Catalina Cruiser Wins Again in Pat O'Brien Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

August 26th, 2018

Four starts, four victories by a combined margin of 18 ½ lengths.

Fast times. Eye-catching speed figures. Just how good is Catalina Cruiser? There’s no telling at the moment. All we know is that he looked like a beast winning the 8.5-furlong San Diego Handicap (gr. II) last month, and he was just as impressive while cutting back to seven furlongs for the $200,000 Pat O’Brien Stakes (gr. II) last Saturday at Del Mar, dominating three rivals to win with breathtaking authority.

With Drayden Van Dyke in the saddle for trainer John Sadler, Catalina Cruiser assumed his customary position near the lead in the “Win and You’re In” prep race for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I), pressing the front-running longshot Threefiveindia through an opening quarter-mile in :22.23 seconds. Battle of Midway, making his much-anticipated first start since prevailing in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, stumbled a bit out of the starting gate but also found himself close to the pace while racing three-wide.

However, Catalina Cruiser didn’t humor his rivals for long. As the pace intensified through a :44.82 half-mile, the four-year-old son of Union Rags seized command and pulled away decisively when asked for his best. Sprinting down the homestretch, he passed the eighth pole in front by 3 ½ lengths and he only extended his advantage from there, powering to the finish line to ultimately prevail by 7 ¼ lengths in the solid time of 1:22.12, which translated to a 103 Beyer speed figure.
It was a tremendous performance, and one that has stamped Catalina Cruiser as the early favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, but let’s not overlook the solid effort turned in by Battle of Midway. The son of Smart Strike was bound to be a bit rusty while making his first start since last November, but despite his slow start, he pushed the fast pace and stayed on well in the homestretch to finish a clear second, 2 1/4 lengths in front of the late-running Vorticity.

The Pat O’Brien may have been a sprint, but Catalina Cruiser’s proven ability to win going longer means that the one-turn mile of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs should be perfect for him. In contrast, Battle of Midway—who finished third in the 2017 Kentucky Derby (gr. I)—has achieved most of his success going longer and around two turns, so although a defense of his Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile title could certainly be in the cards, it also wouldn’t come as a shock to see him target the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) instead.

In any case, the future looks bright for both colts!