The peak of Saturday’s card at Del Mar is the Pat O’Brien Stakes, a true gem as two marvellous horses clash once again over 7 furlongs and are about to compete for the purse of $200,000. Although this G2 race on dirt is open to three-year-olds and older horses, the leading victory candidates are seven-year-old veterans awaiting their rematch for the last year’s edition of the Pat O’Brien Stakes.

In 2020, C Z Rocket (5-2) and Flagstaff (3-1) went on to fight for the win, both stalking the leader from the start, but it was C Z Rocket who proved the best in the final stages, leaving Flagstaff half a length behind. While C Z Rocket then grabbed second place in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, John W. Sadler bound bay missed the event, and in this season, he placed twice in Listed before striking gold in the G3 Commonwealth Stakes.

By this success, he hinted he still belonged among the elite, so his well-fought victory in the G1 Churchill Downs Stakes over 7 furlongs didn’t came as a surprise. Last time out, he lost to Firenze Fire in the G2 True North Stakes, despite which he should be once again the main threat for the favourite – C Z Rocket.

The seven-year-old bay trained by Peter Miller won his first Grade race when taking the Pat O’Brien Stakes last year, upon which he grabbed another huge prize in the G2 Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes. After the second place in Keeneland, he showed up again in spring, succeeding in Listed, G3, and taking two places, including finishing third in the G1 Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar.

One could say he was disappointing back then; he was just too far from the leaders back then and couldn’t reach a better place. Still, he displayed his typical turn-of-foot and tried his best. If he shows the same on Saturday, he could bag the second Pat O’Brien Stakes.

He shouldn’t even mind much the outside gate; however, the inside could play well to a duo of four-year-olds. Both Ginobili (6-1) and Howbeit (6-1) won their most recent Allowance starts, but they may not be so quick out of the gates to use the advantage as Eight Rings (6-1) might be even faster.

The Bob Baffert trained four-year-old seemed like a promising junior when winning the G1 American Pharoah Stakes last year, but he still awaits another big day. In 2021, his performances were underwhelming, with one exception – the Bing Crosby Stakes. In July, Eight Rings fought well for the win and the second place before C Z Rocket was a success nevertheless. He might’ve just needed some races to get back into form; still, he has to find more to win this. 

The last participant to mention is the three-year-old Eight Rings’ stable mate Classier (12-1), the winner of the G3 Los Alamitos Derby. He has run just four times and might progress further to grab some money here. 

C Z Rocket and Flagstaff are bound for a rematch for the last year’s edition of the race. Unfortunately for the latter, C Z Rocket looks the likely winner once more, though. Ginobili could be the best of the rest.

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