Considering that Sadler’s Joy had finished third to European stars Enable and Magical in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), and a close fourth in the prior running at Del Mar, the Woodslane Farm homebred would have been a logical player to try again three weeks ago at Santa Anita. But trainer Tom Albertrani opted to give him more time after a gut-busting third in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1).
Instead, Saturday’s $202,000 Red Smith (G3) at Aqueduct became the target, and Sadler’s Joy responded with an emphatic display. The 6-5 favorite relished the class drop to end his losing skid, his last win having come in the 2018 Mac Diarmida (G2). But he’d placed in seven of 10 in the interim, including near-misses in last season’s Man o’ War (G1) and Manhattan (G1), the August 24 Sword Dancer (G1), and most recently his half-length loss, employing unexpected pace-prompting tactics, in the Joe Hirsch. Anything close to his best should have been good enough in this relatively easier spot, and so it proved.
Reunited with Hall of Famer Javier Castellano for the first time since the summer, Sadler’s Joy dropped anchor according to his preferred custom. As expected, the early pace was contested, and Glorious Empire moved up to join Red Right Hand through an opening quarter in :24.43 on the good course. The two matched strides through a half in :48.59, slowed the tempo by the six-furlong mark in 1:13.95, but picked it up again as they reached the mile in 1:38.20. By that point, Glorious Empire was weakening, and Tiz a Slam took closer order to challenge Red Right Hand into the stretch.
Moving best of all, though, was Sadler’s Joy. Surging down the lane, the son of Kitten’s Joy stamped his authority by two lengths while completing 1 3/8 miles in 2:15.76.
Red Knight, last early, flashed home for second. While no match for the handy winner, Red Knight continues his progress for Hall of Fame horseman Bill Mott. Dot Matrix raced evenly in third, followed by Postulation. Nakamura closed belatedly from the rear for fifth.
Next came Have At It, Tiz a Slam, Marzo, and French import Petit Fils, trailed at longer intervals by early pacesetters Red Right Hand and the tailed-off Glorious Empire. Also-eligibles Zumurudee and Mokheef didn’t draw in, and the main-track-only trio of Backsideofthemoon, Bon Raison, and Dynamax Prime stayed in the barn.
Sadler’s Joy has amassed $2,471,360 from a 26-7-4-7 line, reflecting his victories in the 2017 Sword Dancer and Pan American (G2) as well as the aforementioned Mac Diarmida along with a total of 11 graded stakes placings. The chestnut didn’t commence his six-year-old campaign until July, when a troubled sixth in the Bowling Green (G2). With a clean trip he might have emulated, or bettered, his pair of thirds in the Saratoga feature in 2017 and 2018. Sadler’s Joy nearly regained his Sword Dancer title back at the Spa August 24, only to be denied by Annals of Time, before his tussle in the Hirsch.
The Kentucky-bred is out of the Dynaformer mare Dynaire, who is also responsible for the stakes-placed Lunaire and Dyna Passer, third in the inaugural Jockey Club Oaks Invitational in September. This is the family of multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire and noted producer Sabin.
Although Albertrani invoked Twilight Eclipse as a case study of a horse excelling up in age, he doesn’t expect to keep Sadler’s Joy that much longer. Postrace quotes reveal that a stud career beckons. The door remains open for the lucrative Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) at Gulfstream Park in January, but the Sheema Classic (G1) on Dubai World Cup night looms as his main aim and possible swan song.
Quotes from Aqueduct
Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, who was winning his third race of the day: “He’s a great horse. I’m very proud of him. I know the horse. I know the way you’re supposed to ride the horse. I was fortunate just to enjoy the ride today. I give the credit to Tom. He knows the horse so well and I think he’s matured so much this year. The way he did it today was very impressive.
“He’s doing so well, timing his run didn’t matter today. Sometimes you move too soon and he hangs, or somebody gets the jump on him and he finishes second. He’s had all the excuses in the world but today he didn’t – he got it done.”
Winning trainer Tom Albertrani: “That’s really the way he likes to be ridden. He likes to be farther back and make a big swinging run and close. That’s his best style of running and he had a lot of horse to do it today. He came with a lot of determination down the lane. He wasn’t waiting on anyone today.
“I could see he was really running at the half mile pole. I wasn’t too worried when he came wide there. Everything worked out well. The pace was a little slow at the beginning which was a concern, but he was just much the best.
“He’s been better this year as a six-year-old than he has been at four or five. He has plenty of energy still left in the tank. I love having an older horse like him in the barn. Twilight Eclipse was nine years old and still running strong. I would love to keep him as long as that, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep him that long. I’ve been really fortunate to have them around for a while.
“We always felt the (Pegasus World Cup Turf) might be a little short for him distance-wise but we’re really looking at getting him to Dubai in March for the Sheema Classic. That’s what we intend to do whether he run at Gulfstream once before then or not. I just have to see how he trains up to the race. The owners are really looking to stand him next year after his last race, whether it’s Dubai or not. We haven’t made that decision yet.”