The racing world will have its eyes on Saratoga this Saturday, but the Grade 2, $200,000 Pat O’Brien Stakes at Del Mar might be the weekend’s most talented field. The race is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” event for the Dirt Mile and features last year’s Dirt Mile winner Battle of Midway. Also entered are the 2017 TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Roy H and the Del Mar specialist Ransom the Moon, who won the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes (a “Win and You’re In” for this year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint) here last time out. If that’s not enough, the event also features Catalina Cruiser, who is a perfect 3-for-3 in his young career after destroying his competition in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap last time out.
The winner of the Pat O’Brien will receive an automatic position in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile this fall at Churchill Downs. Pre-entry and entry fees will be paid and a nominator award of $10,000 will be given to the person who nominated the foal or racehorse. 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 Grade 2 Pat O’Brien will be the feature race on Saturday at Del Mar while also sharing the card with the $100,000 Shared Belief Stakes for 3-year-olds. The American-based Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” events continue next Saturday at Saratoga with the prestigious Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes for 2-year-old females. The race will serve as a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” for the 14 Hands Winery Juvenile Fillies Stakes.
Here is the full field from the rail out: Catalina Cruiser, Vorticity, Threefiveindia, Roy H, Ransom the Moon, Horse Greedy, St. Joe Bay, and Battle of Midway.
#1 Catalina Cruiser – This horse is currently all the rage after bursting onto the scene in a huge way for trainer John Sadler, who has three total entries in the race. Catalina Cruiser began his career with two blowout wins before trying stakes company last time out and flourishing in the San Diego. That win had many speculating that he could be the best horse in the country, but Sadler is taking a conservative approach. Instead of pointing for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, it looks as though the Dirt Mile is his goal, and accomplishing that begins here.
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#4 Roy H – Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion has had an up-and-down 2018 heading into this race. He started his year off with a win in the Grade 2 Palos Verdes Stakes and followed that up with a third-place effort in the Group 1 Golden Shaheen in Dubai. After some time off, he returned last time out in the Bing Crosby and finished second to Ransom the Moon. Perhaps he needed that race in a big way and will be ready to fire a huge effort here.
#5 Ransom the Moon – This horse loves Del Mar, which will make him ultra-tough in this spot. Last time out, he took home the Crosby for the second straight year while defeating some of the top horses in the sprint division, including Roy H. This very classy Phil D’Amato trainee is going to be competitive no matter where his connections spot him, as he has proven that he can run anywhere and at several different distances. Like always, he will be tough in this spot.
#8 Battle of Midway – Look who’s back! After winning the Dirt Mile last year, Battle of Midway was sent to the breeding shed, but he was found to be infertile and soon resumed training. Many speculated before his brief retirement that he would have been fantastic at age 4, but you have to wonder what his mindset will be after being out of training for so long. The talent is there, but will he mentally be ready to resume racing? That is the major question mark heading into the race, but we know that he loves Del Mar – he is an impressive 2-for-2 over this track.
#7 St. Joe Bay – Three races back, Sadler claimed this horse three starts back for $62,500 for Hronis Racing, and the 6-year-old gelding rewarded them immediately with a tremendous second in the Grade 2 San Carlos Stakes two races back. Races in his past had certainly suggested that he could compete with nearly anyone, but we had not seen that in quite some time. However, he looks to be back now, and if he can repeat his San Carlos effort, then he could be right there at the end in this one.
#6 Horse Greedy – On a similar note, Sadler claimed him for $40,000 for Hronis Racing. Since then, he put forth a nice third-place effort in the San Carlos at Santa Anita before an allowance/optional claiming victory at Del Mar. Hronis Racing is on fire lately with top quality horses like Accelerate and Catalina Cruiser, and this horse gives them another shot in a major race.
#2 Vorticity – This horse has shown flashes of talent in the past and returned off of a long layoff last time out to run fourth in an allowance race at Del Mar. He should be ready to fire an improved effort here with that race under his belt, and D’Amato is showing confidence in him by entering him in this tough spot.
#3 Threefiveindia – He makes his California debut in this race after shipping west to join D’Amato’s barn. He was last seen finishing seventh in March’s Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap at Aqueduct for trainer Chad Brown, but perhaps a change in scenery will do him well. He has been training well here leading up to this race.