July 15, 2024

Speaker’s Corner tops competitive field in Pat O’Brien, a WAYI for BC Dirt Mile

Speaker's Corner wins the Fred Hooper Stakes (Photo by Coglianese Photos)

Pat O’Brien S. (G2) — Del Mar Race 9 (9 p.m. ET)

Outrun by the likes of Flightline and Life Is Good at home in New York this summer, Speaker’s Corner will hit the road for his next start in Saturday’s $250,000 Pat O’Brien S. (G2) at Del Mar.

Contested over seven furlongs, the Pat O’Brien serves as a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series prep for the Nov. 5 Dirt Mile (G1) at Keeneland. The only horse to win both the Pat O’Brien and the Dirt Mile was Goldencents in 2014.

Speaker’s Corner looked like the nation’s premier miler at the beginning of the season, reeling off consecutive victories in the Fred W. Hooper (G3) and Gulfstream Park Mile (G2). That was followed by an easy score in the Carter H. (G1) over seven furlongs, but Speaker’s Corner has since taken a back seat. The Bill Mott trainee was beaten more than eight lengths by Flightline in the Metropolitan H. (G1) and five lengths by Life Is Good in the John A. Nerud (G2).

The charismatic gray American Theorem enters the Pat O’Brien on a two-race win streak encompassing the Triple Bend (G2) and Bing Crosby (G1). He showed push-button acceleration in the latter, quickly spurting to a three-length lead in midstretch, and was not seriously threatened when the margin was cut in half at the finish. Grade 1 veteran and Bing Crosby runner-up Get Her Number re-opposes.

Eight-year-old veteran C Z Rocket breaks from the rail Saturday with a positive history in the race. Victorious in the 2020 Pat O’Brien prior to a second-place effort in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1), C Z Rocket wound up second in last year’s renewal. The City Zip gelding returned July 23 from a six-month layoff, rallying to beat allowance foes over 6 1/2 furlongs.

Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) runner-up Defunded shortens up after a disappointing seventh-place run in the San Diego H. (G2), while multiple Grade 3 winner The Chosen Vron figures sharper in his second start following a nine-month layoff. The California-bred showed versatility when missing by a neck in a state-bred stakes on the turf here Aug. 6.

Laurel River, second to The Chosen Vron in his only prior stakes attempt in the 2021 Lazaro Barrera (G3), enters off back-to-back allowance wins over the surface by comfortable margins.