I’ll be the first to admit that #10 Sadler’s Joy isn’t really a horse you can rely on as, say, a single in an expensive multi-race wager. But regardless, I think he’s the most likely winner of Saturday’s $1,000,000 Sword Dancer Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga.
Sadler’s Joy can be frustrating because more often than not, he either moves too soon or moves too late. As a deep closer without any tactical speed, timing his late run can be very tricky. Move too soon, and he’ll lose focus and pull himself up like he did in the 2017 Bowling Green Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga. Move too late, and he’ll come charging furiously to fall just short of victory, as was the case in this year’s renewal of the Bowling Green.
But when his run is timed correctly, he can win at the highest level going 1 ½ miles, as he demonstrated quite clearly when surging dramatically from last place to win the 2017 Sword Dancer by half a length. And while it can be difficult to predict the occasions when everything will time out perfectly, you can usually count of Sadler’s Joy being involved at the finish whether he actually wins or just hits the board. After all, he hasn’t finished out of the superfecta in more than two years!
With that in mind, I think Sadler’s Joy is the perfect horse to key in the Sword Dancer exotics. I loved his effort in the Bowling Green last time out, in which he rallied strongly despite a dreadfully slow early pace that put him at a disadvantage. There’s no guarantee that he’ll encounter a significantly faster pace on Saturday, but if he does, I think he’ll come running late to secure the victory and a “Win and You’re In” berth to the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. I).
The Chad Brown-trained #3 Funtastic, gate-to-wire winner of the United Nations Stakes (gr. I) last month, could be the main danger on the front end, while #7 Channel Maker—who rallied to finish in a dead-heat for victory in the Bowling Green—has shown steady improvement this year and should have no trouble with the distance.
#2 Spring Quality figures to attract support based off his win in the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Stakes (gr. I) in June, but he was scratched from the Arlington Million two weeks ago after failing to ship well to Arlington Park, which casts some doubt about his current form. I’ll hope to beat him in the exotics with #6 Bigger Picture and #5 Highland Sky, who were compromised by the slow pace when fourth and fifth in the Bowling Green.
Here’s how I would play the race:
$3 exacta: 10 with 3,6,7 ($9)
$3 exacta: 3,6,7 with 10 ($9)
$0.50 trifecta: 10 with 3,6,7 with 3,5,6,7 ($4.5)
$0.50 trifecta: 3,6,7 with 10 with 3,5,6,7 ($4.5)
$0.50 trifecta: 3,6,7 with 3,5,6,7 with 10 ($4.5)