08/17/2016 12:56PM

Express Himself fills void in Sadler's barn

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Benoit & Associates
Ashleyluvssugar (left), finishing second in the Eddie Read, is among the contenders in the Del Mar Handicap.

DEL MAR, Calif. – The private acquisition of Express Himself by owners Pete and Kosta Hronis and trainer John Sadler in July may have occurred at the perfect time.

The addition of Express Himself gives Hronis Racing and Sadler a much-needed runner for the Southern California turf marathon division. The purchase could pay off quickly Saturday when Express Himself makes his American debut in the $250,000 Del Mar Handicap at 1 3/8 miles on turf.

The race is worth $150,000 to the winner. The winner receives a fees-paid berth for the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita on Nov. 5, if nominated to the program.

Sadler said Express Himself cost “a couple hundred thousand.”

“We didn’t pay that much because of the G,” he said referring to the fact that Express Himself is a gelding. “I’ve always thought that in the last few years there was room in this division. We haven’t had one of these horses in a while. He fills a void in my barn.”

Express Himself, 5, has won 4 of 21 starts in Great Britain, racing primarily in the tough handicap division. The Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap will be Express Himself’s first start in a graded stakes.

In Europe earlier this year, Express Himself was often away slowly in races at a mile. Sadler said measures have been taken to avoid a repeat Saturday.

“We’ve been schooling him in the gate,” Sadler said. “He’s been okay. What if we fix that?”

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The Del Mar Handicap field is led by the graded stakes winners Ashleyluvssugar, Finnegans Wake, Flamboyant, and Quick Casablanca.

The Del Mar Handicap is one of three graded stakes on Saturday’s program, which is led by the $1 million Pacific Classic.

The $300,000 Del Mar Oaks, a Grade 1 for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on turf, is expected to draw a large field, led by Mokat, winner of the Grade 2 San Clemente Handicap on July 23 and Cheekaboo, who won the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap at Santa Anita in June.

Other probable starters are Barleysugar, Decked Out, Harmonize, Lady Valeur, Lynne’s Legacy, and Tin Type Gal.