ELMONT, Ny. – Woodslane Farm’s Sadler’s Joy headlines Thursday’s $80,000 Tiller, a 1 3/8-mile turf test for older horses on the second day of live racing, without spectators, at the Belmont Park spring/summer meet.
Trained by Tom Albertrani, Sadler’s Joy is one of two Grade 1-winners in the body of the 13-horse field along with Wachtel Stable, Gary Barber, R. A. Hill Stable and Reeves Thoroughbred Racing’s Channel Maker.
Sadler’s Joy, a 7-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy, captured the 2017 Grade 1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga Race Course as one of four graded-stakes wins for the deep-closing chestnut.
The veteran horse will return to action off a three-month layoff following difficult trips in both the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational on January 25 and Grade 2 Mac Diarmida on February 29 at Belmont Park.
“We’ve had a long break with him between races, but he runs well off the bench,” said Albertrani. “He seems to be training as well as he’s ever been and we’re excited to get back going again.
“He’s had a tough trip in his last two races,” added Albertrani. “In the Pegasus, he got banged pretty good leaving the gate and lost a lot of ground early on in the race. In his last race, he had a little traffic trouble in the last turn, but he still managed to run well.”
Albertrani said a good effort on Thursday would set Sadler’s Joy up for a third attempt at the Grade 1, $400,000 Manhattan, a 1 ¼-mile turf event slated for July 4 at Belmont. Sadler’s Joy was third in the 2017 renewal and second, by a neck to Spring Quality, in 2018.
The veteran conditioner said Sadler’s Joy continues to thrive in his fifth season of racing and compared him to multiple graded-stakes winner Twilight Eclipse, who captured the 2015 Grade 1 Man o’ War at Belmont under Albertrani’s tutelage.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to have horses in the barn like Twilight Eclipse, who was still running when he was 8-years-old,” said Albertrani. “Sadler’s Joy still has the same kind of energy that we’ve seen in him when he was a 4-year-old. As long as we like how he’s training and he shows that energy, we’ll keep going forward with him.”
Sadler’s Joy, whose last score came in the Grade 3 Red Smith in November at the Big A, will be piloted by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano from Post 8.
Channel Maker, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, was off-the-board last out in the Grade 2 Muniz Memorial Classic at Fair Grounds on March 21. He has been trained into the Tiller at Mott’s winter base at Payson Park in Florida.
Bred in Ontario by Tall Oaks Farm, the 6-year-old English Channel chestnut is a three-time graded-stakes winner with Grade 1 scores in the 2018 Turf Classic Invitational and 2019 Man o’ War both at Belmont, along with a victory in the 2018 Grade 2 Bowling Green at Saratoga.
Irad Ortiz, Jr. will have the call on Channel Maker from Post 13.
A talented field also includes graded-stakes winners Dot Matrix, Current, Noble Indy, and Focus Group as well as Group 3-winner Petit Fils.
Ten Strike Racing’s Dot Matrix, a New York-bred son of Freud conditioned by Brad Cox, boasts a record of 32-10-4-5 with purse earnings of $601,487. The 7-year-old gelding made the grade in the Grade 3 John B. Connally Turf Cup, a 12-furlong turf marathon in January at Sam Houston.
Bred in the Empire State by Truxton Stables, Dot Matrix has demonstrated an affinity for the Belmont green with three wins, including a score in the 2019 Ashley T. Cole. Joel Rosario will guide Dot Matrix from Post 5.
Trainer Todd Pletcher will saddle a pair of contenders in Repole Stable’s Noble Indy and the attractive Current, a chestnut son of Curlin owned by Eclipse Thoroughbreds, Robert V. LaPenta and Dixiana Farms.
Current made the grade in the 2018 Grade 3 Bourbon at Keeneland. He finished third last out in the Grade 2 Pan American on March 28 at 12 furlongs on the Gulfstream Park turf.
Noble Indy boasts a record of 17-5-1-2 with purse earnings of $820,845 and will enter the Tiller from a 1 ½-length score in an optional-claiming route on March 15 at nine furlongs on the Gulfstream Park turf.
Current will emerge from Post 11 under Manny Franco, while Noble Indy will leave from Post 6 with the services of Jose Lezcano.
Trainer Christophe Clement will send out Focus Group and Petit Fils in Thursday’s loaded overnight event.
West Point Thoroughbreds, New Phoenix Stable, Louisa Stevenson and Tango Uniform Racing’s Focus Group is a five-time winner from 17 starts with $494,569 in purse earnings. Previously trained by Chad Brown, Focus Group made the grade in the 2019 Grade 2 Pan American at Gulfstream Park. He arrives at the Tiller from an off-the-board finish when making his first start for Clement in his Pan American defense on March 28.
West Point Thoroughbreds’ Petit Fils, a six-time winner in his native France, captured the Group 3 Prix d’Hedouville by a head on May 4, 2019 over soft going at Longchamp. The 5-year-old Makfi gelding was off-the board last out in his North American debut in the Grade 3 Red Smith at Aqueduct.
Brian Hernandez, Jr. will pilot Focus Group from Post 7 and Petit Fils will have Eric Cancel in the irons from Post 2.
Rounding out a competitive field are Standard Deviation (Post 1, John Velazquez), Corelli (Post 3, Dylan Davis), Highland Sky (Post 4, Junior Alvarado), Paret (Frankie Pennington, Post 9), Go Poke the Bear (Post 10, Jose Ortiz), and Hayabusa One (Post 12, Kendrick Carmouche.) Rocketry and Its All Relevant are listed as main-track only entrants.
Slated as Race 9 on Thursday’s 10-race card, which offers a first post of 1:15 p.m. Eastern, the Tiller will feature on America’s Day at the Races, produced by NYRA in partnership with FOX Sports, and airing live on FS2. Free Equibase-provided past performances are available for races that are part of the America’s Day at the Races broadcast and can be accessed at https://www.nyra.com/belmont/racing/tv-schedule.
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NYRA Press Release
Photo: Sadler’s Joy. Credit: NYRA/Coglianese Photo