John Sadler goes for back-to-back victories in the Santa Anita Handicap presented by San Manuel Casino a week from Saturday, April 6, when he sends out Gift Box in the Arcadia, Calif., Thoroughbred racing track's marquee race for older horses at a mile and a quarter offering $600,000 in purse money.
Sadler won his first Big 'Cap last year with Accelerate, 2018 Horse of the Year runner-up to undefeated Triple Crown champion Justify.
A gray son of Twirling Candy, Gift Box is a six-year-old full horse that won at first asking for Sadler and principal clients Kosta and Peter Hronis, taking the Grade II San Antonio Stakes under Joel Rosario last Dec. 26. Gift Box previously had been trained by Chad Brown.
“He's doing really well,” Sadler said. “He has one more work Saturday, seven days out (from the race). He's all set to go. Joel rides him back.”
It will be a busy resumption week for Sadler, who also has Selcourt in the Grade I Beholder Mile, Catapult in the Grade I Kilroe Mile and St. Joe Bay in the Grade II San Carlos Stakes, all this Saturday, with his primary Triple Crown hopeful Nolo Contesto waiting in the wings, “so we've got a lot to run.
“It looks like Nolo Contesto will go in the Santa Anita Derby (also next Saturday), but we haven't decided on a jockey yet,” Sadler said.
Southern California-based three-year-olds have won the Kentucky Derby five of the last seven years, and Sadler sees little reason why that trend can't continue.
“California looks strong again to me with Game Winner and Improbable, and even the horse from up north (Anothertwistafate) ran an exceptionally good race in the Sunland Derby, so California should be right in the mix as per usual.
“A lot of the preps are April 6, so it sorts itself out pretty quickly.”
Fans will be treated to a stakes bonanza on April 6, with seven added money events worth $2,750,000 on the calendar, topped by the $1 million Santa Anita Derby and the $600,000 Santa Anita Handicap.
In addition to the 1 ¼-mile Big 'Cap and the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby, each bestowed with Grade I status, Santa Anita will showcase the Grade I, $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks for fillies at 1 1/16 miles; the $200,000 Echo Eddie Stakes for three-year-olds at 6 ½ furlongs; the $200,000 Evening Jewel Stakes for three-year-old fillies at 6 ½ furlongs; the Grade II, $200,000 Royal Heroine Stakes for older fillies and mares at one mile on turf; and the Grade III, $150,000 Providencia Stakes for three-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on the grass.
First post time for Southern California's biggest day in racing to date this year will be 12 noon.
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