DEL MAR, Calif. -- Joel Rosario was the riding star of the day on Saturday at Del Mar, winning five races, and he saved his best work for late in the card in the Grade 1, $300,000 Pat O'Brien Stakes, when he sent El Brujo to a front-running victory with an aggressive ride.
El Brujo never had raced in such a fashion, and it appeared Smiling Tiger was the lone speed in the seven-furlong race. But Rosario seized the moment when El Brujo broke sharply. Rather than rein him in, he let El Brujo roll along up front, and they never looked back. El Brujo held off late-running Crown of Thorns to win by a half-length, with Smiling Tiger, the 6-5 favorite, another 4 1/4 lengths back in third.
El Brujo ($9.60) was timed in 1:21.70 on Polytrack following fractions of 22.83 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 45.48 seconds for a half-mile. He gave absentee trainer Bob Baffert a sweep of the day's Grade 1 races at Del Mar. One hour earlier, he won the Pacific Classic with Richard's Kid.
Like Richard's Kid a year ago before the Pacific Classic, El Brujo was purchased privately by owner Arnold Zetcher. El Brujo had been based in Toronto before his purchase three months ago. He had raced once here previously for his current connections, finishing fourth, 5 1/2 lengths behind Smiling Tiger, in the six-furlong Bing Crosby on Aug. 1.
El Brujo was the lone Baffert horse running in the seven-horse field following the scratches of E Z's Gentleman, who is also owned by Zetcher, and Sangaree.
"El Brujo had been training well, according to Bob," Zetcher said in the winner's circle.
El Brujo, 4, is a gelding by the sire Candy Ride. He has now won seven times in 18 starts. His biggest win last year was in the Kentucky Cup Sprint at Turfway Park, which also has Polytrack.