Woodslane Farm homebred Sadler’s Joy bounced through the post parade for the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational like a horse with something big on his mind. Just 2:24.58 later, the 4-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy came flying down the outside of Saratoga’s firm turf course to win in a last-gasp effort which defeated both Money Multiplier and Bigger Picture by a half-length at the wire. Ridden by Julien Leparoux for trainer Tom Albertrani, Sadler’s Joy recorded his first top-level victory to earn an expenses-paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Longines Turf.
“He [Leparoux] has ridden him well every time,” Albertrani said. “We had some misfortune, maybe, in the Man o’ War 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.”
A bit slow out of the starting gate, Sadler’s Joy was more than happy to settle at the rear of the seven-horse field for Leparoux. Out front, Frank Conversation and European invader Idaho took turns leading the field through fractions of :24.92, :49.17 and 1:14.19, never more than a half-length apart from the beginning of the race. From there it was another length back to Erupt, followed by Bigger Picture, Money Multiplier, Hunter O’Riley and Sadler’s Joy at the rear.
“At the beginning, he kind of propped leaving there and Julien said he didn’t know what happened,” said Albertrani. “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.”
Rounding the far turn for the final time, the field began to compress as Idaho held a slight lead over Frank Conversation. Sadler’s Joy was still last at the top of the lane, but Leparoux angled him out for clear running room and the colt got down to business. Leparoux hit him right-handed, he lunged to the left, and Leparoux had to straighten him out again. The same thing happened at the eighth pole as Sadler’s Joy still had two lengths to make up, but the third time Leparoux asked the colt he changed leads and produced a burst of speed to get up in the final 100 yards.
Sadler’s Joy crossed the wire a half-length in front of Money Multiplier and Bigger Picture, second and third respecitvely, who were locked in battle from the quarter pole to the wire. Hunter O’Riley got up to finish fourth.
“He just kind of broke and spooked at something coming out of the gate,” Leparoux said. “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.”
Bred in Kentucky by his owners, Sadler’s Joy is out of the unraced Dynaformer mare Dynaire. He broke his maiden in his fourth career start, then recorded back-to-back allowance wins before stepping into stakes company. Sadler’s Joy won the G2 Pan American Stakes at Gulfstream Park in April, then ran third in three consecutive graded stakes races prior to his Sword Dancer victory. Overall, the colt’s record stands at 5-1-3 from 12 starts, with over $1 million earnings.