When trainer John Sadler and Hronis Racing opted to scratch their other two entrants–including MGISW and defending champion Accelerate (Lookin At Lucky)–in Saturday’s GII San Diego H., that was probably a pretty good sign that they liked their chances with lightly raced Catalina Cruiser (Union Rags). A debut winner sprinting at Santa Anita last October, the $370,000 KEESEP yearling returned to the races a convincing optional claiming victor back over the same May 19, earning a solid 107 Beyer Speed Figure in the process. He hadn’t tried two turns yet, or faced a field anywhere close to this caliber, and the talented Bob Baffert-trained GSW Dr. Dorr (Lookin At Lucky) was drawn to his immediate outside, but none of that stopped the bettors from pounding the colt down to 6-5. That proved the smart money.

Quickly recovering from a slight bobble out of the inside gate, Catalina Cruiser seized the lead into the first bend and rated comfortably as Drayden Van Dyke sat quietly. Dr. Dorr applied token pressure through a half in :47.20, but Catalina Cruiser started to get away after six panels in 1:11.64. The race was over by the quarter pole, and the leader bounded clear with a few reminders from his pilot to run up the score to 6 3/4 lengths. Dr. Dorr and his stablemate Dabster (Curlin) rounded out the exacta and trifecta, respectively.

“He felt good all the way; nice and relaxed,” Van Dyke said. “He’s a super talented horse. I knew that right from the beginning. [Trainer] John [Sadler] said ‘ Just get him comfortable.’ He didn’t care if I was in front or coming from off it. I figured we’d be in front–as long as someone didn’t do something stupid. Then he really pulled me into that first turn and he was going easy from there. Big race for him.”

Sadler added, “The nickname of this horse around the barn is ‘The best horse nobody’s heard of.’ Today we changed it to ‘The next big thing.’ We’ve loved this horse from day one. He’s showed a lot of potential, but we’ve had to be patient with him. Today he showed us what we thought he could do. We’re not going to run two in the [GI TVG] Pacific Classic [S. Aug. 18]. We’re going to run one horse, to be determined. We’re going to see how these horses (Accelerate and Catalina Cruiser) train over the track and pull up.”

Pedigree Notes:

Catalina Cruiser is the seventh graded stakes winner for Union Rags and first out of an A.P. Indy line mare. Dam Sea Gull was a multiple winner over nine furlongs on the turf, and her graded stakes-winning son Eagle (Candy Ride {Arg}) scored his career best over the same distance on dirt. Eagle has an unraced 2-year-old full-sister named Royal Flag. Sea Gull produced a War Front filly last season but was barren when bred back to him.

SOURCE: TDN 7/21/18

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