04/11/2010 11:00PM

Trainer profile: John Sadler


John Sadler's emergence among the elite Southern California trainers seems to have come about fairly suddenly in the last few years. But you can only say Sadler is an overnight success if you believe that "overnight" took about 30 years.

Sadler has paid his dues and he is now deservedly reaping his rewards. He's become a mainstay among the West Coast's leading trainers, winning numerous meet titles the past couple seasons and now holding what appears an insurmountable lead for the Santa Anita training title. While the majority of his training has been spent among the claiming ranks, he's now added quality to his considerable numbers.

"Yes, this meet has exceeded my expectations," Sadler said. "If you would have said to me before the meet, 'John, you're going to claim only a handful of horses,' and I would win this many races without really a strong claiming division, I wouldn't have believed it. That's what's made this unique."

His success at the highest levels has brought him national attention. Sidney's Candy's Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby win will send him to the May 1 Kentucky Derby with a legitimate challenger. The Sadler-trained Line of David won the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, and gives him a second bullet for the roses. Crisp's Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks win (over leading 3-year-old filly Blind Luck, who came back to win the Grade 2 Fantasy) sends Sadler into the April 30 Kentucky Oaks with a major player. In other words, it's all good right now for the 53-year-old trainer, and those who routinely play Southern California races know it full well.

This balanced stable has long been his goal. Sadler was known primarily for claimers and sprinter-milers in his younger days, including such crack one-turn horses as Melair, Frost Free, Hasty Kris, Our New Recruit, Olympic Prospect, Taste of Paradise, Three Peat, and Track Gal. But he's still managed over the years to make a dent going longer, winning graded stakes routes with the likes of Corby, Victory Encounter, Healthy Addiction, Palmeiro, and Appealing Missy.

His days as a youth when riding show horses gave him insight into the athlete. His days as assistant to noted veterinarian Dr. Jack Robbins gave him an inside look into such top barns of trainers Charlie Whittingham, Bob Wheeler, Bobby Frankel, Buster Millerick, and Ron McAnally. He also worked as an assistant to David Hofmans and took a string from Eddie Gregson's stable to Northern California. All that prep work set him up to go out on his own at age 22.

And he's reaping the benefits from all that exposure and years of hard work, as are those who back him at the windows.

Now numbers and quality and a barn that allows him to have horses racing at about every level, condition, and trip have elevated him to the point where he consistently sits among the leading trainers, including winning training titles at all the major Southern California meets the past few years.

A look up and down his numbers shows his consistency. Just look at his win rates at the different class levels: maiden claiming (27 percent), straight maiden (24 percent), claiming (21 percent), allowance (22 percent), stakes (13 percent), and graded stakes (14 percent).

He also knows when to make a change. He's 21 percent first time turf, 27 percent first time blinkers. He clicks at 20 percent going synthetic to turf and turf to synthetic. He's 25 percent going sprint to route, 24 percent going route to sprint. A nugget among his stats is that when he goes from two sprints to a route, he's a sensational 7 for his last 16 (44 percent).

His claiming eye remains skilled through all these years. He's 21 percent first off a claim and even a bit more time helps - he's 32 percent second off a claim. He knows how to get them ready right off the bat: he's 25 percent first time out and routinely handles his juveniles well (26 percent).