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Aaron previews the 2022 Pat O’Brien Stakes (G2) at Del Mar, then gives his top picks and longshots for this “Win & You’re In” for the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1). Trainer Bill Mott sends Grade 1 winner Speaker’s Corner west after game defeats to Flightline and Life Is Good in his past 2 starts, but is he a lock to win? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
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The track press release:
There’s a new shooter in California this weekend and he’s packing some impressive numbers for Saturday’s G2 Pat O’Brien at Del Mar, a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race for the Dirt Mile to be run at Keeneland November 5.
Speaker’s Corner has gone up against the likes of Flightline, Life Is Good and Hot Rod Charlie and always gives a good account of himself. Amy Mullin, assistant trainer for Bill Mott, says they arrived Tuesday.
“He shipped in great,” Mullin says. “He paddock schooled today (Thursday) and galloped yesterday and today and he’s been going well.”
The son of Street Sense began the year with three straight wins, starting with the G3 Fred Hooper at Gulfstream Park and followed by the G2 Gulfstream Park Mile, which he won by five lengths. He then shipped up to New York and took the seven furlong G1 Carter at Aqueduct by four and a half lengths. The Pat O’Brien is run at the same distance.
Buoyed by the success, trainer Bill Mott stayed in Grade 1 company and went toe-to-toe with Flightline in the G1 Metropolitan Mile at Belmont Park. He finished third behind the favorite and Happy Saver. Not to be deterred, Mott brought Speaker’s Corner back in the G2 John Nerud only to catch another Horse of the Year candidate in Life Is Good.
Speaker’s Corner actually hung with the favorite until the two reached the top of the lane and Life is Good shifted into another gear, leaving Speaker’s Corner in his wake. He did, however, hold off Repo Rocks for second place. The John Nerud was also seven furlongs.
“He’s very good on the ground and very easy to be around, for the most part,” Mullin says, “but he is always ready to go on the track.”
Now Mott has shipped his speedball out west seeking the Breeders’ Cup invitation and more black type on the resume. It won’t come easy.
American Theorem, a son of American Pharoah, comes into the race off back-to-back graded stakes victories, the G2 Triple Bend at Santa Anita in May and the G1 Bing Crosby at Del Mar last month.
There is a former winner of the Pat O’Brien in the race. C Z Rocket won it in 2020 when he defeated the likes of Flagstaff and Law Abidin Citizen. The now 8-year-old son of City Zip would go on to run second to Whitmore in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint that year.
C Z Rocket has run twice against allowance company this year and is coming off a smart win at Del Mar on opening weekend.
“He’s doing very well,” trainer Peter Miller says. “He’s going to need to work out a trip from the rail, that’s the key. Let’s see if the old man’s got a few more good ones left in him.”
C Z Rocket had good form in 2021, finishing in the money in six of his seven races, winning $620,000 and avenging the loss to Whitmore in the G3 Count Fleet at Oaklawn Park. Miller brought C Z Rocket back to Del Mar to defend his title in last year’s edition of the Pat O’Brien and he ran second to Ginobili.
“He’s probably lost a step,” Miller concedes, “but if it’s only one then we’re okay. If it’s two or three we might be in trouble.
Miller also will run Get Her Number, runner-up last out in the G1 Bing Crosby.
“He’s coming up the right way,” Miller says. “He’s a younger horse, he’s half the age of C Z. Getting better and we think he has a big chance on Saturday.”
Here’s the field for the G2 Pat O’Brien from the rail with jockeys: C Z Rocket (Umberto Rispoli); Principe Carlo (Victor Espinoza); Restrainedvengence (Tiago Pereira); American Theorem (Joe Bravo); Get Her Number (Ramon Vazquez); The Chosen Vron (Hector Berrios); Laurel River (Juan Hernandez); Speaker’s Corner (Mike Smith); Defunded (Abel Cedillo), and Senor Buscador (Edwin Maldonado).
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