Accelerate, Catalina Cruiser and Catapult, all out of the John Sadler stable, accounted for four of the nine divisional champions of the 2018 summer meeting at Del Mar. Accelerate was voted Horse of the Meeting and Top Older Horse while Catalina Cruiser took the Sprinter division and Catapult Top Grass Horse.
The trio's combined five stakes wins contributed mightily to the more than $1.2 million in earnings at the meeting that put the Hronis Racing stable of brothers Kosta and Pete Hronis atop the ownership standings for the second year in a row and the fourth time overall.
Only Accelerate, retired to stud after an Eclipse Award season climaxed by a win in the Breeders' Cup Classic, is gone from Sadler's standout horse group of a year ago. And Hronis Racing looks as strong as ever with one newcomer, Jasikan, the morning line favorite for Wednesday's traditional opening day feature, the $100,000 Runhappy Oceanside Stakes.
So things are looking up, with one exception, for Sadler. When he looks out the door of his office and down the shedrow, he does not see horses conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer at the far end of the building.
“There's a big sadness for me coming here this year with what happened to Hollendorfer,” Sadler said, carefully and measuredly, Tuesday morning, his first day on site. “He's been my friend and neighbor at the end of the stalls for quite a few years here, so it's a little depressing. But as far as the horses go, it's looking good, we're expecting to have a nice week and we're going to load right up this weekend.”
Catalina Cruiser is scheduled to defend his title in Saturday's Grade II $200,000 San Diego Handicap and Catapult comes back with a title defense in Sunday's Grade II $250,000 Eddie Read Stakes.
Additional representatives in early stakes are Kentan Road and Lady Suebee in Saturday's $85,000 Daisycutter Handicap and Higher Power in Sunday's $85,000 Wickerr Stakes.
“Off to a strong start, I hope,” Sadler said. “I never look from year to year, I've been so consistent down here for so long. But you never know what's going to happen. Hopefully we'll get some breaks and have some luck.”
Sadler has four entered in the opening day program with Jasikan, an Irish-bred colt who was purchased following a maiden-breaking win in November, his second career start in his native country.
“He looks like a nice prospect,” Sadler said. “He was a very good third in a stake first out for us, then he won an allowance race very impressively in his next out. The mile (of the Oceanside) should be a very good distance for him.”
The Runhappy Oceanside field from the rail: Manhattan Up (Tiago Pereira, 12-1), Roger That (Martin Garcia, 30-1), Jasikan (Flavien Prat, 9-5), Legends of War (Rafael Bejarano, 6-1), King of Speed (Kent Desormeaux, 6-1), City Rage (Drayden Van Dyke, 15-1), More Ice (Norberto Arroyo, Jr., 15-1), Gregorian Chant (Geovanni Franco, 7-2), Rijeka (Ruben Fuentes, 20-1), Nolde (Victor Espinoza, 8-1), Golden Birthday (Joe Talamo, 20-1), Synthesis (Mario Gutierrez, 30-1).
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