This year’s version of the $850,000 Sword Dancer Stakes (G1) features a solid field of nine horses on Travers Stakes (G1) day, Saratoga’s biggest of the year. The race has been a key Breeders’ Cup prep event over the past few years, and this edition should prove no exception.
It should come as no surprise that trainer Chad Brown brings a strong trio of runners to this race. Amidst an historic meet at Saratoga, he has been absolutely on fire with turf horses around the country, and leading the charge Saturday will be the Grade 1 winner Annals of Time. He’ll have several challengers in this contest, though, with Todd Pletcher’s Channel Cat leading the way. Last time, the son of English Channel won the local prep race for this event, the Bowling Green Stakes (G2). English Channel will also be represented by Channel Maker, who won the Man o’ War Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park three races back.
The winner of the Sword Dancer Stakes will receive an automatic position in the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) this fall at Santa Anita Park. Pre-entry and entry fees will be paid and a nominator award of $10,000 will be given to the nominating person. Also, all Breeders’ Cup starters based outside of the state of California will receive a travel allowance of $10,000 if based in North America and $40,000 if based Internationally.
Here is a look at the full field:
#1 Proven Reserves – This is an interesting entry for Brown, who already has two solid win candidates entered. Proven Reserves won two of four starts in 2018, but he has finished off the board in both 2019 starts. This will be his first start both on turf and in a stakes race, so you have to wonder if he might be in the race just to make sure that the pace is swift for his two stablemates.
#2 Tiz Morning – He’ll make the jump from the claiming ranks to Grade 1 company, an especially tall task considering he was third in his last start. He broke his maiden three races ago at Belmont Park before coming to Saratoga and finishing eighth against allowance company. He will likely be the longest shot on the board, but this is Saratoga, and crazy things do happen.
#3 Noble Thought – More distance is what this horse probably needs, which is why they’ve entered him in this spot. It will be a huge jump up in class, though, after he finished third against starter allowance company last time out. He has shown consistency in many of his races, though, which could help him out against this tough field.
#4 Channel Cat – He exits the biggest win of his career, the Bowling Green Stakes (G2) over this track, where he took the field wire to wire. The son of English Channel has always run competitively in big-time races, yet had never won a graded stakes event until that day. His most dangerous weapon is his early speed, so look for him to be the one leading the pack as they turn for home.
#5 Pillar Mountain – Wednesday’s rain forced him to enter this race instead of the John’s Call Stakes, which is where he was originally entered. This is not the ideal spot, but he earned a shot at stakes company after two straight impressive allowance/optional claiming victories. The most recent one came over this track by an impressive 2 1/2 lengths against a solid field.
#6 Ya Primo – It was quite the United States debut for this horse who had picked up several big scores when racing in his native Chile. He did not win the Bowling Green Stakes (G2), but it could be argued that he was the best horse in the race. He made a strong move into a very soft pace and finished just a 1/2-length behind the pace-setting Channel Cat. Brown usually gets horses to improve as they continue racing in this country, making him ultra-dangerous here.
#7 Annals of Time – After a dominating allowance win here on July 24, Brown quickly declared the Sword Dancer to be the target for Annals of Time. Brown often uses allowance races as preps for his horses: late last year, he used a Gulfstream Park allowance to get Bricks and Mortar ready for a big win in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1). Annals of Time has a lot to live up to if he wants to match his stablemate, but he showed a ton of talent in that last victory and was a Grade 1 winner at age 3.
#8 Channel Maker – This classy horse is back to give this race another shot after finishing second a year ago. Since then, he won two Grade 1 events, including the Man o’ War Stakes at Belmont Park three races back. He ran a strong fourth in the loaded Manhattan Stakes (G1) after that, but he didn’t make much of a move last time out in the Bowling Green Stakes (G2), finishing fourth. With more pace, he could play a bigger factor this time around.
#9 Sadler’s Joy – He stormed home to win the 2017 edition, but he could not defend his title last year, finishing a distant sixth. He has just one start under his belt this year, which was a sixth in the Bowling Green Stakes (G2). That was clearly a prep for this one, though, and he has a ton of back class. He ended his 2018 season by finishing third in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) against the toughest competition in the world. He’ll be fit and ready this time around.
The Sword Dancer Stakes serves as one of three Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” events this weekend at Saratoga, which include the Personal Ensign Stakes (Longines Distaff) and the Ballerina Stakes (Filly & Mare Sprint). Del Mar will also host one “Win and You’re In” event, the Pat O’Brien Stakes (Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile). The American-based Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” events continue on September 7 at Kentucky Downs with the running of the Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint (Turf Sprint) and Belmont Park with the running of the Jockey Club Derby (Longines Turf).