Though the $202,000 Grade 2 Pat O'Brien Stakes attracted a bevy of graded stakes winners, Ginobili brought improving comeback form to spring a mild upset. The 4-year-old gelding brought home his first stakes trophy, fittingly at Del Mar, the location of all three of his lifetime victories.
Thriving at Del Mar couldn't come at a better time. With the O'Brien, Ginobili, the 5-1 third choice, earned a Breeders' Cup Challenge berth to the Grade 1 Big Ass Fans Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, and Del Mar will host this year's World Championships Nov. 5-6.
The swift California-bred multiple stakes winner Brickyard Ride was expected to go to the early lead in the seven-furlong O'Brien, and he did—twice. The first time came when Brickyard Ride broke through the gate and galloped down the chute. Jockey Juan Hernandez, with the help of an outrider, pulled him up fairly quickly, and Brickyard Ride was reloaded.
When the gate opened, Ginobili broke on top from the rail, but Brickyard Ride almost immediately took the lead. Jockey Drayden Van Dyke elected to angle Ginobili off the rail outside of Brickyard Ride early, getting the jump on third-running Eight Rings at that stage.
"We said we wanted to break good and get a spot behind Brickyard Ride," said Van Dyke. "It worked perfectly."
Brickyard Ride completed the first quarter-mile in :22.05 and a half-mile in :44.39. Van Dyke had Ginobili perfectly positioned on the turn to take command as Brickyard Ride tired, the early pacesetter eventually finishing last.
Favored C Z Rocket, the 2020 O'Brien winner and most recently third in the July 31 Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes, raced well back early and began making up ground while wide on the turn. He and Flagstaff battled through the stretch, but only for second, as Ginobili drew clear to win by 1 3/4 lengths in a final time of 1:22.26.
C Z Rocket outfinished Flagstaff for second by a head.
Richard Baltas trains Ginobili ($12.80) for a partnership headed by Nick Cosato's Slam Dunk Racing. Baltas is a co-owner, as are Jerry McClanahan and Michael Nentwig. Baltas bought the Kentucky-bred son of Munnings —Find the Humor , by Sharp Humor , for $35,000 from breeder Hinkle Farms at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
"We nominated him to the (Grade 1 TVG) Pacific Classic, but we talked it over with the owners and decided to go here," said Baltas. "Then he drew the rail, but it really didn't seem to matter. I'm just very, very happy. I thought (Van Dyke) rode him great."
In his second lifetime start, Ginobili broke his maiden at Del Mar in 2019 and returned at the end of that meeting to finish fourth in the Grade 1 Runhappy Del Mar Futurity. Ginobili's best effort in six subsequent starts was a second to Nadal in the 2020 Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita Park.
Baltas gelded Ginobili midway through last year, and the gelding had a few minor physical problems that kept him away from the races from October until this past May. Eighth May 9 and fourth June 19, both at Santa Anita, Ginobili then won again at Del Mar July 17, the second day of the current summer meeting.
Ginobili is one of four winners in four starters from graded stakes-placed Find the Humor. Hinkle Farms acquired the mare for $60,000 at the 2014 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale and sold her for $20,000 at the same sale four years later. Arif Kurtel bought Find the Humor in 2018 in foal to Point of Entry, and the mare was sent to Turkey.
2021 Pat O'Brien S.
August 28th, 2021
- Owner / Slam Dunk Racing, Baltas, Richard, McClanahan, Jerry and Nentwig, Michael
- Breeder / Hinkle Farms
- Breeder / Farm III Enterprises LLC
- Owner / Lane's End Racing and Hronis Racing LLC
- Breeder / Summer Wind Farm
- Owner / Coolmore Stud, Golconda Stable, Madaket Stables LLC, SF Racing LLC and Starlight Racing (Lessee)
- Breeder / WinStar Farm, LLC
- Owner / SF Racing LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables LLC, Golconda Stables, Siena Farm LLC and Masterson, Robert E.
- Breeder / Mary A. Sullivan
- Owner / Martin, Perry and Martin, Denise
- Breeder / Perry Martin & Denise Martin
- Breeder / Old English Rancho & Bruce Headley