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Sadler set for Santa Anita after winning first title

Dec 18, 2007 4:04 AM

In the world of thoroughbred racing, there are trainers and there are trainers. Some are all out to know which end of a horse eats, as the expression goes, and some are not.

John Sadler is among the latter. In nearly 30 years in the business, he has consistently ranked among the nation’s elite, but he’s not the kind who brags about it. His record speaks for itself.

John Sadler is recognized by serious horse players as a serious trainer. It can be costly to overlook any horse he saddles. He has won almost 1,400 races, including the $1 million Golden Shaheen with Our New Recruit in 2004, and the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic with Musique Toujours at 70-1 in 2005, in addition to scores of other stakes.

But the 51-year-old Long Beach native had never won a training title. That omission from an otherwise replete resume will be added when the current Hollywood Park meet concludes on Sunday. Sadler will capture his first training crown. With only four racing days left, he held a 19-11 lead over runner-up Mike Mitchell. Sadler also had 14 seconds ans six thirds from 75 starters, an in-the-money mark of better than 53 percent.

"It’s not something we set as a goal," Sadler said. "Simply put, we just don’t have the numbers to compete with the bigger outfits (like Mitchell, Doug O’Neill and Jeff Mullins). It’s nice to win our first training title, but we try to be consistent and win races on all levels, from stakes on down, and we’ve been rather successful."

Right on. With earnings of more than $4.5 million this year, Sadler is among the top 20 nationally. Since he began in 1978, his horses have earned more than $45 million, and that figure will grow during the upcoming meet that starts Dec. 26 at Santa Anita, Sadler’s home base.

"We’re going to be well-represented," he said. "We’ll be strong in quality with sprinting fillies, like Coco Belle, who we plan to run in the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Sprint (on Jan. 26). But the one who looks like a comer is Dawn After Dawn. She runs in the La Brea (Dec. 29)."

Bay Meadows probably will close forever after its 2008 season, but Greg Gilchrist isn’t holding his breath.

"It probably is a done deal now, but with Jack Liebau (president of the Bay Meadows Land Company, which owns Bay Meadows and Hollywood Park) at the helm, you’re never really quite sure what’s going on," the veteran Northern California-based trainer said.

"We’ve been hearing Bay Meadows is going to close for 10 years. The dates they have in place now has Bay Meadows running from Feb. 2 through May 11. Those are in stone right now. And from what I understand, the track is supposed to be open for training through 2008. At that point, the last word we’ve got is, that’s going to be it. I’ve heard that for a long time, but I think it’s more solid now because of the CHRB’s mandate to install synthetic surfaces."

Gilchrist said he was somewhat surprised that Bay Meadows received relatively prime dates, given that per its request, it was granted a one-year reprieve on installing a synthetic track.

Golden Gate has joined Hollywood Park, Del Mar and Santa Anita in complying with the synthetic surface mandate. The Albany, California, track went with Tapeta, while Hollywood and Santa Anita have Cushion Track. Del Mar opted for Polytrack.

"So far, so good," Gilchrist said. "I’m pretty darn happy with it and I’m hearing nothing but good things, but I’d reserve final judgement after we complete one meet and all the data is gathered and any injuries are analyzed. Tapeta can be made faster or slower within an hour. All you have to do is pack it down and put water on it, and it’ll get lightning-fast. I think so far all the reports on synthetic surfaces are good."

As for Smokey Stover, winner of the Grade I Ancient Title in 2006 who was ninth as the 7-2 second choice in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint on Monmouth’s sloppy track Oct. 27, he’s receiving some R&R.

"I turned him out," Gilchrist said, "so you probably won’t see him at Santa Anita, but you might see him at Oak Tree. He’d been running two solid years and it was just time to give him a break. I’ll bring him back in the spring sometime.

"I’ve got a pretty good bunch of young horses. I’ve got two or three really nice 2-year-old fillies. One of them, High Resolve, won a $150,000 stakes race at Calder about three weeks ago. She’s a Florida-bred by Put It Back, the same sire as Smokey Stover."

The homestretch

”¡ One of racing’s Cinderella stories came to an end last week when Truly a Judge was retired.

"We had him for six years and he leaves a big hole in the barn, because he was the favorite," said trainer David Bernstein. "He was honest and genuine and he was a character to be around. We’re certainly going to miss him and it’s hard to replace one like that because we got him so cheaply and he became a graded stakes winner. He was a poor man’s Lava Man." Truly a Judge was claimed for $20,000 as a 3-year-old and went on to earn more some $750,000 for owners Alan Aidekman, Gaylord Ailshie and Tom Harris. The 9-year-old Judge T C gelding was retired to the California Equine Retirement Farm (CERF) in Winchester, CA.