January 31, 2023

Catalina Cruiser holds for second consecutive San Diego

Catalina Cruiser and jockey Joel Rosario capture the San Diego Handicap (G2) at Del Mar on July 20, 2019 (c) Horsephotos.com/Cecilia Gustavsson

It wound up closer than expected, but Catalina Cruiser posted a repeat win in Saturday’s $200,000 San Diego H. (G2) at Del Mar. The 1-9 favorite dictated the action from the start and turned back a late challenge to score by a length.

From the same connections of 2018 champion and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate (owner Hronis Racing/trainer John Sadler/jockey Joel Rosario), Catalina Cruiser faced only three challengers as a pair of entrants were scratched including 4-1 morning line second choice Dr. Dorr. The five-year-old chestnut established slow fractions in :24.52, :48.94 and 1:13.04 while being closely pressed by Draft Pick and kicked away to one-length advantage entering the stretch.

Mongolian Groom, unplaced in his last three stakes attempts and the longest shot at 12-1, rallied to make it interesting in the latter stages but the winner had enough class to hold. Catalina Cruiser completed the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:44.20.

“I’m sure glad to be here today and especially to ride a nice horse like this,” Rosario said. “He was comfortable out there. He didn’t mind that horse next to him. When it came time to go, he just went ahead and did his job. He’s a pro.”

Now six-for-seven overall, Catalina Cruiser may have been a little short following a determined half-length win in the True North (G2) at Belmont Park six weeks earlier, his first start since November. The San Diego serves as a prep for the $1 million Pacific Classic (G1) on August 17 and connections probably wanted to save plenty for the main engagement.

“The objective of the other jockeys was obviously to press the pace but he was running smooth all the way,” Sadler said. “When you’re 1-to-9 there’s a lot of conversation about style points and things like that, but he was comfortable all the way. The fractions were slow, but this is not a fast track. We’ll check the speed figures and things and we’ll see how he comes out of it and decide whether to run in the Pacific Classic or not. We’ve got options.”

Catalina Cruiser improved to three-for-three at Del Mar, recording a 6 3/4-length tally in the San Diego and a 7 ¼-length win in the seven-furlong Pat O’Brien (G2) last year. His lone career setback was a sixth in the Breeders’ Dirt Mile (G1) at Churchill Downs two starts previously and the son of Union Rags has now earned $571,100,

Bred in Kentucky by Will Farish, Catalina Cruiser was purchased for $370,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale. He’s out of the Mineshaft mare Sea Gull and counts Grade 3 winner Eagle as a half-brother.