Milady BC Handicap Next for Victory Encounter

(from Hollywood Park notes)
The year has been a breakthrough one for trainer John Sadler, who scored the first group I victory of his career in March with Our New Recruit in the Golden Shaheen Stakes in Dubai. In May, Victory Encounter gave him his first grade I victory in the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park.

Sadler sends Victory Encounter after another grade I victory Sunday in the $250,000-added Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles.

Victory Encounter goes from an outsider in the May 9 Vanity to a leading contender in the Milady. She carries top weight of 119 pounds in the field of seven.

"I wasn't kidding the other day when I said I was just hoping to be third and stakes-placed in a grade I," said Sadler of Victory Encounter's come-from-behind upset of Adoration and Star Parade. "Now that we've won a grade I with her, we just want to build on that layer."

Victory Encounter, a 4-year-old filly, has won seven of 11 starts. She is sometimes on the lead and sometimes from far back.

"Some of the pressure has been lifted off me after the Vanity," said Sadler. "We were tampering with her style a little" by allowing her to fall way off the pace. "But I'm just going to let Alex (jockey Alex Solis) judge and adjust to the situation."

Solis rode Victory Encounter for the first time in the Vanity.

Sadler, 47, a trainer for 25 years, does not think the reduction in distance from nine furlongs will hurt the chances of Victory Encounter. She is unbeaten in four starts at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.

Victory Encounter seeks to join an elite list of females to sweep the Vanity and Milady in the same year, and would be the first to do it in this sequence. Horse of the Year Azeri won both in 2002 and last year, when the Vanity was run last.

She will run up against Star Parade, who receives three pounds in the weights, once again Sunday. Trainer Darrell Vienna pronounced Star Parade fit and ready to go in spite of the Argentine-bred speedster's hard-to-peg performance in the Vanity. Victor Espinoza retains the mount.

The 5-year-old mare didn't break sharply in the Vanity, putting Adoration along the rail on the early lead. Star Parade was under pressure to challenge Adoration from the outside down the backside, and the two dueled into the stretch before Victory Encounter rallied from far back to win the 1 1/8-mile race. Star Parade faded to third, 3 1/2 lengths behind the winner.

"I can't explain the Vanity," Vienna said from his Santa Anita base. "I think she's become a horse that doesn't necessarily want to be on the lead. I just don't know.

"Star Parade just worked five-eighths in 59 3/5 Wednesday on the training track here," he added. "She's definitely a go."

Earlier in the winter, Star Parade led all the way to win the Bayakoa Handicap (gr. II) at Hollywood Park and the Santa Maria Handicap (gr. I) at Santa Anita. Both races were at the Milady's distance.

Summer Wind Dancer, carrying 118 pounds, will have Tyler Baze in the saddle, replacing Espinoza, who was aboard when Jeff Mullins' 4-year-old gray filly registered a convincing victory in the Hawthorne Handicap (gr. III) June 6 at Hollywood.

Tangle will return to the main track in the Milady for owner J. Paul Reddam and trainer Craig Dollase.

She'll be part of a busy weekend for her connections. On Saturday, Reddam and Dollase will team with Royal Moro in the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I), Bear in the Woods in the Swaps Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. II) and Elloluv in the A Gleam Handicap (gr. II).

Tangle, an Irish-bred 4-year-old filly, has made seven of her eight previous starts on turf, including a runner-up finish in the 2002 Miesque Stakes and a victory in an allowance race in her last outing on the Hollywood lawn on June 27.

Tangle's only previous start on dirt was an encouraging third-place finish in a three-way photo finish in the La Canada Stakes (gr. II) at 1 1/8 miles in February.

$250,000-added Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. I, race 8, 4:53 p.m. PT), fillies & mares 3 & up, 1 1/16 mile
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Victory Encounter (KY), 119, Alex O. Solis
2. Star Parade (ARG), 116, Victor Espinoza
3. Summer Wind Dancer (CA), 118, Tyler Baze
4. Lady Thatcher (CHI), 110, Jose Valdivia, Jr.
5. Quero Quero (KY), 115, Javier Santiago
6. Pesci (FL), 114, Mike E. Smith
7. Tangle (IRE), 113, Corey S. Nakatani