02/08/2011 3:28PM

Sadler winning most of the big ones at Santa Anita

Benoit & Associates
Gladding, winner of Sunday’s Grade 2 San Antonio, will give trainer John Sadler two starters in the Big Cap.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Bob Baffert and Doug O’Neill may be atop the trainers’ standings at Santa Anita, but it is John Sadler, currently in third place, who is having the best meet of all.

This past weekend, Sadler won the Strub Stakes with Twirling Candy, the Las Virgenes with Zazu, and the San Antonio with newcomer Gladding. That followed by one week the victory by Switch in the Santa Monica Handicap. And that followed by one month opening-day stakes wins by Twirling Candy in the Malibu, Switch in the La Brea, and Sidney’s Candy in the Sir Beaufort.

It looks like Sadler will give his rivals a chance to grab the spotlight this coming weekend, but by March 5, Sadler again figures to be in a prime position. That day, he will send out Twirling Candy and Gladding in the Santa Anita Handicap, Sidney’s Candy in the Kilroe Mile, and Zazu in the Santa Anita Oaks, all Grade 1 races.

“March 5 is a big weekend,” he said.

Gladding is the newest stakes winner in Sadler’s barn. The San Antonio was his stakes debut and was only his second start for Sadler since a private purchase for owners Lee and Susan Searing, who race as CRK Stable. Gladding had been racing at Calder, where he was spotted by bloodstock agent Mark Cornett.

“We were looking for horses who could run long on the dirt, because we thought the handicap division might be light,” Sadler said. “He still had all his allowance conditions. We thought we could take advantage of the new purse structure here. We thought he might be a Breeders’ Cup Marathon-type of horse. He’s by Sarava, who won the Belmont at a mile and a half.”

Gladding beat a first-level allowance field here Dec. 29, then jumped right into the San Antonio. Now, he gives Sadler a second Santa Anita Handicap entrant to accompany the race’s acknowledged favorite, Twirling Candy.

Sadler said Twirling Candy after the Strub was “not stressed at all in the test barn, which is really cool.”

Zazu “came out of the race perfect,” Sadler said.

Turbulent Descent suffered the first defeat of her career when Zazu knocked her off in the Las Virgenes, but her trainer, Mike Puype, thinks she has a good chance to make amends in their expected rematch in the Santa Anita Oaks.

“She just got tired,” Puype said. “She was off for eight weeks, and I had to protect her the first two weeks because of the rain. The other horse had a recent race over the track. I think there will be a big difference when she runs back. She’ll redeem herself.”

Aggie Engineer moves on to Big Cap

Even though Aggie Engineer had his three-race winning streak come to an end with his third-place finish in the San Antonio, he had a legitimate excuse and will move on to the Santa Anita Handicap, according to trainer Paddy Gallagher.

Aggie Engineer was caught wide while trailing a leader who set achingly slow fractions over a track that has been kind to front-runners all meet.

“He seems good after the race,” Gallagher said. “We had the same pace advantage in some of his previous races. I think we should still look at the Big Cap.”

San Vicente possible for Runflatout


Another of Sadler’s newest prospects, the 3-year-old Runflatout, will be nominated to the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes on Feb. 20, Sadler said, but he will wait as long as possible to decide whether to run.

“That’s the earliest I would consider running him,” Sadler said. “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.”

Runflatout has raced just once, on Jan. 29, beating maidens going six furlongs while earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 96. No horse has won the Kentucky Derby without racing as a 2-year-old since Apollo in 1882.

Indian Winter, winner of the San Pedro Stakes, is expected to head the field for the San Vicente. Baffert said he would try to make the San Vicente with The Factor, who was a fast winner opening day but has done little since.

“He’s had foot issues,” said Baffert, who said he has taken The Factor to train at Hollywood Park.

ShowVivor down to final two

Aggie Engineer was the choice of both remaining contestants in Santa Anita’s popular online ShowVivor contest, which requires contestants to pick one horse a day, and that horse must finish in the money for a contestant to advance.

It’s harder than you think. But not for Tyler Hoffman of Mercer Island, Wash., and Jim Hills of San Diego, who have outlasted everyone else.

The winner of the contest gets $3,000, with $1,500 to second.