03/22/2010 11:00PM

Sadler versus Baffert on hillside course


ARCADIA, Calif. - Heading into the final month of the Santa Anita meeting, John Sadler leads the trainers standings over Bob Baffert. Their lone meeting on Thursday is in the day's featured seventh race, an optional claimer for older fillies and mares on the hillside turf course in which Sadler has a 2-1 advantage over Baffert.

Sadler will send out Minute Limit and Royal Taat, while Baffert counters with Via Veneto. Together, their runners comprise half the six-horse field. All three have a good shot at winning this 6 1/2-furlong race.

Minute Limit finished second in a similar race in her last start Jan. 28. The race has proven live, with the victorious Unzip Me coming back to take the Irish O'Brien Stakes on Saturday. Victor Espinoza rode Minute Limit last time, but he is in Dubai this week, so Joel Rosario takes over. But Rosario is familiar with Minute Limit. He rode her to a victory in a first-level allowance last summer at Del Mar, her only win in six starts in this country since being imported from Great Britain.

"She ran a good number down the hill last time," Sadler said. "Both our horses fit the condition well."

Royal Taat has plenty of experience on this course, with two wins in six starts down the hill. She has been facing far tougher competition in stakes in her recent starts. Because she already has won at this allowance condition, Sadler is putting her in for the $62,500 claiming price to make her eligible.

"We're trying to find a better spot for her," Sadler said.

Via Veneto split the field last time out in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint, finishing sixth of 13 behind Quisisana, who has subsequently returned to win. Via Veneto has raced just once previously on turf, last summer at Del Mar, when she finished fifth of seven going five furlongs.

Manhattan Beach is making her third start following a six-month layoff. She set swift fractions before fading in the Clocker's Corner Handicap here March 14. More judicious use of her speed should allow her to last longer. Rafael Bejarano, the meet's leading rider, is assigned with that task.

Lemon Supreme was supposed to run down the hill in her last start, but rain forced the race to the main track. She ran well, finishing third in her first start in nearly five months. She has a right to move forward.

Supermodel, who like Royal Taat is entered for a $62,500 claiming price, completes this small but competitive field. She has not been on the downhill course since the first two starts of her career last year, but she finished third in both those races. She faced the stakes-winning Witty in a money allowance last time.