Sadler’s Joy exited his last-for-first move in Saturday’s Sword Dancer Stakes (G1) at Saratoga with a healthy appetite, according to trainer Tom Albertrani.
“He was bright walking around the barn this morning, so that’s a good sign. He ate everything we gave him last night,” the conditioner reported.
Sadler’s Joy trailed the Sword Dancer field in seventh after breaking a step slow and hitting the side of the gate at the start. Jockey Julien Leparoux didn’t panic, allowing the Kitten’s Joy four-year-old to settle in his usual rear-running spot while 7-5 favorite Idaho duked it out with fellow European invader Erupt and Frank Conversation up front.
Those three couldn’t withstand the rush of the rest of the field, with the six-wide rally of Sadler’s Joy proving best as he nipped Money Multiplier on the wire by a half-length.
“I didn’t know where (Idaho) might place, just from reading, it sounded like he would go if there was no pace, but we didn’t expect to be that far back either,” Albertrani said. “But Julien seemed like he was confident there was enough pace out front that he didn’t have to worry about pushing him into the race early. He gave him a spectacular and well-timed ride.
“I got to watch it a couple of times yesterday and every time you watch it, it’s more exciting,” Albertrani added. “You look at the ground that he closes, it was (thrilling).”
The Sword Dancer is part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Challenge series, and bestowed an automatic berth to the November 4 Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Del Mar on Sadler’s Joy. Albertrani indicated his charge will ready for that contest in the $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) on September 30 at Belmont Park.
“We’ll go to Belmont and hopefully if all stays well, we’ll be in Del Mar,” Albertrani said. “He always tries and always runs hard. It’s all about getting the right trip in these kinds of races. Even yesterday, he had to swing pretty wide out and I didn’t think once I saw that move, that he’d make up that kind of ground. But he saved a lot of ground the first two turns and it just worked out. He never caught a good trip his last couple of races and he’s been close.”
Hunter O’Riley, who had only Sadler’s Joy beat prior to the stretch run, came out of his fourth-place effort in the Sword Dancer in good order, trainer Jimmy Toner said.
The Tiz Wonderful four-year-old was making his Grade 1 debut in the contest off a close win in the Bowling Green Stakes (G2) at Saratoga on July 29. Sadler’s Joy finished a half-length back in third in the Bowling Green.
“Hunter’s good. He came back good. He tries,” Toner said. “(Sadler’s Joy), we were lucky to beat him last time when we did. We got a little weight shift last time and I think yesterday we ran our race and he ran his; nothing to be ashamed of. He finished up good. It was a nice race.
“Yesterday, the winner did what he had to do. He tracked us and last time we were tracking him and I think that was the difference. We’re happy with his race. He tries every time; no complaints.”
Two races after the Sword Dancer, Lady Eli avenged her loss from the 2016 Ballston Spa Stakes (G2) with a 1 1/2-length victory in this year’s running.
The Divine Park mare wasn’t originally scheduled to run in the 1 1/16-mile turf contest, as plans had her training up to the $500,000 Flower Bowl Stakes (G1) on October 8 at Belmont Park, but trainer Chad Brown called an audible last week.
“It was a quite a thrill to be able to run her one more time here,” Brown said. “We’re relieved we made the right decision to run. Once I saw her tip out in the stretch coming for home I knew she’d get there . She’s never let us down.
“I’m 50-50 right now whether she’ll go into the Flower Bowl or train up into the Breeders’ Cup, but we’ll take her lead and she’ll let us know.”
Lady Eli is scheduled to be sold in the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale.
“I’m just very appreciative she’s been with us her whole career,” Brown said. “Me and my staff are always amazed by her accomplishments.”
What made the victory all the sweeter is that Lady Eli ran down Dickinson, who tried to wire the Ballston Spa. Dickinson managed to stick her head in front of Lady Eli on the wire of the Jenny Wiley Stakes (G1) at Keeneland earlier this season.
“Dickinson ran great, second-best to a great filly at equal weights,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “It was a shame they went the second half so fast. They went the first half in :48 and four and the second half in :45 flat; that’s crazy. That hurt us, but she ran great.
“We’ll see what we do from here, but she came out of it in great shape.”