With most of the pre-race chatter about European shippers Idaho and Erupt, and Chad Brown’s Money Multiplier attracting plenty of money at the windows, Woodslane Farm’s homebred Sadler’s Joy was lost in the shuffle ahead of Saturday’s $980,000 Sword Dancer (G1) at Saratoga. But no one could miss the 7-1 shot storming from last down the stretch to capture the “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1).
Trained by Tom Albertrani, who was recording a memorable first win of the Saratoga season, Sadler’s Joy was coming off a better-than-appears third in the July 29 Bowling Green (G2). The lightly-raced four-yea-old was less exposed than most, and took a step forward to earn his first Grade 1 trophy.
Backers of 7-5 favorite Idaho probably weren’t enthused as he argued with the 31-1 longest shot on the board, Frank Conversation, through fractions of :24.42, :49.17, 1:14.19, and 1:38.52. As a colt with proven stamina who didn’t want a paceless race, it was the right idea to go forward aboard the Aidan O’Brien pupil, but not necessarily eyeball-to-eyeball with a no-hoper.
Idaho would not have outsprinted them in the last quarter of a sit-sprint race, so taking back and letting Frank Conversation dawdle probably wouldn’t have helped his cause. Instead, perhaps Ryan Moore could have eased off temporarily, before launching a mid-race move and trying to blow the race apart before the closers could get involved. Or in a bolder stroke, he could have tried to use a bit more petrol early to see if he could clear them. Unless Frank Conversation was just on mission impossible, perhaps Idaho could have wrested sole command, then gotten a breather before winding it up – taking a page from the playbook of his full brother Highland Reel.
Of course, this is the briefing from the hindsight (and armchair jockey) department. Maybe Idaho wouldn’t have pulled off either of those tactical options anyway. But at least either option would have played to his strengths if he were good enough. He was never going to benefit from how the Sword Dancer actually unfolded. He did all the dirty work of vying with a pace rival for an entire circuit, and I wonder if Moore will be second-guessing himself on the long plane ride home. Of course, only he knows how Idaho was feeling the whole way around, and if Moore simply didn’t sense the horsepower underneath him to attempt such a gambit, the ride wouldn’t have made a difference.
Things didn’t go according to plan either for Erupt, who broke sharply in his new cheekpieces, and eased back into third rather than mix it up between the dueling leaders. That might have been a winning move by regular rider Stephane Pasquier, if only the French invader had relaxed in his battle at Saratoga. Instead, Erupt raced too keenly, frittering away the energy he needed for a late kick.
Sadler’s Joy didn’t begin in auspicious fashion, hitting the gate when breaking a bit slowly. But jockey Julien Leparoux patiently gave him all the time he needed to get comfortable at the tail of the seven-horse field. And given the solid pace for the 1 1/2-mile distance – a series of :12 and change furlongs through the opening mile – there was no harm in being reserved. That was all the more so since he enjoyed a ground-saving trip that covered the least territory of anyone, according to Trakus.
Down the homestretch, Idaho and Frank Conversation were paying for their labors, unable to go on as the stalking Bigger Picture and then Money Multiplier swooped. Money Multiplier, a troubled second to champion Flintshire in the 2016 Sword Dancer, appeared to be closing in on an overdue first Grade 1 victory.
But a chestnut whirlwind descended in the form of Sadler’s Joy. With Trakus clocking his final half-mile in an unbelievable :44.73, and a last quarter in :21.79, the Kitten’s Joy colt inflicted a half-length heartbreak on Money Multiplier. The winner’s final time on the firm inner turf was officially 2:24.58, and he returned $16.
Money Multiplier nipped Bigger Picture for second, with Bowling Green winner Hunter O’Riley fourth. Erupt, Idaho, and Frank Conversation rounded out the order under the wire.
Sadler’s Joy joined millionaires’ row with a record of 12-5-1-3, $1,002,968. Breaking his maiden over this course and distance last August, the Kentucky-bred cleared his first two allowance conditions at Belmont and Aqueduct before a fast-finishing second in the W.L. McKnight (G3). He earned his first stakes laurel next time in the Pan American (G2), but a trio of thirds ensued in the Man o’ War (G1), Manhattan (G1), and Bowling Green.
Out of the unraced Dynaformer mare Dynaire, Sadler’s Joy counts as his second dam Group 3 winner Binya, and his third is noted matron Beaconaire.
Quotes from Saratoga
Winning rider Julien Leparoux on Sadler’s Joy: “He just kind of broke and spooked at something coming out of the gate. The main thing after that was to have a good pace, which we did, and I was in the back and he was doing it pretty easy; traveling very well. Then he came home very fast and by the middle of the stretch I thought I could get them. He ran a big race and he’s a good horse and he’s one I think we will hear from even more for the rest of the year. He’s really improved.”
Trainer Tom Albertrani on winning his first race of the meet: “Yeah, million-dollar duck, I guess. At the beginning, he kind of propped leaving there and Julien said he didn’t know what happened. He kind of just stalled on the break and then when he got going he felt really happy with the place he was in and felt that the pace was honest and he didn’t panic and just waited for the right moment to push the button.
“He (Leparoux) has ridden him well every time. We had some misfortune, maybe, in the Man o’ War (G1) when we got boxed in the whole race, but that’s racing luck. Today he showed that kick. This horse has that tremendous kick and he did it today.”
Trainer Chad Brown on near-misser Money Multiplier: “He ran huge. I’m real proud of his effort. He didn’t break that well; I thought he’d be on or near the lead. Javier (Castellano) went to ‘Plan B’ and the horse relaxed nicely and he ran really, really well. The winner made the last move and ran terrific as well.”
Aidan O’Brien’s assistant T.J. Comerford on Idaho, sixth as the favorite: “I don’t know, maybe the pace was a bit slow for him. He just ran a little disappointing for us, that’s all. He’ll go home now and Aidan will decide what he’s going to do with him.”