March 31, 2023

Catalina Cruiser to be heavily favored in San Diego title defense

Catalina Cruiser winning the 2018 San Diego Handicap (Benoit Photos)

Catalina Cruiser opened 2019 with a solid performance in the 6 ½-furlong True North (G2) at Belmont Park, rallying determinedly to post a half-length decision, and the five-year-old chestnut looks poised to add a second consecutive edition of Saturday’s $200,000 San Diego H. (G2) at Del Mar. The Hronis Racing colorbearer will be a prohibitive favorite over five rivals in the 1 1/16-mile race.

A lightly-raced son of Union Rags, Catalina Cruiser showed a keen affinity for the seaside track last year. He easily handled the jump to stakes competition and stretch out to two turns in the San Diego, romping by 6 ¾ lengths and registering a 108 BRIS Speed rating, and followed with a scintillating 7 ¼-length triumph in the seven-furlong Pat O’Brien (G2). The John Sadler trainee earned a 105 BRIS Speed figure last out and retains the services of Joel Rosario.

The San Diego serves as a prep for Del Mar’s centerpiece event, the $1 million Pacific Classic (G1) on August 17, a race Hronis Racing/Sadler/Rosario won last year with champion Accelerate.

Grade 3 winner Core Beliefs returned from a five-month layoff to capture the New Orleans (G2) at Fair Grounds and should appreciate the cutback in distance after a well-beaten sixth in the 1 ¼-mile Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1). The four-year-old Quality Road will add blinkers and Flavien Prat retakes the mount for Peter Eurton.

Eurton will also send out Draft Pick, a Grade 3 winner last summer who opened his four-year-old campaign with an allowance tally at Santa Anita five weeks ago. Martin Garcia rides. Grade 2 victor Dr. Dorr will stretch back out in distance for Bob Baffert after placing in a couple of graded sprints and Rafael Bejarano picks up the assignment. Completing the field are Higher Power, a last-out turf allowance winner; and outsider Mongolian Groom, who did manage to finish third at 53-1 odds in the Santa Anita H. (G1) earlier this year.

Later on the program, 10 sophomore fillies will square off in the $200,000 San Clemente (G2) over a grassy mile. Mucho Unusual, who made her turf bow a winning one in the restricted California Cup Oaks two back, will seek to improve to three-for-three on turf for Tim Yakteen. Her rivals include Senorita (G3) winner Maxim Rate; and stakes-winning Stillwater Cove, who ships east for Wesley Ward following a fourth as the favorite in the Soaring Softly (G3) at Belmont.

The $85,000 Daisycutter, a five-furlong turf sprint for distaffers, is also part of the 10-race card and five-time stakes queen S Y Sky rates as the one to beat among 10 entrants. The five-time stakes queen exits a win in the off-the-turf Monrovia (G3) in late May.