The run-up to Sadler’s Joy‘s title defense in Saturday’s $100,000 Red Smith Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct looks a lot like last year with the 7-year-old looking to repeat in the 1 3/8-mile grass test after a last-out third in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1).
Bypassing a trip to California for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) a year ago after a narrow loss in the Turf Classic put Sadler’s Joy in a great position to win the Red Smith by two lengths while overcoming an early 13-length deficit.
Aside from a dull try in the Sword Dancer (G1) over soft ground two back, Sadler’s Joy’s form this season has been typically consistent, though he’s officially winless on the year after being disqualified from first in the Bowling Green (G2) on Aug. 1.
“He’s run some big races and was so close in some of the bigger races,” trainer Tom Albertrani said. “I think one of the biggest disappointments was at Saratoga when he was disqualified. He’s just always consistently always been right there. The horse just always shows up.”
The Red Smith took a purse cut this year due to the effects of the pandemic, but the quality of the field has seemingly strengthened. Red Knight was runner-up to Sadler’s Joy in the 2019 Red Smith and enters in great form off just three previous starts this season.
Second in between Arklow and Zulu Alpha in the Kentucky Turf Cup (G3) two back, Red Knight rebounded last time to win the Sycamore (G3) at Keeneland by two lengths, beating returning rivals Postulation, Ziyad, North Dakota, and United Nations (G1) winner Aquaphobia.
Ziyad, a Group 2 winner in France who narrowly missed twice in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (G1), should come on from the Sycamore in what was his first U.S. appearance since joining the Graham Motion barn.
“He just came up to us that week from quarantine and I hadn’t had him for very long at all,” Motion said. “He seems to be uncomplicated. From the morning works, he seems a little one paced.
“He has the class there. It’s the end of the year which is a little bit of a worry. There are certainly concerns, but he’s done well, and this race has been in the back of our mind. He’ll get a rest after this; I won’t take him to Florida. We’ll point him for the spring.”
After taking the United Nations in July, Aquaphobia was a distant third in the Sword Dancer behind Channel Maker and fared poorer in the Sycamore. However, trainer Mike Maker is willing to throw that race out.
“I felt he was a bit closer to the pace than he likes to be, so we crossed through that race,” Maker said.