Laurel River takes top spot at Grade II, $252,500 Pat O’Brien Stakes

Laurel River on the way to victory at the Grade II, $252,500 Pat O’Brien Stakes on Aug. 27 at Del Mar.
Laurel River on the way to victory at the Grade II, $252,500 Pat O’Brien Stakes on Aug. 27 at Del Mar.
(Kelley Carlson)

Juddmonte’s Laurel River, with Juan Hernandez aboard, cruised home to win the Grade II, $252,500 Pat O’Brien Stakes on Saturday, Aug. 27 at Del Mar.

American Theorem was 3 3/4 lengths back in second, while Senor Buscador was an additional 3/4 of a length behind him to clinch the show spot. The favorite, East Coast shipper Speaker’s Corner, finished fourth.

It was the first stakes victory for Laurel River, who completed the 7-furlong race on the main track in 1:21.37.

“I just told Juan (Hernandez), ‘Ride him to win,’ and that’s what he did,” said Laurel River’s trainer, Bob Baffert. “He just sat there, and then he made that split (between the leaders with a quarter mile remaining in the race). He has a lot of speed, but he’s going to be much more effective around two turns.”

The Pat O’Brien Stakes was a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” race, so Laurel River has a guaranteed slot in the starting gate for the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile on Nov. 5 at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky.

On Sunday, Aug. 28, Edgeway outdueled Slammed in the stretch to win the Grade III, $150,000 Rancho Bernardo Handicap.

Next Saturday, Sept. 3, is the seaside oval’s signature race, the Grade I, $1 million TVG Pacific Classic. The field is expected to include Flightline, currently one of the top-ranked thoroughbred racehorses in the country.

The track will host a Family Fun Day on Sunday, Sept. 4, which is free for children younger than 18. Scheduled activities include rock climbing walls, face painters and a “Game Zone.”

There will also be racing on Monday, Sept. 5, Labor Day.

Post times starting Thursday will be at 1 p.m. each race day (except Fridays, which is 3 p.m.), and continue through the end of the meet on Sept. 11. A news release from the track stated that the change is to ensure there is enough light to run the final races each day in a safe manner, as the days get shorter.