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Man o’ War Stakes Preview: Wake Forest Looks to Repeat

NYRA

ELMONT, NY – Woodslane Farm’s homebred Sadler’s Joy will look to build on his recent victory in last month’s Grade 2 Pan American, facing seven rivals in the first Grade 1 of Belmont Park’s spring/summer meet, the $400,000 Man o’ War at 1 3/8 miles over the inner turf on Saturday.

A 4-year-old by Kitten’s Joy, Sadler’s Joy looks to be a budding turf warrior, ratcheting four wins from his last five starts since breaking his maiden in his fourth career race. The chestnut colt, trained by Tom Albertrani, ran through his conditions in his sophomore campaign before wading into the deeper waters of graded stakes competition.

He made his stakes debut in the Grade 3 W. L. McKnight Handicap at Gulfstream Park in January, where he bested fellow Man o’ War entrants Charming Kitten, Twilight Eclipse, and Patterson Cross, and finished a head behind another, the winning Taghleeb. Sadler’s Joy returned for the Grade 2 Pan American on April 1 and found himself in front at the wire to win by a head over Designed for War and ahead of Patterson Cross and Taghleeb, who finished third and fourth, respectively.

“We’ve always had high regards for the horse since his first race, actually,” said Albertrani. “It took him a couple of races to put things together, but he’s made steps forward ever since he broke his maiden. It looks like he could be a very serious horse, as far as the route races on the grass go, for sure.

“He’s won four of his last five races and beaten a head in the McKnight, so he’s really proven himself to be a top turf horse,” he added. “Hopefully, we’ll continue this weekend. It looks like the same group of horses that are going to show up this weekend. They’ve all been within heads and necks of each other in their last few races, so hopefully, racing luck plays a bit of a part in everything, too. I’m very excited to see this horse run back again. He’s always shown he’s got a good turn of foot, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best through the end of the year.”

Julien Leparoux, aboard Sadler’s Joy in both starts this year, has the return call. The pair will break from the rail.

Among Sadler’s Joy’s competition are the winners of the Man o’ War’s last two runnings, Wake Forest (2016) and Twilight Eclipse (2015).

Wake Forest, who recorded a 3/4-length score over stablemate Money Multiplier, will make a repeat appearance for trainer Chad Brown and owners Michael Dubb, Sheep Pond Partners, and Bethlehem Stables. A 7-year-old German-bred by Sir Percy, Wake Forest has hit the board in each of his last four starts, including his first win since the Man o’ War with a head victory in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida on March 4 at Gulfstream.

Wake Forest will be ridden by Javier Castellano from post 3.

Top Choice

#3 Wake Forest – If you’ve followed the website over the last year, then you’re well aware of my love/hate relationship with this horse. Last year, I bet him big to win this very race, and he did, but then he lost his next five in a row to round out 2016. Out of those five races, I picked him to win four times, so you can understand my frustration. He made his 2017 debut in the Mac Diarmida, and once again, I picked him. That time, he finally won, so I’m on him once again in this spot. Hopefully, he’s ready to win his second race in a row on Saturday, as well as his second straight Man o’ War Stakes.

New Subscriber Bonus: Access our Top 10 Wagering Angles in Racing to see exactly what we look for when opening up the past performances.

Horses to Use in Multi Race Wagers

#1 Sadler’s Joy – This horse is quickly moving up the ranks in the turf division, and last time out, he picked up his first graded stakes victory in the Pan American. He’s won four of his last five races, with his only loss by a diminishing head to Taghleeb in the W. L. McKnight, which was his first start of 2017. He’ll drop to the back early on to make one big run at the end and should be tough to hold off.

#6 Patterson Cross – Talk about a horse that’s REALLY knocking on the door of getting that first graded stakes victory. This past winter at Gulfstream Park, he just missed in three graded stakes by a length, a head, and a neck! His loss by a head came in the Mac Diarmida to Wake Forest, my top pick to win this race. Using that logic, it’s obvious to see why I’ve put him as a must-use in multi-race wagers. Eventually, he’s going to break through and pick up a big-time victory.

Exotic Plays

#2 Charming Kitten – He’s back in the United States for 2017 after a trip overseas last year that saw him finish third and fifth in tough stakes action. He already has three races under his belt in 2017, and slowly but surely, he looks to be rounding back into form. He wasn’t quite as sharp as his connections would’ve liked at Gulfstream, but he turned things around a bit at Keeneland in the Grade 2 Elkhorn Stakes when he finished a solid second. I’m skeptical that he’s good enough at this age to win this type of race, but he’s a definite underneath play.

#8 Taghleeb – He comes to Belmont after a tremendous winter at Gulfstream Park where he won two stakes races, including the W. L. McKnight. He was solid in the Pan American last time out when he finished fourth but was only beaten by a little over a length. I’m not sure he’s quite good enough to beat some of the best at this level, but his class puts him in the mix.

Party Crashers

#4 Zhukova – As always, the European shippers are a mystery when they run here for the first time, and this Irish-born mare is no different. She has some solid back class with five stakes wins on her resume, plus she gets the services of recent Kentucky Derby-winning rider John Velazquez. Last time out, she came off of a long layoff to win a small stakes by two lengths, and she’s back just 28 days later, which signals that she’s in fine form. She’s an interesting horse.

#5 Highland Sky – He was very solid as a 3-year-old last year when he finished second in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby by a neck to Deauville. However, after that race, he went on a nearly eight-month break before returning to win an allowance race at Gulfstream Park in February. That race should serve as a decent prep for this one. If he makes another solid progression, it’ll put him in the hunt against a beatable field at a price.

Throw Outs

#7 Twilight Eclipse – You know it’s a competitive race when I’ve only listed one horse as a “throw out.”  The old pro Twilight Eclipse is still competitive, but I think his better days are behind him. Asking him to win a Grade 1 at this stage in his career is asking for too much.

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