, jockey Drayden Van Dyke and trainer Ron Ellis are currently firing at a 31% clip at Del Mar since 2019. Additionally, Ellis has enjoyed success in the Pat O’Brien more than once: he won the very first running in 1986 and took home his second title in 2016.

The Pat O’Brien serves as race 10 and is the lone stakes on the Saturday card at Del Mar. The American-based Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” events continue over Labor Day Weekend at Churchill Downs with the Pocahontas (Juvenile Fillies) on September 3 and the Iroquois Presented by Ford (TVG Juvenile Presented by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance) on September 5.

The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series is presented by America’s Best Racing.

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