There may not be any Southern California horses in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes but the region put up some big wins on Friday.
Fore Left, a once-raced 2-year-old for Doug O’Neill, won the $150,000 Tremont Stakes for horses going 5½ furlongs. One race later, Catalina Cruiser, won the Grade 2 $250,000 True North Stakes for horses 4 and older going 6½ furlongs. He is trained by John Sadler.
Even the ownership groups were Southern California mainstays. Catalina Cruiser runs for the Eclipse Award-winning owners Kosta and Pete Hronis, and other family members. Fore Left is owned by two-time Kentucky Derby winners Paul and Zillah Reddam.
Fore Left’s win was impressive in that he just romped almost from gate to wire. He won by 4½ lengths under an unhurried stretch ride by Mario Gutierrez. Fore Left paid $5.30, $3.50 and $2.70.
When asked by text if this was his Derby horse, O’Neill said: “That’s a dream of ours for sure!”
Catalina Cruiser, coming off a disappointing sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, had to work from mid-pack, passing two other horses in the stretch to win by half-a-length. He was ridden by Joel Rosario.
Catalina Cruiser paid $5.60, $4.00 and $3.50.
“The Breeders’ Cup race was tough,” said Stephanie Hronis, part of the ownership group and married to usual spokesman Kosta. “But sometimes that happens when they just need a little break: rest and reset. That’s where John Sadler is great. He’s patient with horses and he can back them up, shift the gears down a little bit, the build them back up again. This says a lot for [Catalina Cruiser] to travel as well as he did.”
Catalina Cruiser had not raced since Nov. 3.
More Southern California-based horses will be running on Saturday’s stakes-filled card, headed by McKinzie in the Metropolitan Handicap.
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