Everyone is looking for live longshots in the Breeders’ Cup. The hard part is finding them.
This year, a good place to start might be with a guy who has won numerous training titles throughout Southern California the last couple of years, including a pair at Santa Anita—John Sadler. A resident of Pasadena, which is right around the corner from Santa Anita, Sadler has been racing Thoroughbreds for more than two decades in California with considerable success, but only recently has the 43-year-old earned status as one of the West Coast's elite trainers.
With a stable of about 90 horses at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park, Sadler knows as well as anyone how to win races in California, which gives him an edge at the 2009 World Championships. And make no mistake about it, he is hungry for a win. Beginning with Olympic Prospect, who ran seventh in the 1988 Sprint (gr. I), Sadler’s horses are 0-for-14 in Breeders Cup action.
“I try not to put too much pressure on myself, but I want to win one,” said Sadler, who won the 2008 Oak Tree title and followed that up with a 2008-09 Santa Anita meet victory. “I know everything is a progression, but I feel like I’m an upper-echelon trainer right now and the next step in my career is to win a Breeders’ Cup race. For me, a lifelong Californian, this would be a great place to win my first one.”
This time around, Sadler has pre-entered five horses. None of them will be favored, but all of them bring solid credentials to their respective races. Sadler took time to talk about each of them:
“She came out of the Rancho Bernardo (gr. III) with a sore foot, but she is doing good now. She handles the synthetics very well; she beat the boys over this surface this winter (in the San Vincente, gr. II). And seven-eighths is the distance she likes most. She’s a 3-year-old, but I think she was the first 3-year-old to beat elders in the A Gleam (gr. II, at Hollywood) in like 65 years, so she has talent.
“The thing about her is that she needs some pace to run at; so we need some help. But I like the way she is coming into the race."
“Noble Count won his only race on the downhill course in March in the Joe Hernandez and he did it pretty easily. His last two races were good too (third in Triple Bend, runner-up in Pat O’Brien, both grade I). In the Pat O’Brien, take a look at the splits that Zenzational ran; they were very fast. On the main track he likes to close but on the turf he doesn’t have to beat so far back. We’ve been pointing to this race since March. I think he’ll be awfully tough.
“Get Funky was off form last year; he didn’t show himself like we thought he would. But we were happy with his prep race (runner-up to California Flag in the gr. IIIT Morvich). If you give California Flag a shot, you have to consider him too. He also seems to be a horse for the course; he’s got a couple wins over it.
“I think horses with experience (on the downhill turf course) have a big advantage. If they haven’t run well over it I think you can put a line through them, but if they have, my experience is that they will keep running well.”
“He was third in this race last year from an outside post. He disappointed us early this year but his prep (third to Cowboy Cal by 1 1/4 lengths in Oak Tree Mile, gr. IIT) was good, even with a wide trip. I think he ran faster than Cowboy Cal if you look at the Rag sheets. He’s sharp right now. I’m hoping for an inside draw. He’s not far off, but this is a tough race. There is Goldikova and a lot of other nice horses.”
“He’s good on this track (won three of four). In the Del Mar race (Pirate's Bounty Stakes) he stumbled and needed the race. In the Ancient Title (gr. I, fourth to Gayego) he ran well. For him, a lot is going to depend where Zenzational and Fatal Bullet draw.”
Overall, Sadler considers this to be the strongest group of horses he has brought to a Breeders’ Cup. And the advantage of them running over their home courses cannot be understated.
“They are all nice horses,” Sadler said. “I’m happy with them as a group. Each of them deserves to be in there. When I’ve traveled to the Breeders’ Cup before I had some nice horses, but because they have experience over the main track and turf courses here, I think this is the best group I’ve had.”