John Sadler, like most horsemen of his caliber, was focused on the business at hand Thursday after celebrating his second consecutive Santa Anita Handicap victory last Saturday, this in dramatic fashion with Gift Box, who hung a pulsating nose defeat on favored McKinzie.
“The plan as of now is to run Gift Box in the Gold Cup here on May 27,” said Sadler, a Californian through and through, born in Long Beach and a resident of Pasadena.
It was a steady if not spectacular winter portion of the Santa Anita meet for the 62-year-old Sadler, who began his training career more than four decades ago.
He was second in both overall victories (25) and stakes wins (five), but his winning percentage of 26 was highest among the top eight trainers, thanks in large part to his principal clients, Kosta and Peter Hronis, owners of Gift Box and other major players, including Triple Crown candidate Nolo Contesto, who was fourth in the Santa Anita Derby.
“We're just going to sit back and see how he looks,” Sadler said of the three-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile. “We don't have a plan yet, but we'll look for some of the bigger three-year-old races later on the calendar.”
Top turf campaigner Catapult, who suffered the “worst beat” in Sadler's career losing by a desperate nose to Ohio in the Kilroe Mile, also last Saturday, is ticketed for the Grade I Shoemaker Mile on May 27. The prestigious turf event is a Breeders' Cup “Win and You're In” Challenge Race, giving the victor a fees-paid berth to the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita.
In short, Sadler had a meet any trainer would take, no questions asked.
“We had the highest percentage of wins, finished second in the standings, high up in the money ($1,876,968, second only to Bob Baffert's $2,433,970), which will all go as a footnote,” he said.
Modesty aside, it was a great campaign by any standard, considering Sadler ran 90 fewer horses than meet leader Doug O'Neill (185 to Sadler's 95, O'Neill winning 29, Sadler 25).
Sadler lauded meet riding leader Joel Rosario, regular pilot of Gift Box, for his contribution to the barn's success. “He rode our horses really well and we're excited about him winning the title,” Sadler said. “It was a good meet for both sides. I'm really pleased.”
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