Sadler's Joy works at Palm Meadows

Sadler's Joy works at Palm Meadows

Dana Wimpfheimer

Sadler's Joy Favored in Gulfstream's Pan American

Son of Kitten's Joy won the Mac Diarmida in his last start.

Grade 1 winner Sadler's Joy will head a field of nine as the 2-1 morning-line favorite in the $250,000 Pan American Stakes (G2T), going 1 1/2 miles on the turf at Gulfstream Park March 31.

The Pan American, for 4-year-olds and older, is one of seven stakes, five graded, on the $1.1 million Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1) Day program.

Sadler's Joy, a Woodslane Farm homebred, took the 1 3/8-mile Mac Diarmida Stakes (G2T) at the Florida track in his season debut March 3 for trainer Thomas Albertrani. 

Albertrani, a two-time winner of the race, saddled Twilight Eclipse to a record-setting victory in 2013.

"I've been fortunate to win it a couple times already, but a third time would be nice. We've still got the track record-holder in there, but it would be great to come back and win it again," Albertrani said. "(Sadler's Joy) came out of the last race in great shape and has been training well since, so we'll try again. He's just doing so well."

The 5-year-old son of Kitten's Joy  ended his 4-year-old season with fourth-place finishes in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes (G1T) and the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf (G1T). 

Sadler's Joy won the 2017 Sword Dancer Stakes (G1T) to earn his top-level score, beating grade 1-placed Money Multiplier by a half-length. Fellow Pan American entrant Bigger Picture was third by a nose in the 1 1/2-mile event.

Trained by Mike Maker, who will also saddle the 4-year-old colt Markitoff, Bigger Picture won the John B. Connally Turf Cup Stakes (G3T) in his most recent start—his Jan. 28 season debut. In that 1 1/2-mile race at Sam Houston Race Park, the 7-year-old gelding stalked the pace and gave a strong drive to finish a length in front.

Trainer Todd Pletcher will send out Argentine-bred Hi Happy in an attempt to break through on North American soil. An undefeated multiple group 1 winner in his native country, the 6-year-old son of Pure Prize has yet to place better than third in five U.S. efforts since arriving in 2016. 

After finishing third in the Tokyo City Cup Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park in April of 2017, Hi Happy did not return to racing until Feb. 10, when he again finished third in the Gulfstream Park Turf Stakes (G1T) behind winner Heart to Heart.

"I thought he ran super last time; he just ran out of ground a little bit. A mile and an eighth is a little short, so I think he'll appreciate the added distance. He's doing very well," Pletcher said. "I thought he performed well off the layoff and certainly acts like a quality horse. I think, based on his form previously, he's proven that he's a horse that does well at a mile and a quarter and beyond, so we felt like this was a good spot for him."

Trainer Bill Mott, with a record six Pan American victories, is the only trainer to win the race more than twice. He will send out Joseph V. Shields Jr.'s 4-year-old gelding Classic Covey for his stakes debut after winning two of six lifetime starts.