(Trainer John Sadler has Catalina Cruiser ready / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

From the Del Mar Media Team:


The San Diego Handicap and Pat O’Brien Stakes would seem an odd couple of events for a horse to undertake, let alone win, in any summer meeting.

The San Diego Handicap is around two turns, 1 1/16th miles and serves as the major prep for the TVG Pacific Classic. The Pat O’Brien is seven furlongs, around one turn, and the finale of the meeting’s two major sprint races.

There’s enough difference between the two that before last year only one horse, Fed Biz, had won both – the O’Brien in 2013 and the San Diego the following year.

Then along came Hronis Racing’s Catalina Cruiser to do the double in the same year. Trained by John Sadler and ridden by Drayden Van Dyke, the chestnut son of Union Rags cruised to a wire-to-wire 6 3/4 –length victory in the San Diego as a stand-in for Accelerate while his stablemate was saved for a record-breaking 12 ½-length romp in the TVG Pacific Classic.  A month after the San Diego, Catalina Cruiser powered to a 7 ¼-length win in the O’Brien.

Back for his 5-year-old season, Catalina Cruiser won the Grade II, 6 ½-furlong True North Stakes at Belmont Park in June and repeated as the San Diego Handicap champ on July 20.

Catalina Cruiser was nominated for the TVG Pacific Classic. But Sadler figured he had the horsepower, in Higher Power, for a second straight win in the $1 million event. And last Saturday, Sadler was proven correct.

And Sadler’s confidence in Catalina Cruiser, who will break from the outside post No. 7 in Saturday’s 34th running of the O’Brien – a qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November at Santa Anita – couldn’t be higher.

“Needless to say he got a very good draw,” Sadler said Thursday. “At seven-eighths you couldn’t get a better post and he looks very strong to me. We thought all along that either this race or the Forego (at Saratoga) was a better fit for him than the mile and a quarter (of the Pacific Classic).

“We were a little concerned the way he came out of his last race, he was a little bit tired, so the timing and distance of the O’Brien is better, and we’re doing what’s best for the horse.”

The field from the rail: Lieutenant Dan (Abel Cedillo, 20-1), Chief Cicatriz (Ruben Fuentes, 20-1), Jalen Journey (Norberto Arroyo, Jr., 5-1), Giant Expectations (Drayden Van Dyke, 7-2), Seven Trumpets  (Victor Espinoza, 15-1), American Anthem (Rafael Bejarano, 4-1) and Catalina Cruiser (Flavien Prat, 4-5).


Lightly-raced King Jack and Triple Crown series experienced Improbable were closely-listed as the top choices on oddsmaker Russ Hudak’s morning line for Sunday’s $100,000 Shared Belief Stakes.

King Jack, undefeated in two starts, drew the No. 3 post and was listed at 8-5. Improbable drew the outside No. 6 post and was the even-money favorite.

Run as the El Cajon Stakes from 1973-2015 before being renamed for the 2014 TVG Pacific Classic winner the one-mile test for 3-year-olds will be presented for the 45th time. Shared Belief was trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, who now conditions King Jack.

Won in the recent past by standouts like Fed Biz (2012), Accelerate (2016), Battle of Midway (2017) and Tatters to Riches (2018), the Bob Baffert-trained Improbable will be making his first start since competing in the first two legs of the Triple Crown and going off as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby.

“We’re looking to bring him back, he’s been away awhile,” Baffert said. “Jerry’s horse is going to be tough in there.”

Trainers of other horses in the race are well aware the task is formidable.

“Improbable towers over the field, there’s no question about that,” said Craig Lewis, who trains Seven Scents. “We don’t want to run against the Kentucky Derby favorite but there’s no other races for him right now. We’ve got some, not many, but some later options that we might look into.”

The field from the rail: Street Class (Ruben Fuentes, 20-1), Seven Scents (Jorge Velez, 20-1), King Jack (Mike Smith, 8-5), Stubbins (Doug O’Neill, 10-1), Lieutenant Dan (Abel Cedillo, 4-1) and Improbable (Drayden Van Dyke, 1-1).


Bulletproof One will try to stretch her career-starting winning streak to four when she takes on eight rivals in Wednesday’s featured $100,000 Generous Portion Stakes for California-bred 2-year-old fillies.

Trained by Peter Miller, the daughter of Idiot Proof – privately purchased before the meeting by Gary Barber, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Wachtel Stable – has won three starts by a combined 23 ½ lengths. The most recent was a wire-to-wire 6 ¼-length score under Norberto Arroyo, Jr., in the $100,000 CTBA Stakes here on July 31.

Meet-leading rider Flavien Prat will be in the irons on Sunday.

“She’s looking just as good as the last time and hopefully a little better,” Miller said Friday morning.

The field from the rail: Wise Rachel (Joe Talamo), Vegan (Mario Gutierrez), Roses For Laura (Geovanni Franco), Unchain Her Heart (Edwin Maldonado), Bulletproof One (Flavien Prat), I Want One (Abel Cedillo), Smiling Shirlee (Norberto Arroyo, Jr.), Been Studying Her (Mike Smith) and Cholula Lips (Rafael Bejarano).


Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith and Joe Talamo will be at Saratoga on Saturday for major assignments on the $4.6 million Travers Day card. Talamo will be aboard Mucho Gusto for trainer Bob Baffert in the $1 million Travers Stakes. Smith rides Midnight Bisou in the $700,000 Personal Ensign.

Del Mar-based trainer Phil D’Amato has sent Air Strike for the $500,000 Forego, which kicks off a run of seven straight stakes races, all with purses of $400,000 and up.

Mucho Gusto is 6-1 on the morning line with Tacitus the 5-2 favorite in the Travers. Midnight Bisou is a narrow 6-5 choice over 7-5 Elate in the Personal Ensign. Air Strike, ridden by Joel Rosario, is 15-1 in the Forego, where Mitole is the 4-5 morning line choice.

CLOSERS – Trainer Mark Glatt told the Daily Racing Form that Best Pal Stakes winner Collusion Illusion will most likely skip the Del Mar Futurity and return to the races late next month at Santa Anita…With the Del Mar Debutante just eight days away, and the Futurity 11, top 2-year-olds will be getting in final workouts in the next few days. Doug O’Neill said Fore Left will work for the Futurity on the weekend and Comical will work Saturday with Flavien Prat up. Peter Miller plans to work Wrecking Crew next Wednesday and could also enter recent winner Nucky in the Futurity. Miller also has Leucothea revving up for either the Debutante or a race at Saratoga. Schrodinger, recovered from a minor illness, is scheduled to work Monday…Selected works from 111 officially timed Friday morning: Achira (4f, :48.80), Restrainedvengence (4f, :49.40), Bellafina (5f, 1:01.40), Pas de Panique (5f, 1:01.60).



Jockey Standings

(Current Through Thursday, August 22, 2019 Inclusive)

Jockey Mts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% In-money% Money Won
Flavien Prat 109 32 11 16 29% 54% $2,320,041
Drayden Van Dyke 104 21 18 13 20% 50% $1,351,754
Rafael Bejarano 116 19 18 11 16% 41% $1,075,720
Abel Cedillo 105 17 15 16 16% 46% $775,847
Joseph Talamo 88 17 13 15 19% 51% $1,202,093
Ruben Fuentes 109 16 13 9 15% 35% $636,232
Victor Espinoza 67 11 12 9 16% 48% $799,421
Jorge Velez 76 10 16 6 13% 42% $404,278
Geovanni Franco 80 7 4 9 9% 25% $569,850
Mario Gutierrez 71 6 11 16 8% 46% $590,009


Trainer Standings

(Current Through Thursday, August 22, 2019 Inclusive)

Trainer Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% In-money% Money Won
Doug F. O’Neill 90 17 18 12 19% 52% $992,742
Richard Baltas 78 16 11 9 21% 46% $983,973
Peter Miller 58 14 8 12 24% 59% $749,782
Philip D’Amato 62 10 10 6 16% 42% $981,405
John W. Sadler 58 10 8 6 17% 41% $1,565,039
Mark Glatt 51 9 7 11 18% 53% $576,954
Bob Baffert 36 9 7 5 25% 58% $574,331
Robert B. Hess, Jr. 31 9 7 2 29% 58% $286,031
Brian J. Koriner 29 6 5 5 21% 55% $319,799
Jeff Mullins 23 5 8 2 22% 65% $304,153


Winning Favorites Report

(Current Through Thursday, August 22, 2019 Inclusive)

Winning favorites — 83 out of 218 — 38.07%

Winning favorites on dirt — 52 out of 129 — 40.31%

Winning favorites on turf — 31 out of 89 — 34.83%

Winning odds-on favorites — 21 out of 44 — 47.73%

In-the-Money favorites — 154 out of 218 — 70.64%

In-the-Money odds-on favorites — 37 out of 44 — 84.09%