Saturday’s $200,000 Pat O’Brien (G2) at Del Mar is a “Win & You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge race for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), but could be confused for a Breeders’ Cup race itself.
“Three Grade 1 winners, a Grade 2 winner and two Breeders’ Cup winners on this track – in the past year,” noted Dan Ward, an assistant to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.
Team Hollendorfer has chosen a tough spot to bring Battle of Midway back in. Retired after scoring in last year’s Dirt Mile at Del Mar, Battle of Midway was found to be sub-fertile and returned to training. Though two-for-two over the Del Mar strip, Battle of Midway has his work cut out having not raced since November 3.
“We’re not in there to play around,” Ward said. “It was either that or don’t run (for a long time) and we’re ready to run. But what a field.”
Indeed. The likely favorite, Catalina Cruiser, has but three career starts behind him, but his 6 3/4-length domination of last month’s San Diego H. (G2) marked him as potentially one of the leading older horses in the country. However, trainer John Sadler also conditions division leader Accelerate, and will purposely keep the two separated through Breeders’ Cup Day with the latter his Classic (G1) hopeful.
Reigning champion male sprinter Roy H, presumably a long-term candidate for a repeat bid in the TwinSpires.com Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1), could strip fitter following a second-place effort to Ransom the Moon in last month’s Bing Crosby (G1) in his first start since March.
Now a back-to-back winner of the six-furlong Bing Crosby, Ransom the Moon will look to make it three wins from four starts on Del Mar’s main track in the seven-furlong Pat O’Brien. He retains the services of jockey Flavien Prat, who had also been the regular rider of Battle of Midway.
The field also includes Grade 2-winning veteran St. Joe Bay, a likely pacesetter who weakened to fifth in the Bing Crosby. Horse Greedy, Threefiveindia, and Vorticity complete the field.