Catalina Cruiser © Benoit Photo
FIVE TO FACE CATALINA CRUISER IN SAN DIEGO HANDICAP
Hronis Racing’s Catalina Cruiser, primed for his title defense in Saturday’s Grade II $200,000 San Diego Handicap will face five challengers in the 1 1/16-mile event that is the main stepping stone to the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic on August 17.
“We had him (Catalina Cruiser) out this morning, he’s looking good and we’re excited to have him running here again,” trainer John Sadler said early Wednesday morning.
Post positions were to be drawn in the afternoon, but the field beyond Catalina Cruiser will consist of, alphabetically, Core Beliefs, Dr. Dorr, Draft Pick, Higher Power and Mongolian Groom.
Catalina Cruiser won the 2018 San Diego as a stand-in for stablemate Accelerate then came back to take the Pat O’Brien Stakes to secure the Top Sprinter title of the meet and set his Del Mar record at 2-0. The chestnut 5-year-old son of Union Rags made his 2019 debut with a stretch-rallying win in the True North Handicap on June 7 and has had four workouts since then at Santa Anita.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, whose only San Diego Handicap win came with Fed Biz in 2014, nominated standouts American Anthem, McKinzie and Dr. Dorr to the race and opted to go with Dr. Dorr somewhat surprisingly after sending both McKinzie and Dr. Dorr through workouts Wednesday morning.
McKinzie, second in the Met Mile at Belmont on June 8, went five furlongs in a bullet :59 flat under Joe Talamo. Del Mar clockers had McKinzie galloping out to six furlongs in 1:12.0. Dr. Dorr went four furlongs in a bullet :47.20 under Drayden Van Dyke.
Dr. Dorr, owned by Baffert’s wife Jill, has five wins from 17 career starts and earnings of $512,320. The 6-year-old gelded son of Lookin At Lucky chased Catalina Cruiser home in last year’s San Diego, finishing 6 ¾ lengths behind.
In Saturday’s other major stakes, the Grade II $200,000 San Clemente Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, a field of nine was entered. In alphabetical order, with trainers in parentheses consists of: Apache Princess (J. Keith Desormeaux), Devil’s Dance (Craig Lewis), Harmless (R.B. Hess, Jr.,), Keeper Ofthe Stars (Jonathan Wong), Lady Prancealot (Richard Baltas), Maxim Rate (Simon Callaghan), Mucho Unusual (Tim Yakteen), Over Emphasize (Michael McCarthy), Seranitsa (Neil Drysdale) and Stillwater Cove (Wesley Ward).
MILLER AND VAN DYKE BACK TO DEFEND 2018 TRAINER, JOCKEY TITLES
Peter Miller, runaway winner of the 2018 summer training title, and Drayden Van Dyke, who won a hard-fought battle for the jockey crown from Flavien Prat, are back to face difficult challenges to repeat. Or, if you want to count fall meeting titles, fourpeat for Miller and threepeat for Van Dyke.
Miller, the 2017 fall champion before the 2018 sweep, said earlier this week that circumstances are quite different from the ones that enabled previous Del Mar successes.
“I’m really excited to be back,” Miller said earlier this week. “I only live 10 minutes from here and I’ve always had a lot of success, good memories and good times here since I was a kid. This is my Disneyland.
“But it does feel different this year. I’m not going to be as busy, not as active, and I’m not shooting for leading trainer or anything like that.”
Miller shipped one-third of his 75-horse stable to Kentucky during the trying times during the Santa Anita winter/spring meet and doesn’t have any plans for a mass return.
“That’s going to hurt our presence here, that’s reality,” Miller conceded. “So, I don’t think I can shoot to be leading trainer. Of course, I didn’t think I could last year either.”
Miller took the lead in the trainer standings early on and finished with 31 wins from 116 starters, 10 more wins than Doug O’Neill managed from 156 representatives.
Van Dyke, 24, notched his first Southern California riding title, 42-37 over Prat with a solid effort throughout the meeting and a strong finish after Prat incurred a suspension.
But 2019 has belonged to Prat. The 26-year-old native of France, thanks in large part to a victory by disqualification aboard Country House in the Kentucky Derby and an outright one aboard One Bad Boy for trainer Richard Baltas in the Queen’s Plate, first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, ranks seventh in the country with 90 wins from 389 starters and more than $9.4 million in purse earnings. Van Dyke ranks 23rd with 45 wins from 288 starts and more than $3.7 million in earnings.
“The Santa Anita meeting was a disaster for everyone, but because of the situation there we were able to travel more and score some big wins,” Derek Lawson, Prat’s agent said. “He became a father last November and it’s been gratifying to see how he’s matured as a result of that and handled everything that’s happened as professionally as he always has.”
WHERE ARE THEY NOW, UPDATING 2018 SUMMER CHAMPIONS
Accelerate, the Horse of the Meeting and Top Older Horse of the 2018 Del Mar summer, went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic and an Eclipse Award in the Older Male category. According to plan, the Pacific Classic champion made one final start in the Pegasus Cup in January before retiring to stud at Lane’s End Farm in Kentucky.
A rundown of the other 2018 summer season champions:
Older Filly or Mare Unique Bella – Retired in October to the Lexington, Ky., farm of owner Don Alberto Stables to begin career as a broodmare.
Sprinter Catalina Cruiser – Active; Won the True North Stakes in June at Belmont Park in his 2019 racing debut and is scheduled to defend his title in Saturday’s Grade II $200,000 San Diego Handicap after winning that race and the Pat O’Brien in 2018.
Grass Horse Catapult – 0-for-3 in 2019, all in Grade I Stakes, among them a nose loss to Ohio in the Kilroe Mile; Targeted to defend his title in Sunday’s Grade II $250,000 Eddie Read Stakes.
3-Year-Old Filly Fatale Bere – Retired to Japan after being sold for $700,000 late in 2018.
3-Year-Old Ride a Comet – Unraced since shipping in from the East for trainer Mark Casse to win the Del Mar Derby.
2-Year-Old Filly Bellafina – In the midst of a standout 3-year-old season, winning the Santa Anita Oaks and finishing fifth as the favorite in the Kentucky Oaks.
2-Year-Old Game Winner – Finished 2018 with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to become the early Kentucky Derby favorite and finished fifth in the wet-and-wild Run for the Roses; returned with an easy victory in the Los Alamitos Derby last Saturday and will train at Del Mar for a potential next start in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga.
AHIMSA FAVORED IN FIELD OF NINE FOR FRIDAY’S OSUNITAS STAKES
Ahimsa drew the inside post and was established as the 7-2 morning line favorite for Friday’s featured $85,000 Osunitas Stakes for California-bred fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the Jimmy Durante Turf Course.
Ahimsa, trained by Peter Eurton, will be making her third start of 2019 and first since a front-running third-place finish, beaten only 1 ½ lengths by Vasilika, in the Grade I Gamely at Santa Anita on May 27.
The field from the rail: Ahimsa (Brice Blanc, 7-2), Achira (Mario Gutierrez, 15-1), Paved (Ruben Fuentes, 9-2), Supercommittee (Edwin Maldonado, 6-1), Zaffinah (Rafael Bejarano, 5-1), Streak Of Luck (Mike Smith, 4-1), Ippodamia’s Girl (Norberto Arroyo, Jr., 5-1) Trustini (Aaron Gryder, 20-1) and Don’t Blame Judy (Victor Espinoza, 8-1).
The Osunitas goes as the seventh on an eight-race card for the first Four O’Clock Friday program of the meeting.
CLOSERS – A crowd of 44,907 filled the stands on opening day of the 2009 meeting, 10 years ago, then an on-track Del Mar record. It was topped in 2010, 2011 and 2012, with the 47,339 of 2012 standing as the current high mark …Selected works from 115 officially timed Wednesday morning: Dr. Dorr (4f, :47.20), McKinzie (5f, :59.00), Paradise Woods (5f, 1:01.60), Immediate Impact (6f, 1:13.00) … Immediate Impact is a half sister to champion Arrogate … Correction: Due to a mathematical error, Tuesday’s Stable Notes shorted today’s card by 20 entries. The correct figure is 101, not the 81 noted here.