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SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Woodslane Farm homebred Sadler’s Joy will need a cleaner trip than he had in the Bowling Green Stakes (G2) last time out as he revisits several of those same rivals in Saturday’s $500,000 Sword Dancer Stakes (G1) at Saratoga.
The winner of the Sword Dancer will receive an automatic position in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Longines Turf (G1) this fall at Keeneland. 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 Kentucky will receive a travel allowance of $10,000 if based in North America and $40,000 if based Internationally.
The Sword Dancer is a 1 1/2-mile inner turf route open to horses 4 and up. The 2020 edition attracted a field of eight and has a local post time of 5:43 PM.
Let’s look at the full field:
#1 Highland Sky – He’s steadily improved with each start in 2020, rallying from last and crossing the wire third in the Bowling Green last time out. He failed to hit the board in 4 prior starts at this distance, but he’s worked well over the local training turf course and will try to be the first winner of this race for both trainer Barclay Tagg and jockey Junior Alvarado.
#2 Aquaphobia – He’s looked like a new horse since getting claimed in January and joining trainer Mike Maker’s contingency, winning two stakes including the United Nations (G1) last time out at a square price. While bettors are unlikely to play him at 10/1 again anytime soon, he appears to be in top form for a barn on a 22% clip at the current meet.
“He’s a very honest, very classy horse,” said Maker assistant Nolan Ramsey. “They’re kind of hard to come by, a horse that can be as honest as him for as many years. He’s always been right there. That’s something we always look for (when claiming horses).”
#3 Marzo – The second entry from the Maker barn couldn’t hold onto his lengthy early lead in the Bowling Green, weakening in the stretch to finish fifth behind four whom he’ll see again here. He won last October’s Sycamore Stakes (G3) while covering this distance at Keeneland and should improve in his second start back after slightly over four months on the sidelines.
#4 Channel Maker – He’s hoping that the third time’s the charm after finishing second in the 2018 running and fourth last year. He was a troubled fourth in the Bowling Green but was promoted to third after an impeding foe was disqualified and missed winning the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) by just a 1/2-length while covering this distance at Belmont Park.
#5 Corelli – He makes his third start of the year for current trainer Jonathan Thomas after most recently finishing a game third in the United Nations. The Kentucky-bred 5-year-old gelding spent his first 3 seasons racing for legendary trainer John Gosden in Great Britain, where he finished second by a 1/2-length, a nose, and a head (respectively) in 3 attempts at this distance.
#6 Cross Border – Maker’s third entry was promoted to first in the Bowling Green last time out after the original winner was disqualified, which marked his fifth victory from as many tries over the local turf. Though he hasn’t yet won when running this long, he’s bred to handle it and he nearly succeeded in January’s W. L. McKnight (G3) at Gulfstream Park, missing by a neck.
“I don’t know what it is about Saratoga, but he seems to flourish up here,” Ramsey said. “Not only does he show it in his past performances, but physically the horse does well up here. His coat looks great and he really enjoys his training. We nicknamed him ‘The Machine’ because he just really gets into his training. I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it is about Saratoga, but he likes it up here.”
#7 Pedro Cara – The French-bred runner returns to American racing after just missing by a nose in last September’s Jockey Club Derby at Belmont Park, a “Win and You’re In” for the Longines Turf. He has a 6-2-2-1 distance mark that includes winning a pair of European-based stakes and has been working consistently for new trainer Graham Motion, who’s won this race twice.
“He didn’t get over here until the summer and he had a bit of a foot issue when he got over here, but he hasn’t missed a beat since we started breezing him,” Motion said. “I think he’s a gritty little horse. He’s not very big, but he’s tough. There’s not a real standout in this division, so he fits in well with this group of horses.”
#8 Sadler’s Joy – The 2017 race champion missed winning last year’s edition by just a neck and crossed victorious in the Bowling Green last time out before being disqualified and placed fourth for interference. His running style – take back to the rear and rally hard in the stretch – makes him exciting to watch, but it also necessitates a clean trip to be successful.
The Sword Dancer serves as race nine and is one of four stakes on the Saturday card at Saratoga, including the Forego Stakes Presented by America’s Best Racing (G1), the Amsterdam Stakes (G2), and the Saranac Stakes (G3). The American-based Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” events continue Saturday at Del Mar with the Pat O’Brien Stakes (Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile).
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series is presented by America’s Best Racing.
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