07/02/2008 12:00AM

Sadler's well deeper than ever


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - In a gesture of compassion for his fellow trainers, John Sadler will be sitting out the major stakes racing at Hollywood Park this weekend, taking a pass on such richly rewarding events as the American Oaks, the Vanity Handicap, the Triple Bend Handicap, and the CashCall Mile.

It's only fair. Sadler left very little on the table after last weekend's stakes binge. His horses won the American Handicap, the A Gleam Handicap, the Landaluce Stakes, and the Beverly Hills Handicap. A wiseguy might crack that the only reason Sadler didn't win the Hollywood Gold Cup as well was because he didn't have a horse in the race. That would be unfair to the victorious Mast Track, and yet, we'll never know.

"After 25 years in the trenches, you'd hope something like that happens," Sadler said of his recent onslaught. "But you know that in this game you can't get too up or too down. I try to keep an even keel."

Four major stakes over a two-day period is the kind of stunt pulled off by trainers like Todd Pletcher, Shug McGaughey, Wayne Lukas, Richard Mandella, Bobby Frankel, and Bob Baffert, who draw on the finest bloodlines and deepest pockets for their ammunition.

Sadler enjoys an eclectic mix of patronage, so it should be no surprise that all four of those stakes went to different owners. American Handicap winner Whatsthescript, an Irish son of Royal Applause, runs for California's Tommy Town Thoroughbreds of Tom and Debi Stull. Landaluce winner Emmy Darling carries the colors of Ike and Dawn Thrash of Hattiesburg, Miss. Tom Mankiewicz, son of the legendary producer/director Joseph Mankiewicz, is the proud owner of A Gleam Handicap winner Dearest Trickski. Black Mamba, impressive winner of the 10-furlong Beverly Hills, is owned by Richard Templer, a Chicagoan who races as Double Down Stables.

Of those, it will be interesting to see where Whatsthescript fits in the highly competitive middle-distance turf races unfolding the rest of the season, and if the New Zealand mare Black Mamba can keep rolling now after seven straight seconds and thirds in lofty stakes company, which included close calls to stars like Precious Kitten and Nashoba's Key.

"You hear things like, 'Oh, that horse doesn't want to win,' which is nonsense," Sadler said. "But they can get that reputation. In her case, she's been unlucky, and she's been running against the best. Now it's nothing but mile-and-a-quarter races for her."

That puts events such as the Beverly D., the Yellow Ribbon and perhaps even the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf in the mix for Black Mamba. As for 4-year-old Whatsthescript, his score in the American at 29-1 was enough of a surprise that new worlds may have opened. The colt was running for the first time for Sadler, who is his fourth trainer in a career of just 10 starts.

"He's been a good horse for everybody who's had him," Sadler said. The list includes David Wachtman in Ireland and more recently Doug O'Neill. "He went to the farm after his most recent race," - the Sir Beaufort at Santa Anita in late December - "so I've only had him three or four months. I was made aware of the little problems he's had in the past, but he was just training really, really well."

At 51, Sadler has a long history in the West Coast game. He entered the business with a background in show jumping, walked hots for trainer Tom Pratt, and continued his apprenticeship with Dr. Jack Robbins, Dave Hofmans, and Eddie Gregson. Sadler was 29 when he upset Preakness winner Snow Chief in the 1986 Silver Screen Handicap at Hollywood Park with the filly Melair. By the time he turned 40, he had handled such world-class speed freaks as Three Peat, Olympic Prospect, Track Gal, and Frost Free, prompting the media to tag Sadler as a sprint specialist.

"I was waiting for you to say that," Sadler said, accompanied by a sigh that could be heard clear as a bell over the freshly installed Bluetooth system. (California is now hands-free - whee!)

"The American, a mile and an eighth on the turf, the Beverly Hills, a mile and a quarter on the turf," Sadler mused. "Maybe they had it wrong."

In fact, it is a rare local stakes event these days that does not have a Sadler runner involved. Over the last few years, he has hit a stride that peers should rightfully envy. He leads the current Hollywood Park standings and has been in the thick of every title chase at every major meet over the past year, including a strong second to Mike Mitchell earlier this year at Santa Anita.

The $391,740 banked by his four stakes winners last weekend put Sadler in 14th place on the national leader board - tops among all strictly Southern California-based trainers, while ahead of the comparably stocked barns of O'Neill, Mitchell and Jeff Mullins. Sadler's absence from the four major stakes on Saturday at Hollywood Park is very much the exception to the rule.

"I guess we'll be watching," Sadler said. "Hopefully, we'll be in them next year. But we do have Get Funky in the Robert Kerlan on Sunday."

Fair warning.