02/07/2007 1:00AM

Sadler's contenders take it to a new level


ARCADIA, Calif. - There is a strong chance that trainer John Sadler will be spending the first weekend of May at Churchill Downs. It will be largely unfamiliar territory.

Known for his success with sprinters and turf horses in recent years, Sadler's stable is loaded with promising 3-year-olds, particularly fillies. It could all lead to starters in the Kentucky Oaks or Kentucky Derby on May 4 and 5, and new milestones for the 50-year-old trainer.

Sadler has made one trip to the Kentucky Derby, finishing sixth in 1993 with Corby. He has never had a starter in the Kentucky Oaks.

"I only want to go to those races with a legitimate contender," he said. "A lot of times it didn't work out. I've got better horses now."

Of course, there is much to sort through between now and then. Horses must stay sound and run well in important preps, but Sadler's stable is stocked.

Saturday at Santa Anita, Jump On In, one of his top fillies, will start in the $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes, a Grade 1 at a mile. In coming weeks, Exhale, a striking colt by Millennium Wind, will make his debut against winners, in an allowance race or the $200,000 Bob Lewis Stakes on March 3. They are both owned by Lee and Susan Searing's CRK Stables.

The Sadler stable also includes the fillies Seaside Affair, who will start in the La Habra Stakes on March 4, and Coco Belle, who is being pointed for the Santa Paula Stakes on April 1; and the unraced colt Swift Demand, who is nearing his debut.

Jump On In will be making her first start around two turns in the Las Virgenes, having won her first stakes in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez at seven furlongs on Jan. 15. Jump On In won the Santa Ynez by 3 3/4 lengths and made it look easy, stalking the pace to the turn before pulling clear in the final furlong.

Her ability at a distance is a concern for Sadler. "The last time, we changed her style and took her back," Sadler said. "I think a mile is within her reach. I don't know if she's a mile-and-an-eighth horse."

Purchased for $410,000 at the May 2006 Barretts sale of 2-year-olds in training, Jump On In has always been well-regarded. She won a maiden race in her career debut at Del Mar in August by 5 1/4 lengths but battled foot problems in the following weeks.

Jump On In recovered to finish fifth in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante in early September, a start that Sadler regrets.

"I didn't train her very well for the Debutante," he said. "To do it again, I wouldn't have run her. I would have waited."

After fighting illness in early fall, Jump On In returned to finish second in the Moccasin Stakes at Hollywood Park in November. She has won two subsequent starts.

"You have to train her pretty good, like a colt," Sadler said. "When she breezes good, she runs good."

Exhale, bought for $800,000 at the 2006 Fasig-Tipton Florida 2-year-olds in training sale, has made just two starts. After finishing second to Notional in a maiden race in October, he returned to win a maiden race at 6 1/2 furlongs by five lengths at Santa Anita on Jan. 15.

Exhale's victory earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 104, the best figure for a 3-year-old this year. Sadler estimates the colt weighs 1,200 pounds

"I think he'll want a distance," Sadler said. "It's all about the big potential. He's still got to go out and do it."

Exhale and Jump On In are two of the most promising 3-year-olds in California. Sadler is hoping they hold that status among classic contenders into the spring.

"I want to do everything" to be ready, Sadler said. "I hope they still like me in April."