The Grade II, $150,000 Pat O’Brien Stakes is the Saturday feature at Del Mar. This seven-furlong sprint on the main oval drew a well-matched field of eight. Post time for the Pat O’Brien, Race 10 on an 11-race card, is 9:38 p.m. ET.
#5 C Z ROCKET (4-1) steps up in the Pat O’Brien on the heels of a three-race win streak. He aired in consecutive races at Churchill before facing a stakes-caliber field at Keeneland. C Z ROCKET gutted out a 3/4-length victory over a next-out winner in Copper Town that day. This six-year-old son of City Zip has clearly improved since switching to the Peter Miller barn three starts ago. A spot like the Pat O’Brien is the next logical destination, and the jockey assignment of Flavien Prat inspires confidence.
#1 LAW ABIDIN CITIZEN (5-1) was last seen running third in the Bing Crosby. He attended a fast pace that fell apart late, but was clearly the best of the frontrunners in the lane. LAW ABIDIN CITIZEN, previously a Grade III winner, will be ridden once more by Abel Cedillo.
#4 FLAGSTAFF (5-2, morning-line favorite) and #6 VERTICAL THREAT (8-1) are contenders with flaws in the Pat O’Brien. The former looked like one of California’s best sprinters when he followed up a convincing victory in the Grade II San Carlos with a solid runner-up effort in the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap at Oaklawn. But FLAGSTAFF’s most recent outing, a fourth-place finish in the five-horse Triple Bend, was dull. It remains to be seen if he can bounce back off that under Victor Espinoza.
VERTICAL THREAT has won two straight by wide margins under Heriberto Figueroa, but the first was a maiden victory and the latest was over three horses in a state-bred stake. The Pat O’Brien will serve as an acid test, but at least his odds are more enticing than those of FLAGSTAFF.
The play: $8 win 5, $2 exacta box 1/5 ($12)
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