May 27, 2024

Catalina Cruiser, Whitmore highlight deep True North

Catalina Cruiser and jockey Drayden Van Dyke win the Pat O'Brien Stakes (G2) on August 25, 2018, at Del Mar © BENOIT PHOTO

After a brilliant four-for-four start to his career, Catalina Cruiser flopped in his first true road test in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Churchill Downs. Still a highly promising sort with championship potential, the five-year-old son of Union Rags enters his 2019 debut in Friday’s $250,000 True North (G2) at Belmont Park with a relatively clean slate.

Although his two dominating stakes wins, in the San Diego H. (G2) and Pat O’Brien (G2) at Del Mar, were at 1 1/16 miles and seven furlongs, respectively, Catalina Cruiser should have little trouble on the cutback to 6 1/2 furlongs, over which he’ll face a stellar group of rivals.

Grade 1 veteran Whitmore was second by a neck to Imperial Hint in last year’s True North and later earned runner-up honors in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). He kicked off this term with a victory in the $150,000 Hot Springs, and then finished second to Mitole in the Count Fleet Sprint H. (G3) before finishing fifth to that rival in the Churchill Downs (G1).

“It was an odd race,” trainer Ron Moquett said of the Churchill Downs. “We did a lot of moving around the turn instead of down the stretch. I was a little shook up about it, but at the same time he’s come back safe and sound and healthy and we’ll move forward.”

Fourth in the Churchill Downs was Do Share, who two months earlier dominated the Tom Fool H. (G3) at Aqueduct. Recruiting Ready is already a dual stakes winner this year, but was most recently run down by Firenze Fire in the $150,000 Runhappy.

Strike Power exits a convincing allowance win at Gulfstream, easily his best performance in more than a year. Nicodemus and Stan the Man shorten from a mile, over which they ran one-two in the May 4 Westchester (G3).

Chalon, who was a couple short heads away from a sprint championship last season, looks for her second win in as many starts this season in the $250,000 Bed o’ Roses (G3) over seven furlongs.

A narrowly beaten second in both the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) and Thoroughbred Club of America (G2) last fall, the five-year-old opened her 2019 account with a two-length score in the $100,000 Skipat at Pimlico on Preakness weekend.

The leading opponents all exit the May 11 Vagrancy (G3). Third in her season debut that day was Separationofpowers, who took the Test (G1) last summer and the Frizette (G1) at two. Pacific Gale was only a neck behind the winning Heavenhasmynikki in the Vagrancy, and before that was a distant second to Come Dancing in the Distaff H. (G3).

Maven wired an Aqueduct maiden to become American Pharoah’s first North American winner (c) NYRA/Coglianese Photography

Maven, who provided 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah with his first winner in North America, will attempt to stretch his speed to 5 1/2 furlongs in the $150,000 Tremont.

Trained by Wesley Ward, Maven held on for a half-length victory in an April 19 maiden at Aqueduct going 4 1/2 furlongs.

“He’s continuing to do great,” Ward said. “He really flattered himself in his debut and we think he’s continued to move forward from that race. He seems to have mostly taken after his dam (Richies Party Girl), so he looks like he’s going to be a sprinter.”

Among his seven rivals are $125,000 Kentucky Juvenile upsetter Rookie Salsa and fellow first-out winners Memorable and Fore Left.