Four years after earning the first graded-stakes victory of his long career in the same race, Woodslane Farm’s Grade 1 winner Sadler’s Joy returns looking to snap a nine-race losing streak in Saturday’s $200,000 Pan American (G2) presented by Rood and Riddle at Gulfstream Park.
The 60th running of the 1 ½-mile Pan American for 4-year-olds and up on turf is part of a blockbuster program that includes 10 stakes, six graded, worth $1.85 million anchored by the $750,000 Curlin Florida Derby (G1) presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa, one of the country’s premier Triple Crown preps.
Sadler’s Joy is owned by Rene and Lauren Woolcott’s Woodslane Farm, which is located in northern Virginia. Though he was bred in Kentucky, Sadler’s Joy spent his formative years in the Old Dominion. Woodslane, who bred Sadler’s Joy, also bred 2014 Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist.
Now 8, Sadler’s Joy won the Pan American in 2017 and was fourth in 2018, but did not run in either of the past two years as trainer Tom Albertrani has looked to spread out his stable star’s races. The Kitten’s Joy gelding has started once this year, closing to be fourth by 2 ¼ lengths in the 1 ½-mile W.L. McKnight (G3) Jan. 23 at Gulfstream.
“He’s doing as well as ever so hopefully we’ll get another good trip out of him and go from there,” Albertrani said. “We just keep him on a regular routine, training-wise. You look at his work tab and you don’t see the fancy, fast works or anything; just normal, kind of routine works just to keep him ticking over between races.”
Sadler’s Joy is, by far, the richest horse in the Pan American with a bankroll of more than $2.6 million from 35 starts, with seven wins, four seconds and 11 thirds. All but one of his last 29 races have come in graded-stakes, his most recent win coming in the Red Smith (G3) at Aqueduct in the fall of 2019.
Last year, Sadler’s Joy went 0-for-8 with four thirds including the Mac Diarmida (G2) at Gulfstream and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) and Manhattan (G1) at Belmont Park, and was disqualified from first to fourth for interference in the Bowling Green (G2). He won the Mac Diarmida in 2018, the year after becoming a Grade 1 winner in the Sword Dancer at Saratoga.
“If he wasn’t in the barn, it’d be pretty strange. When that day comes, it’s going to be a sad day when we don’t see him walking down the shedrow anymore,” Albertrani said. “He’s just been one of those types of horses that tries every race. He puts everything into every time he runs and its’ just a pleasure having a horse like that.
“He puts up a game effort every single time, whether he gets beat a neck or a head in so many of these close races. And it’s only because of his running style that prevents him from getting up in time,” he added. “We just need to get everything to work, as always.”
Albertrani also won the Pan American in 2013 with Twilight Eclipse, who set the world record for 1 ½ miles on the grass (2:22.63). Twilight Eclipse raced until the spring of his 8-year-old season, making the last of his 40 career starts for trainer Graham Motion.
“It would be nice to chalk up another win in there. That was just a really great day. I didn’t actually know it until I heard the announcer say it was a track record. Then when we found out it was a world record, it was great, and for a horse like him, too,” Albertrani said. “He was another warrior. We’ve had a few and the ones that stuck around the barn a long time, they’re more of a pleasure to have around.”
Jose Ortiz is named to ride from Post 3 in the field of eight.
Sadler’s Joy certainly has the edge on the field in terms of accomplishments. The only other graded stakes winner in the group is the Mike Maker-trained Cross Border, winner of the 2020 Grade 2 Bowling Green. He most recently finished third in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf.
This article appeared in The Racing Biz March 25. Listen to “Off to the Races” powered by the Racing Biz, every Saturday from 10-11 AM on Richmond’s ESPN 950-AM and at theracingbiz.com.