Pat O'Brien Stakes 2021 Entries: BC Dirt Mile goes to Flagstaff?

John Sadler's Flagstaff comes to the Grade 2 'Pat O,' a standard contest, late in the Del Mar Meet on Saturday ... find out what the future holds for this one and all the rest, in this preview.
John Sadler's Flagstaff comes to the Grade 2 "Pat O," a standard contest, late in the Del Mar Meet on Saturday ... find out what the future holds for this one and all the rest, in this preview.

DMR, Race 10: 7F (Dirt), Pat O’Brien Stakes (G2), Purse $200k, 3+ (Saturday)

The 36th running of the Pat O’Brien Stakes is a staple on the Del Mar Stakes Schedule this time of year. It brings together older runners who have some deep experience just below the route distance. Only a Grade 1 race for a short time roughly 10 years ago, its status remains a “2.” What is even more significant is that it is part of the excellent Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, which gives the winner the right to return to Del Mar in November, and enter in the Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile (G1). With all expenses paid (travel for horses housed outside of SoCal), it is a nice capstone to a Meet that will be complete as Labor Day arrives. In the past some wonderful runners have visited the winner’s circle. They include names over the past decade like The Factor, Fed Biz, Goldencents, Catalina Cruiser (2x), and last year’s victor, C Z Rocket (who is back again to defend his title). It should be a rousing good time around 1-turn!

Now, let’s find out about this field…


#1 Ginobili (Jky: D. Vna Dyke/Trn: R. Baltas):

The Ricahrd Baltas-trained son of Munnings named after the former San Antonio Spur is jumping into some deeper waters in the Pat O. Maybe his trainer knows something that the rest of us do not … What is discernable is that a speed fig. of 104 is pretty impressive at the OC40k level. Clearly, his level of fitness is present, but I am not sure that Drayden Van Dyke is the jockey to see this one through. Maybe he can pull a rabbit out of a hat. Not sure that even hitting the board is possible against this group, despite a 2nd place way back in early 2020 in the San Vincente (G2).

Grade: C


#2 Howbeit (Jky: K. Frey/Trn: M. Glatt):

Here is a class riser that makes some sense because the Mark Glatt-trained colt out of Secret Circle won last out at Del Mar in a tough OC62.5k event sprinting on the MT. That made it 2 in-a-row, and the folks at Little Red Feather are hoping he can bring them some “Graded” glory. Interesting to see the breeder of this one—the University of Kentucky … Their Equine Program is known-globally, and continues to train the next generation of horsewomen and men. I am thinking that this one has some upside, and I also like the look of the colt’s recent works. I believe he came out of that last one in good order. Could be a nice price by post time with Kyle Frey taking over for Flavien Prat who is out of town.

Grade: B


#3 Surfing Star (Jky: J. Pyfer/Trn: K. Headley):

The Headley Barn has this veteran 6-yr-old out of Surf Cat ratcheting up the ladder after running in a number of OC62.5k contests at Santa Anita and Del Mar. That last one, where he faced his gatemate to the left, ended in a disappointing 4th—8+ lengths back. I am not sure how this one is going to hang with these other contestants. Other than a couple of tries in the Tiznow 100k these past 2 years, there is not much class to be had here. Jessica Pyfer is going to have her work cut out for her in a race that will test the very fiber of this one’s speed. I am not sure if he can do it. Best to look elsewhere …

Grade: C


#4 Mo Mosa (Jky: R. Vasquez/Trn: M. Maker):

What will probably be one of my top selections of the entire weekend of racing, this Mike Maker runner has some major upside. I am hoping most will overlook this colt’s ability, and discount his current form. A homebred for the Martins, the 4-yr-old was an impressive winner in the slop back at Lone Star Park in the Steve Sexton Mile (G3). He was a massive price that night at 23/1, and you had to give it to Ramon Vasquez; he helped to guide this one to a signature win. Maker is not one to stand on ceremony, and he promptly settled his charge into training up for the San Diego H. (G2) at Del Mar on Opening Weekend. I know he “petered” out towards the end of that race, but let’s not forget that he was up against some titans in Express Train, and Tripoli, who incidentally just rode the rail to win the Pacific Classic (G1). Now, turning back in distance, the offspring of Uncle Mo might be getting just what he needs. I think 7F is spot-on, and Maker knows it. With Vasquez making the trip out, this one could be a great price!

Grade: A-


#5 Eight Rings (Jky: A. Cedillo/Trn: B. Baffert):

Fortress Baffert is in full battle-mode as the barn is looking to notch some key wins heading into the fall. The criticism continues to be fierce, but the HOF trainer is undeterred. What do you expect … for him to curl up in a ball just because a bunch of turfwriters pen op-Eds criticizing him? His hubris will not allow it. This colt out of the mercurial Empire Maker is looking to improve on that near miss in the Bing Crosby (G1) in late July. With Abel Cedillo aboard, who is back again, he just missed trying to nab Dr. Schivel. At 16/1, he easily outran his odds, proving he is on the make in this SoCal sprint division. A win here would cement his status as a major player heading into the Breeders’ Cup in November. Baffert has him working well, and if he can turn his year around, it will be a solid sign.

Grade: B+


#6 Classier (Jky: M. Gutierrez/Trn: B. Baffert):

Jockey Mario Gutierrez and Bob Baffert do not work together often, so it will be interesting to see what this pairing can come up with. Another Empire Maker is coming your way, as the colt that they are entering is young … untested against these types of older runners. That could prove an impediment, and it speaks to the fact that maybe the infamous HOF conditioner is trying to use this race as a litmus test. If he passes or fails, it still produces data … and that is all to the good. Frontend speed is this one’s best weapon, as he cuts back in distance from the Los Al Derby (G3), which he won by a whisker. My sense is that he does not have the chops to take on this crowd.

Grade: B-


#7 Brickyard Ride (Jky: JJ Hernandez/Trn: C. Lewis):

Trainer Craig Lewis has what I think of as a “feast or famine” type. The colt either runs out of his shoes, or gets blown off the oval. A good number of folks backed him last time in the Bing Crosby (G1), but the 4-yr-old could not hold off the onslaught of Dr. Schivel, Eight Rings #5, and C Z Rocket #9. It has become an oft-told tale for the son of Clubhouse Ride. What JJ Hernandez desperately needs is the proper fractions and trip. His mount is going to have to leave everyone in the dust, and hope against hope he can hold it. I am highly skeptical that can happen, even with Hernandez’s impressive skill set. This is a tough ask in a Grade 2 with what amounts to a well-matched field.

Grade: C+


#8 Flagstaff (Jky: J. Bravo/Trn: J. Sadler):

Trainer John Sadler had a tough 2020, but not necessarily because of COVID-19. His prize sprinter out of Speightstown tested positive for a banned substance almost a year ago after the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G2). Under a cloud of suspicion over another complicated drug story for the so-called “industry,” Sadler set to work retaining counsel and defending his position. Though his runner was taken down, and the $40k purse money had to be redistributed, the conditioner shipped his runner to Oaklawn, Keeneland, Churchill, and most recently to Belmont. All of those stops were against tough competitors, and he acquitted himself well. The Grade 1 win in the Churchill Downs and a 2nd in the True North (G2) were excellent. Now that Sadler has completed his year-long probation as of late June, he is looking for this one to make an impact, returning to SoCal to race for the 1st time since that DQ last September. With the hot-riding Joe Bravo at the controls, he could be a major player just because of his class. If his fitness level is up to scratch, he could be a very tough customer.

Grade: B


#9 C Z Rocket (Jky: F. Geroux/Trn: P. Miller):

Mo Mosa #4 defeated handily this heavy, heavy favorite in the Sexton Mile (G3) on that deluge night in Dallas over Memorial Day weekend. It was quite a flip of the script. Most said that the weather was the contributing factor, while others argued that the distance was the problem. Whatever the case, the accomplished Peter Miller got both of those supposed blockages unclogged in the Bing Crosby (G1) last out, and the result was a 3rd place finish. Was that a failure? In a way … affirmative! When you are that short a price, as he was in that Del Mar “Feature” you had better win, they say. Madaket and Miller have been waiting for another match up with many of these sprinters, and they are going to get it come Saturday. “C Z,” he might not be in the best form to take them on … I am not as plussed as I was back at Oaklawn when he bested Whitmore on 2 occasions. Much to prove in here as regular rider Florent Geroux comes to SoCal once again …

Grade: B


#10 California Street (Jky: W. Barnett/Trn: P. Gallagher):

Perhaps the addition of “blinkers” will help get this Paddy Gallagher upstart home in what will be an extremely difficult race for the 7-yr-old. He simply does not have the class standing to take on these foes, and I think breaking from the outside is going to necessitate getting loose on the lead. Wayne Barnett is going to have some work ahead of him. The best news is that at least this gelding has some Street Boss on his side. Maybe he can channel some of that sprinting ability, and get home at what will amount to a massive price.

Grade: C


It’s another beautiful day @Del Mar! Check out all of our selections come Saturday!


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