SOUTH OZONE PARK, NY – Woodslane Farm’s homebred Sadler’s Joy, winless since taking the 2018 Mac Diarmida Stakes (G2) over 20 months ago, took a significant class drop and trounced his foes in Saturday’s $200,000 Red Smith Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct.

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Breaking from post 7 under Javier Castellano as the 6/5 favorite, Sadler’s Joy took his customary spot toward the rear of the field for the early running. Up front, Glorious Empire and Red Right Hand dueled heads apart while posting fractions of :24.43, :48.59, 1:13.95, and 1:38.20 through the opening mile.

The field began to bunch as the runners hit the far turn for the second time, forcing Castellano to send the bettors’ choice out six wide before hitting the top of the stretch. Straightening for home with no foes blocking his path, Sadler’s Joy struck the front just outside the 1/8 pole before quickly separating from the pack.

Placed in hand late, the Tom Albertrani trainee crossed 2 lengths clear in a final time of 2:15.76 for the 1 3/8-mile event over the firm turf course.

Sadler’s Joy returning to the winner’s circle for the first time in over 20 months (Credit: NYRA)

“He’s a great horse,” Castellano said. “I’m very proud of him. I know the horse; I know the way you’re supposed to ride the horse. I was fortunate just to enjoy the ride today. I give the credit to Tom. He knows the horse so well and I think he’s matured so much this year. The way he did it today was very impressive.”

Red Knight closed from the rear to take second by 1 1/2 lengths over Dot Matrix, who couldn’t capitalize on his early stalking position. Postulation made a bid for the lead at the top of the stretch but couldn’t sustain it and weakened late to take fourth by a 1/2-length over Nakamura. Completing the order of finish came Have At ItTiz a SlamMarzoPetit Fils, and the empty pair of Red Right Hand and Glorious Empire.

Mokheef and Zumurudee were unable to draw in from the Also-Eligibles list. BacksideofthemoonBon Raison, and Dynamax Prime were scratched as Main Track Only entries.

Sadler’s Joy improved his overall record to 26-7-4-7 with $2,471,360 earned while dropping to the Grade 3 level for the first time in 19 starts. His connections passed on a third attempt at the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) in favor of this easier spot, hoping to reinvigorate the 6-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy who always seemed to come up just short.

“He’s been better this year as a 6-year-old than he has been at 4 or 5,” Albertrani said. “He has plenty of energy still left in the tank. I love having an older horse like him in the barn. (Multiple graded stakes winner) Twilight Eclipse was 9 years old and still running strong. I would love to keep him as long as that, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep him that long. I’ve been really fortunate to have him around for a while.”

Despite being intact, his connections plan on running Sadler’s Joy at least once in 2020 before having him enter stud duty. They just aren’t sure whether he’ll head to the 1 3/16-mile Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) at Gulfstream Park on January 25 or the 1 1/2-mile Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan on March 28.

“We always felt (the Pegasus Turf) might be a little short for him distance-wise, but we’re really looking at getting him to Dubai in March for the Sheema Classic,” Albertrani said. “That’s what we intend to do, whether he ran at Gulfstream once before then or not. I just have to see how he trains up to the race. The owners are really looking to stand him next year after his last race, whether it’s Dubai or not. We haven’t made that decision yet.”

Sadler’s Joy returned $4.70 to win, $3 to place, and $2.60 to show. Red Knight brought back $7.50 to place and $5.10 to show, while Dot Matrix paid $8.50 to show.