ELMONT, NY – Woodslane Farm homebred Sadler’s Joy will face one of the deepest fields to ever run for an $80,000 purse when he enters the gate in Thursday’s Tiller Stakes at Belmont Park.
The Tiller is a 1 3/8-mile route over the outer turf course and will be the ninth of 10 races scheduled for Thursday, the second day of live racing during the 2020 spring/summer meet.
Sadler’s Joy has gone unraced since finishing third in the Mac Diarmida Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park on February 29. Trainer Tom Albertrani is not worried about any rust hindering the Kitten’s Joy son as he makes his 29th career start.
“We’ve had a long break with him between races, but he runs well off the bench,” Albertrani said, alluding to Sadler’s Joy winning graded stakes off of lengthy layoffs in 2017 and 2018. “He seems to be training as well as he’s ever been and we’re excited to get back going again.”
Here is a look at the full field for Thursday’s Tiller:
1. Standard Deviation (4/1) – After failing to show much in five dirt starts, he showed immediate improvement after transitioning to turf, putting together a 5-2-0-2 record on the lawn against stakes foes. Privately sold over the winter and moved to the Graham Motion barn, he ran a strong second in the HH The Amir Trophy (G1) in Qatar behind that race’s defending champion.
2. Petit Fils (15/1) – His first 13 starts came over courses in his native France, where he compiled a 13-6-4-0 record that included the Prix d’Hedouville (G3) four races back. His North American debut came November in the Red Smith Stakes (G3), and though he made no impact before finishing ninth, he should improve in his second start for trainer Christophe Clement.
3. Corelli (10/1) – Though bred in Kentucky, he spent his first three seasons racing in Great Britain for legendary trainer John Gosden, putting together a 10-3-3-1 record in that span. Owner/breeder George Strawbridge, Jr., gelded him and shipped him home to trainer Jonathan Thomas, who found success saddling another former Gosden pupil to a first-out victory last year.
4. Highland Sky (20/1) – His last visit to the winner’s circle in a grass race came against allowance/optional claiming foes while covering this distance over Belmont Park’s inner circuit on June 24, 2018. His overall record between the two local turf courses is 10-1-2-5 and will have Junior Alvarado aboard for the first time as he makes his 28th career start.
5. Dot Matrix (10/1) – The 7-year-old New York-bred gelding became a new horse after changing to the Brad Cox barn near the end of 2017, winning four of his first six starts, including his first of three stakes triumphs. His best effort to date came two back when he won the John B. Connally Turf Cup (G3) at Sam Houston for his 10th career victory.
6. Noble Indy (15/1) – The 2018 Louisiana Derby (G2) winner struggled to find the same form as a 4-year-old before trainer Todd Pletcher gave him a shot on turf, where he has since posted a 6-2-1-1 record. Both wins came with him setting the pace, so expect to see him up front in the early stages.
7. Focus Group (15/1) – He showed flashes of brilliance in 2018 as a turf marathoner, winning three times while going at least this race’s distance. Sold last fall to a new group of owners, he should improve in his first start for new trainer Christophe Clement after finishing seventh last time out in the Pan American Stakes (G2).
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8. Sadler’s Joy (5/2) – The battle-tested 7-year-old takes a drop in class for this event, his first time not facing graded stakes rivals in 22 starts. Known for his long, sustained late rallies that make for exciting finishes, he has won at least once each year since debuting in 2016 and is making his third start of 2020.
9. Paret (20/1) – The Australian-bred gelding technically does not turn 6 until September due to the difference in breeding seasons between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. His last victory came at the end of a three-race streak in 2018, but he nearly got the job done over this course last time out in last October’s Point of Entry Stakes.
10. Go Poke the Bear (30/1) – After getting passed back and forth in the claiming ranks between former trainers Todd Pletcher and Brax Cox, he landed with current conditioner Mike Maker last fall and promptly won first time out while racing without a tag. Maker and jockey Jose Ortiz have won 18% together across 199 shared mounts since 2019 – will this gelding’s strong closing kick be enough to win mount 200?
11. Current (12/1) – He won twice as a juvenile, including the 2018 Bourbon Stakes (G3) but has yet to find similar success in nine subsequent starts. He came within a neck of winning the Pan American Stakes (G2) last time out after briefly holding the lead in mid-stretch, so perhaps he is coming back around at the right time.
12. Hayabusa One (20/1) – The lightly-raced 7-year-old missed almost two years of racing before returning last time out to run sixth in a 1 1/8-mile allowance/optional claiming event, 3 lengths behind fellow rival Noble Indy. He showed flashes of brilliance in 2018, finishing second in both the San Marcos Stakes (G2) and the San Luis Rey Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park when going longer.
13. Channel Maker (9/2) – Like Sadler’s Joy, this three-time Grade 1 winner drops below the graded stakes level for the first time in 22 starts. His most recent success came a year ago over the local inner strip while going this distance in the Man o’ War Stakes (G1) and for this event, he attracted the nation’s leading rider Irad Ortiz, Jr., for the mount.
14. Rocketry (8/5) (Main Track Only) – One of two entries who will only compete if the turf course proves unsuitable, Rocketry made his first 14 starts on the lawn but failed to find victory above the allowance/optional claiming ranks. His first dirt race saw him set a new Saratoga track record in 2018 after he wired the 1 5/8-mile Temperence Hill Stakes, then took home the 1 3/4-mile Breeders’ Cup Marathon (G2) one race later.
15. Its All Relevant (5/2) (Main Track Only) – The second entry whose connections might be seen performing a rain dance this week, he is exiting a 1 1/8-mile gate-to-wire romp over the Aqueduct main course on March 1. That race marked his first time going farther than 1 1/16 miles, so if he does find his way to the gate, he could prove dangerous on the front end.