Breeders' Cup - At The Races

In profile: Catalina Cruiser

    Catalina Cruiser is the Dirt Mile hot favourite for John Sadler but his form is open to question.


Catalina Cruiser
  • Trainer: John Sadler
  • Likely Jockey: Drayden Van Dyke
  • Owner: Hronis Racing
  • Age & Breeding: 4yo c; Union Rags—Sea Gull (Mineshaft)
  • Season Form Figures: 1111
  • Career Highlight: Back-to-back wins at Del Mar this summer in the Grade 2 San Diego and the Grade 2 Pat O’Brien

By Peter Fornatale

Catalina Cruiser was outstanding when first seen at Santa Anita in the fall of 2017, winning a maiden in a fashion that impressed by the eyes and figure makers. His subsequent races have only confirmed the impression he made on debut as he’s produced three more open length, big figure victories. In an allowance race in May at Santa Anita, he was imperious in victory against an overmatched field. His reappearance at Del Mar in the San Diego was strong once again as he buried a Grade 2 field (albeit a weak one) with a 107 Beyer Speed Figure. Later that meet they cut him back to seven furlongs – signaling intent to tackle the Dirt Mile rather than the Classic – and he crushed once again, winning by more than seven with a 103 figure, vanquishing last year’s Dirt Mile winner, Battle of Midway, in the process.

There are a few questions that come to mind when looking at Catalina Cruiser’s form. One prominent one involves the choice of races: why the Dirt Mile and not the Classic? On breeding, he’d be a candidate to get 10 furlongs, being by a Belmont winner and out of a well-bred dam by distance sire Mineshaft. The answer is easy, however: they are going for this race because he runs for the same connections as Accelerate, the Classic’s ante-post favorite.

It's also reasonable to wonder about the two big layoffs since his career started. He apparently had a minor knee issue after the maiden win and connections have acknowledged they’ve had to be patient with him, not least because he’s a very large horse. In fact, initial plans for him were to be even more conservative. The reason he went to the San Diego in July was that an allowance race didn’t fill. At that point, Salder and the owners chose to scratch two other horses (favored Accelerate and Curlin Rules) from the San Diego and it was show time for Catalina Cruiser.

In his stakes races he’s been able to boss the pace against overmatched competition. Even the appearance of Battle of Midway in his form isn’t quite as impressive as it looks in that this was Battle of Midway after a failed attempt at stud this season. Who knows what’s left there? But that all said, the figures are strong, he’s been handled with great care, and he’s won these races easily and while looking relaxed.

The final concern was also mentioned in the Accelerate profile. Sadler, as good as he is, has not yet proven adept at shipping to other major jurisdictions. Then there’s the fact that he’s 0 for 41 at the Breeders’ Cup. It’s notable, however, that his business model over the last few years has switched to one of quality over quantity. Throw in the inherent randomness in stats like these, and there’s no reason to think Catalina Cruiser can’t win because of a couple of stats.

He's currently priced at 2-1 or as low as 6-4, and at those odds he can’t be backed with much enthusiasm given the attendant questions. However, he is certainly a strong contender. At these prices, he’s neither a back nor a lay but simply a hold. And presumably there will be better value elsewhere.