Vagabond Shoes is a 6-year-old gelding who has raced in six different countries, but the $3 million Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) entrant has never been better than he is now.
The Irish-bred son of 2002 Arlington Million (gr. IT) winner Beat Hollow arrived in the John Sadler barn this year. He was purchased by brothers Kosta and Pete Hronis (Hronis Racing) for about $100,000 at the Prix de lʼArc de Triomphe (Fr-I) 2012 racing age sale on the recommendation of bloodstock agent Hubert Guy, Sadler said Oct. 30.
"It took him a few races to get going over here, but I've always liked him," said Sadler before the leggy chestnut with a long white blaze took to the track for a 1 1/2-mile gallop. Vagabond Shoes was the first horse on the Santa Anita Park oval after the 9 a.m. renovation break and was bucking a bit and feeling good after his strong exercise.
Vagabond Shoes, breaking from the rail in the Nov. 2 event with Victor Espinoza aboard, is 15-1 on the morning line for the 1 1/2-mile test.
He will be making his eighth United States start of a 28-race career that includes stops in Spain, France, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Germany. A dual group III winner in France, where he was trained by Yan Durepaire and Stephane Chevalier, Vagabond Shoes qualified for the BC Turf with his victory in the 1 3/8-mile Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT) Aug. 24, a "Win & You're In" event for the World Championships.
"He didn't run very well in the first couple starts. He had a lot of trouble in his first start, and the second race he got put on the lead, which was wrong. Then I tried him on synthetics," Sadler explained. "I had to experiment with him a little the first two or three starts. But I always liked what I saw from him in the mornings and once we kind of figured him out he has done well and continued to improve."
Vagabond Shoes is coming off a runner-up finish in the 10-furlong John Henry Turf Championship (gr. IIT) Sept. 29.
He closed well that day but came up short by 1 1/4 lengths of Indy Point, who completed the distance in an eye-catching 1:57 2/5. Since that race, Vagabond Shoes worked seven furlongs on the turf in 1:24 1/5 around the dogs Oct. 19, following that with a one-mile work in 1:40 flat Oct. 26, also on the turf.
The 1 1/2-mile Turf trip is not a concern; Sadler said he is looking forward to trying his charge at the distance.
"He was really more of a miler in Europe, but since we began running him longer (beginning with a runner-up finish in the grade I Eddie Read over nine furlongs at Del Mar July 20), he's really been finishing up well in his races. He breezed quick the other day and then we slowed him down last time. He seems to be coming up to this very well. Now, it's just a question of if he's good enough."
Defending Turf champion Little Mike is expected to send from post 4 with Mike Smith aboard but there may not be much to go with him. Vagabond Shoes, with his inside berth, will try to save ground under Espinoza before launching a sustained bid.
"We'd really like to see some pace but at 1 1/2 miles, it's hard to guess what that's likely to be," Sadler said.
Indy Point will be formidable again, Sadler acknowledged, but he thinks the filly The Fugue, the 3-1 morning line favorite, is the one to beat.
Vagabond Shoes out of the Singspiel mare Atiza, has seven wins and eight placings in his career while banking $455,497.