One day after teaming up with budding star Catalina Cruiser in the San Diego H. (G2), trainer John Sadler and jockey Drayden Van Dyke nicked Del Mar’s Sunday feature, the $251,725 Eddie Read S. (G2), with Catapult. Only this time, the winner was overlooked at 21-1, the running style was different, and the finish was a lot tighter, of the whirlwind up-in-time variety befitting a turf race. Catapult deployed fast and late to cut down 3-1 favorite Sharp Samurai and pacesetter Prime Attraction, and thereby earned his first graded victory.
Owned by Woodford Racing and previously trained by Chad Brown, Catapult was transferred to the West Coast in preparation for his 2018 campaign. The son of Kitten’s Joy had been mixing it up creditably back East without managing to break through at a higher level. His lone stakes win had come in a minor event at Aqueduct during his sophomore season (the 2016 Gio Ponti), but he was beginning to get closer in graded company. After a series of fourths in the 2017 Tampa Bay S. (G3), Dixie (G2), and Poker (G3), Catapult was runner-up to then-stablemate Projected in the September 30 Baltimore/Washington International Turf Cup (G2). He resurfaced for Sadler in a June 17 allowance at Santa Anita, where he placed second to Sharp Samurai going a mile, and stepped up markedly second up over an extra furlong here.
Catapult was the only rival able to get involved in the virtual match race between Prime Attraction and Sharp Samurai, the top two for nearly the entire 1 1/8-mile circuit. Prime Attraction led through opening fractions of :23.75 and :47.65 on the firm turf, but Sharp Samurai drew level at the six-furlong split in 1:11.00, and put his head in front entering the stretch. Prime Attraction boxed on and threatened to regain the advantage, forcing Sharp Samurai to work all the harder to fend him off.
Meanwhile, Catapult had been switched off kindly in seventh. Van Dyke managed to shave off a bit of ground on the far turn, waiting to angle out down the lane, and that was likely the difference. With that assist from his rider, Catapult did the rest. The five-year-old quickened well inside the final furlong to collar Sharp Samurai by a neck in a sprightly 1:46.07 for 1 1/8 miles.
Prime Attraction was another head away in third, and Bowies Hero rallied for fourth. Multiplier, who attended the early leaders, was one-paced late in fifth. Next Shares was a non-threatening sixth, followed by Irish shipper True Valour, Fashion Business, Itsinthepost, and defending champion Hunt, uncharacteristically listless in last. Flamboyant was scratched.
Catapult’s new career high advanced his resume to 14-5-3-1, $501,384, also reflecting stakes placings in last year’s Danger’s Hour at Aqueduct and the 2016 English Channel at Belmont Park.
Bred by Breffni Farm in Kentucky, Catapult brought $235,000 as a “short” yearling at Keeneland January. Eight months later at the same firm’s September Yearling Sale, he went for $350,000.
Catapult is a half-brother to stakes winner Ha Ha Tonka and to the dam of current Gazebo scorer Bourne in Nixa. He is out of the Storm Cat mare Gata Bella, herself a half-sister to Grade 3-placed stakes vixen Zapper Belle, the dam of reigning Allen “Black Cat” Lacombe Memorial winner Kabella. Because Kabella is by Kitten’s Joy too, Catapult is an even closer relation. Their second dam is Grade 1 heroine Capote Belle.
Sunday’s supporting stakes, the $83,615 Wickerr S., likewise produced an upset, only Stevens won this one aboard 29-1 longshot Double Touch. But the British import had to survive a stewards’ inquiry into the stretch run, thanks to his drifting out and bumping Bombard, who missed by a scant head. The result was eventually declared official, and Double Touch celebrated a first stakes win for himself as well as for trainer Dan Blacker.
Double Touch was reversing form with Bombard, having finished sixth in their last outing in the June 17 Siren Lure down the hill at Santa Anita. He covered the Wickerr’s grassy mile in 1:33.61.
Eddie Read quotes from Del Mar
Winning trainer John Sadler on Catapult: “This is a nice horse. He comes from the East Coast where he had good form last year. The owners gave him a little time off at the end of last year and decided to try him here in California. There’s a lot of good grass opportunities back east, but I think they wanted to send one out here. I had him for at least 60 days before we ran him (June 17) and in that race he was a little rank but he ran a good race against (Sharp Samurai) and was closing well. We thought he’d run a good race today and he did.”
Winning rider Drayden Van Dyke: “No special instructions from John. I could see there wasn’t a whole lot of speed in the race, so I wanted to stay up relatively close. He was in a nice rhythm; moving just like I wanted him to. Then when I wheeled him out, he went. He catapulted me.”
Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens on Sharp Samurai, just denied as the favorite: “He was super, super game today. He gave me all he had. The winner was just best this time.”
Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux, who rode third-placer Prime Attraction: “He’s got a heart of gold. Just has a ton of try in him. If anyone goes back and looks at video of this one, they’ll see a horse literally sticking his neck out trying to win.”