With the wind whipping through Belmont Park Monday morning, trainer John Sadler had a quick thought. "This is not Del Mar," the Southern California-based trainer said.
No, the weather conditions in New York are nothing like Southern California, where the racing has now shifted from the seaside Del Mar to the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting. But Sadler's horse, Healthy Addiction, making her first start outside California, seemed to be handling the conditions better than he was.
And, the 4-year-old daughter of Boston Harbor seems to be getting good at the right time, thus the reason for shipping across the country to contest the Oct. 29 Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Distaff.
"Certainly the question is the class jump, to see if she can handle the better fillies and mares," Sadler said. "But she deserves a chance."
Healthy Addiction has won six of 14 starts but that includes her last three. "She's just a filly developing at the right time," Sadler said.
Four races back, Healthy Addiction did try good fillies, running sixth in the Vanity Handicap (gr. I). But since then, she has reeled off wins in the Osunitas Handicap on the turf and Adoration Handicap and Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) on dirt.
Garrett Gomez rode her for the first time in the Lady's Secret and will be back aboard in the Distaff.
In the Lady's Secret, she led wire-to-wire but Sadler said that is not her best running style. "She made the lead by default in that race. She prefers to stalk and that's usually a good place to stay out of trouble."
"Early on, she had a lot of seconds and she was just one of those who had little things happen in races, little excuses," the 49-year-old trainer said. In her first five races, she was second the first three before then winning two straight.
Healthy Addiction's last start at three was a fifth in the Railbird (gr. III), her year ending because of a flake in her left front ankle that was taken out by Dr. Greg Ferraro.
The Distaff will be a new experience for Sadler. He has sent out three horses to make five starts in previous Breeders' Cups, all in the Sprint and all but once outside of California. The best finish was fourth. "In the past I had California-type sprinters and this time I have a filly I think will like the track she will be running on," he said.
One thing is for sure, it will be a neat story line should Healthy Addiction win. She is owned by Pamela Ziebarth, whose mother, the late Cecilia Straub-Ruebens, owned (sr>Tiznow, the only two-time winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I). The second of his two wins was at Belmont Park.
"I guess whenever she's retired we know who she will be bred to," Sadler said.
Healthy Addiction was bred in Kentucky by Sequel 98, a partnership of Lewis Lakin, Becky Thomas, Sam Speer, and James Kintz. She was sold at the 2002 Keeneland September sale for $100,000.