JC / Railbird

John Sadler

Sadler’s Year?

Trainer John Sadler is hardly unknown. Steadily climbing the rankings over the past decade, he’s been among the top 10 conditioners nationally by earnings since 2008, and six weeks into this year, he’s number four, behind perennial leaders Asmussen, Baffert, and Pletcher. On opening day at Santa Anita, he won three graded stakes. This past weekend, he won three of the four graded stakes run at the track — the Strub Stakes with Twirling Candy (“possesses an undeniable brilliance,” gushed Mike Watchmaker), the Las Virgenes with Zazu (Green but Game’s expert pick and newest crush), and the San Antonio Handicap with Gladding. With 4-year-old stakes winners Switch and Sidney’s Candy also in his barn, the Santa Anita press office calculates that he has “serious contenders … in no less than six of racing’s divisions.” Not bad. While Sadler isn’t well stocked in racing’s glamour division — his most promising 3-year-old male so far this winter is Runflatout, a debut maiden winner — with three of the best older horses in training, he seems poised to have the kind of breakout year that leads to an Eclipse Award.

Hold off on adding Cal Nation to your Kentucky Derby top 10:

“Cal Nation came out of his race well,” said Pletcher of the 3-year-old Distorted Humor colt who was impressive in breaking his maiden at first asking in Saturday’s eighth race [at Gulfstream].  “It’s a little late [for him to get onto the Kentucky Derby trail].  We’d have to make up a lot of time.  I think we’ll just take the conservative route with him.”

Kentucky Derby and Oaks prep schedules updated: Beyer speed figures of 88 for Toby’s Corner in the Whirlaway and Zazu in the Las Virgenes.

Brad Free was out with an interesting post on Santa Anita’s new dirt surface over the weekend: “No one wants to knock the surface. Not publicly, at least. But behind the scenes, many are frustrated.” For whatever reason, the track composition is not as as expected; more sand is to be added. Via Derby List comes this report of bruising clods being thrown up by the dirt: “I had the misfortune of being behind one horse while working a set 2 mornings ago …

2/9/11 Addendum: Sadler tells Jay Privman that Runflatout is possible for the San Vicente Stakes on February 20. “I want to give him a chance to get to the Kentucky Derby, but I want to be smart, too, about how we go at it.”