Sadler's stakes take reaches seven with Catalina Cruiser win

Down from 100 horses in years past to about 70 in his current row of barns at Del Mar, trainer John Sadler isn’t working any less. He’s working happier.

In fact, he’s got everybody in his crew getting up earlier than ever before to prepare for the day. The efforts are organized, focused.

“I’m so excited to go to work,” Sadler said late on Saturday afternoon, well past the 12-hour mark of his day. “It’s easy for me to come to work with these nice horses in the barn.”

With three training titles at Del Mar in his career, Sadler has put together some quality strings of horses, but this year’s talent is decidedly top heavy, and arguably the conditioner’s best ever here.

A week after Accelerate thrashed all competitors in the meet’s premier race, the Pacific Classic, Sadler was standing in the winner’s circle with the 4-year-old colt that has clearly become his 1A.

After half the field ducked out through scratches from the Grade II $200,000 Pat O’Brien Stakes, Catalina Cruiser basically toyed with the three horses who were left, and jockey Drayden Van Dyke used his whip just once over 7 furlongs in a 7¼-length victory.

Battle of Midway – coming out of retirement for Jerry Hollenderorfer in his first race since capturing the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile last November – put in a game effort to finish second.

“He is something,” Van Dyke said of Catalina Cruiser. “I said he was one of the best horses I’ve ever been on. He just might be the best.”

As expected, Roy H and Ransom the Moon were scratched, along with two Sadler trainees, Horse Greedy and St. Joe Bay.

The win, worth $120,000, backed up Catalina Cruiser’s victory in the San Diego Handicap and now gives him four wins in as many career starts. It also earned him an all-expenses-paid trip to the Breeders’ Cup for the Dirt Mile.

Accelerate is headed for the BC Classic.

“I’m just really excited,” Sadler said. “I feel like now we’ve got a lot of planning to do for the Breeders’ Cup. … I’m trying to blank that out for today and we’ll start the process for that tomorrow.”

The summer has been like few others for Sadler. His seven stakes victories are one shy of his all-time best here in 2008. Sadler expects to have four more stakes starters, including True Royalty (10-1 in the morning line) in Sunday’s Grade III Torrey Pines Stakes.

Sadler can’t reach Bob Baffert’s phenomenal all-time Del Mar record of 13 stakes wins in 2000.

“I’ve had great horses in the past, but you’re younger,” Sadler, 62, said. “As a veteran trainer, it feels really good.”

There are others contributing to the Sadler wave. Hronis Racing, which owns Accelerate and Catalina Cruiser, has five stakes wins this summer. And Van Dyke has a meet-leading eight stakes victories and owns the jockey lead in total wins with 30 – four better than Flavien Prat.

Tatters to Riches wins

Trainer Jeff Mullins admits that it’s been an unnerving time getting Tatters to Riches back into racing after nearly a year off due to a bone chip in his ankle.

The concerns were warranted, but the results are proving they were for naught.

Racing for the second time in less than a month, Tatters to Riches ($4.40) and jockey Tyler Baze notched a comfortable win in the $100,000 Shared Belief Stakes over 1 mile on the dirt.

The 3-year-old colt, owned by Red Baron’s Barn and Rancho Temescal, made his comeback in a Del Mar allowance race on Aug. 4 and won. Before that, his last result was a sixth in the Del Mar Futurity last September.

“It’s a feeling of accomplishment and relief,” said Mullins, who won his second Shared Belief and 20th stakes overall at Del Mar. “A horse coming off that long a layoff and running twice in 23 days is a little worrisome. But hopefully he comes out of it OK and we can map out his next spot.”

Notable

One Pick Six ticket, purchased through Twin Spires for $540, paid $130,850. Among the day’s winners was a 70-1 As a Rule ($145.80) in the fifth race.

tod.leonard@sduniontribune.com; Twitter: @sdutleonard

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