Considering how many times he’s figured in various race mixes, it defies logic that C Z Rocket comes into Saturday’s Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes lacking a Grade 1 victory.

C Z Rocket-Bing Crosby
Decorated sprinter C Z Rocket won the Grade 2 Pat O’Brien on this Del Mar track last summer. He look for his first Grade 1 win as the 5/2 favorite in Saturday’s Bing Crosby Stakes. (Image: Benoit Photo)

And yet, here he is, one of the West Coast’s top sprinters and owner of 11 victories and nearly $1.4 million in 26 career starts without a Grade 1 on the resume. That’s an oversight the 7-year-old gelding hopes to rectify against eight other sprinters in Saturday’s marquee race at Del Mar.

The six-furlong Bing Crosby provides the West Coast sprinting counterbalance to Saratoga’s Grade 1 Vanderbilt. But as a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series race, the Bing Crosby delivers its winner a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint on this same Del Mar track this fall.

C Z Rocket comes in as the 5/2 morning-line favorite. He also comes in with seven victories in his last nine races. The two misses were seconds, one of those coming to Whitmore in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint. The other came last out, when C Z Rocket finished second on a sloppy track in the Steve Sexton Mile at Lone Star Park.

Now, C Z Rocket cuts back to his preferred six-furlong distance, where he is 4-for-8. And he cuts back in only the fourth Grade 1 of his career. He’s got that second, along with a fourth in the 2018 Forego at Saratoga and a sixth in the 2017 Malibu at Santa Anita Park.

C Z Rocket stars in the claiming heist of the century

Those came long before trainer Peter Miller put in one of the most sagacious claims of his prolific claiming career. Miller snagged C Z Rocket for $40,000 after he finished fifth in an Oaklawn Park claiming race last April. That fifth was his best finish in his previous four races and C Z Rocket’s 11th consecutive loss. That led his connections to give up on the City Zip gelding.

So Miller swooped in on behalf of owner Tom Kagele, pulling off the Brinks Robbery of claims. Only 27 days later, Miller sent C Z Rocket to Churchill Downs and watched him win another claiming race by 4 ¾ lengths. A month after that, C Z Rocket won an allowance by 4 ½ lengths.

And he was literally off and running. Off and running to a $650,344 rest-of-the-season earnings haul from the time Miller took command. Add the $500,000 C Z Rocket banked in his three 2021 starts and Miller has a millionaire horse in only nine starts.

C Z Rocket gets fast company here

Running between C Z Rocket and that long-sought Grade 1 are a band of familiar names of recent and not-so-recent vintage. That list starts with a familiar, but recently absent name: Dr Schivel (7/2). You remember him as the juvenile star who won the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity last summer. After that win, his connections sold him and new trainer Mark Glatt took charge.

Glatt emphatically dismissed any Kentucky Derby talk, literally putting Dr Schivel out to pasture for the next nine months. He returned in mid-June for an allowance optional claiming race at Santa Anita like he never missed a beat. His neck victory rally as the 1.20/1 favorite was Dr Schivel’s third consecutive victory and it came with a career-best 109 Equibase Speed Figure.

It tells you something that Flavien Prat decided to ride Dr Schivel instead of regular mount Collusion Illusion. And speaking of Collusion Illusion (4/1), he returns as your defending champion.

Collusion Illusion no illusion defending here

The Twirling Candy colt makes his first start since finishing third behind Charlatan and Express Train in that loaded-field Malibu Stakes last December at Santa Anita. He won this race last year as the 1.90/1 favorite by reeling in Lexitonian in deep stretch. He owns five victories in nine races.

Two other horses bears mentioning: front-running Brickyard Ride (7/2) and Vertical Threat (8/1). Brickyard Ride comes in 8-for-16 lifetime, including three wins in five 2021 starts. Trainer Craig Lewis split his charge’s efforts between California-bred races and open races – without a fall-off either way. Last out, Brickyard Ride won the Black-Type Thor’s Echo Stakes at Santa Anita. Three starts before that, he took the Grade 2 San Carlos on the same track.

Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes/Del Mar

Morning Line (Jockey/Trainer)

  1. Shooter’s Shoot, 15/1 (Trevor McCarthy/Peter Eurton)
  2. Vertical Threat, 8/1 (Joe Bravo/Richard Baltas)
  3. C Z Rocket, 5/2 (Florent Geroux/Peter Miller)
  4. Law Abidin Citizen, 12/1 (Wayne Barnett/Mark Glatt)
  5. Quick Tempo, 12/1 (Umberto Rispoli/Christopher Davis)
  6. Collusion Illusion, 4/1 (Tyler Baze/Mark Glatt)
  7. Eight Rings, 10/1 (Abel Cedillo/Bob Baffert)
  8. Dr Schivel, 7/2 (Flavien Prat/Mark Glatt)
  9. Brickyard Ride, 7/2 (Juan Hernandez/Craig Lewis)

Vertical Threat is 3-for-3 at this distance and he claimed the Smiling Tiger Stakes on this track last year. Last out, he dismantled a Listed Stakes field by 7 ½ lengths in the Steel Valley Sprint Stakes at Mahoning Valley. The time before that – against much better rivals – Vertical Threat tired and finished sixth in the Grade 2 Pat Day Mile. Cutting back will help him tremendously.

The pick: Dr Schivel. Even in these deep waters, there’s room to improve here from a 3-year-old colt who brings plenty of upside, along with more value than C Z Rocket. Expect that favorite to get bet down to even-money territory, but he – along with Vertical Threat, Dr Schivel and Brickyard Ride – deserve exotic considerations.