More than a $250,000 purse and Grade 2 laurels will be on the line Saturday when 10 top-notch runners clash at Del Mar in the Pat O’Brien Stakes. A plane ticket to the East and a free spot in the Breeders’ Cup will be awarded to the winner, though not to the race at the World Championships that one might expect. After a free spot in the Qatar Racing Breeders’ Cup Sprint was awarded to the winner of the Bing Crosby Stakes earlier in the meet, Saturday’s victor will be assured of a berth in the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile Nov. 5 at Keeneland.
pat o'brien stakes
1. C Z Rocket (15-1 morning-line odds): You see his name in the list of notable winners, so you know the conditions suit him. He was also second in last year’s renewal. He returned from a little more than six months on the sidelines to win a prep race for this and should move forward off that effort. He figures to once again be a major player in this stakes.
2. Principe Carlo (15-1): He looked great losing by a nose in the Triple Bend Stakes at Santa Anita Park and then tired while encountering some trouble in the Bing Crosby. Haven’t seen signs in his workouts that he’s ready for a bounce-back effort so we’ll pass on him here.
3. Restrainedvengence (30-1): Been racing on turf and though he was third in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile last year, this appears a bit short on distance for him.
4. American Theorem (4-1): Comes off solid back-to-back wins in the Bing Crosby and Triple Bend and will be force in this spot. He won the Crosby at 7.80-1 and the Triple Bend at 13-1 but don’t expect a price that generous this time.
5. Get Her Number (8-1): Rallied nicely to grab second in the Crosby last time out, but faces a tougher collection of rivals here and may not work out a similar trip this time.
weekend Television schedule
6. The Chosen Vron (12-1): This California-bred gelding was a multiple Grade 3 winner last year at 3, but with just one turf race since November he may not be ready for a challenge as tough as the one he’ll face in this spot.
7. Laurel River (5-1): Trainer Bob Baffert had him ready for a sharp allowance win after nearly 11 months off and he should be suited by the seven-furlong distance. There’s a lot of talent here and he should not be overlooked given the connections.
8. Speaker’s Corner (6-5): It’s not fair to call this an easy spot, but just about anything is easier after facing Flightline and Life Is Good in your last two races. His only loss in four seven-furlong starts was last time out to Life Is Good and if there was a hangover from that race, Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott would not have shipped him cross country. Looks like the one to beat.
9. Defunded (8-1): The other Baffert starter ran in a mile and a quarter stakes two starts ago and was seventh most recently in the 1 1/16-mile San Diego Handicap. This seems short for him but he did break his maiden at six furlongs.
10. Senor Buscador (30-1): He was eighth in the San Diego and there’s little in his resume to indicate he can be a factor in this field from the outside post.
THE PICK: Speaker’s Corner
LIVE LONGSHOT: C Z Rocket