08/31/2016 9:06AM

Sadler's already-strong meet could get a whole lot better

Emily Shields
The John Sadler-trained Stellar Wind (left) outfinishes Beholder in the Clement Hirsch on July 30.

DEL MAR, Calif. – John Sadler has been spending his summers at Del Mar for more than 30 years now, enough time to win three training titles and rank sixth all time in stakes wins, yet he might very well look back at this meet as his most satisfying ever, and it’s not done yet.

Three of Sadler’s 11 wins this summer have come in stakes, and he is looking to double that stakes total during the final weekend of the meet. He’ll send out Morganite in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante on Saturday, and on Sunday is scheduled to run Elektrum and Nancy From Nairobi in the Grade 2 John C. Mabee Stakes and Lucky Bryan and perhaps Curlin Rules in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby.

“If we can win two of three, or all three, I’ll be delighted,” Sadler said.

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Sadler was sitting in his stable office at Del Mar, just steps from the shed row that houses the strongest collection of horses he’s trained. Heading the list is Stellar Wind, who downed Beholder in a battle of Eclipse Award winners in the Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch on Sadler’s 60th birthday July 30. Hard Aces, the winner of the Grade 3 Cougar II at this meet, and the progressive 3-year-old colt Accelerate, who won last Friday’s Shared Belief Stakes, are here, as are all the stakes runners set to go this weekend.

The common thread is that all are owned by the brothers Kosta and Pete Hronis, who have become Sadler’s biggest backers and who, with Sadler, have emphasized quality over quantity in recent years. Sadler won three Del Mar training titles in six years from 2008 to 2013, and he’ll still dip in and claim the occasional horse, but the days of claiming being a significant part of his operation are gone.

Morganite was bought as a 2-year-old in training. Elektrum and Nancy From Nairobi were purchased privately in Europe after they began their careers overseas. Curlin Rules was bought as a yearling, and Lucky Bryan was a private purchase after he raced three times.

“It’s a boutique type of barn,” Sadler said of his setup with the Hronis brothers. “I’ve got a lot of rein to go out and get good stock, and we’re continuing to have a good go of it. They’re fantastic, a joy to train for.”

Stellar Wind, last year’s champion 3-year-old filly, was the first Eclipse Award winner for Sadler. He called her victory in the Hirsch “really special.” Next up will be the Grade 1 Zenyatta at Santa Anita on Oct. 1, and then the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita on Nov. 4, both likely against Beholder.

“She’s right on target for the Zenyatta,” Sadler said. “And the Distaff will be as competitive as ever. Add in Songbird. It’s a monster race.”

Morganite could vault to the top of the charts among 2-year-old fillies if she can win the seven-furlong Debutante, and Sadler thinks she’ll be even more effective when she goes farther.

“I think eventually she’ll be better around two turns,” he said.

Morganite, a daughter of the first-crop sire Gemologist, defeated rivals Champagne Room and Noted and Quoted in a five-furlong maiden race July 17, and those two both came back to win. By design, Sadler has trained Morganite straight into the $300,000 Debutante.

“We could have run in the Sorrento,” he said of the Grade 2 stakes that Champagne Room won in her absence Aug. 6, “but we chose not to run in three races this meet. She’s ready to go. I’ve had time to train her.”

Elektrum and Nancy From Nairobi developed into stakes winners under Sadler. Elektrum is the defending race winner of the $250,000 Mabee, but she has lost six straight since that victory last summer. She was a narrowly beaten third most recently in the Osunitas Stakes on Aug. 7. Nancy From Nairobi was a close third in the Grade 2 Yellow Ribbon on July 16.

“She stumbled at the start and made a fast closing run,” Sadler said of Nancy From Nairobi.

Lucky Bryan was similarly unlucky when finishing second in the Grade 3 La Jolla Handicap going 1 1/16 miles on Aug. 6.

“He was a little hesitant going inside,” Sadler said.

He thinks the 1 1/8 miles of the $250,000 Del Mar Derby will be of benefit to Lucky Bryan.

“Distance is no problem,” Sadler said.

“It’s been a good meet,” Sadler said, “and we’ve got a strong chance in the Debutante, a strong chance in the Mabee, and a strong chance in the Derby.”