What to watch for: Sadler's Joy leads Aqueduct's Red Smith

What to watch for: Sadler's Joy leads Aqueduct's Red Smith
Photo: Sue Kawczynski/Eclipse Sportswire

A feast of stakes races await on Thanksgiving week, but before then, a few well-known names will be back in stakes action around the country Saturday. Here’s what to watch for…

Red Smith Handicap

Rather than ship in to Santa Anita Park looking to improve on his third-place finish in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf, the connections of Sadler’s Joy allowed for more time since another on-the-board finish in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1).

Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Red Smith Handicap is the new target, with the 1 3/8-mile feature on turf expected to mark his fourth start this season.

Trainer Tom Albertrani said last month that the Turf Classic “just looked like a hard race for him,” and that Sadler’s Joy “didn’t really bounce out of it as sharp as he should.” The 6-year-old by Kitten’s Joy has worked four times since, including a 5/8-mile breeze Sunday over the Belmont Park dirt.

Going back to 2017, Sadler’s Joe is a Grade 1 winner of Saratoga’s Sword Dancer (G1).

Expected rivals include Ontario-bred Tiz a Slam, a three-time winner in 2019 who bypassed the Canadian International (G1) at Woodbine due to a cough. Grade 2 winner Have At It is probable, as is Isotherm, a former west coast campaigner going second out for new connections of trainer James Lawrence and owner Matthew Schera.

In addition to the Red Smith, on Sunday at Aqueduct, defending winner My Boy Tate is expected to be Among those running in the $150,000 NYSSS Thunder Rumble.

Here's a full look at the prospective Red Smith field:

Native Diver Stakes

The Del Mar racing office is still piecing together this 1 1/8-mile field for 3-year-olds and up on the dirt, but we know of a couple probables, and the nominations list includes an interesting possibility.

Trainer Richard Mandella has Extra Hope, who’s Grade 1-placed and ran in a division of the Rebel Stakes (G2) last spring, hopping back into graded competition. He was most recently third in Santa Anita Park’s Nov. 2 Damascus Stakes.

Midcourt, a 4-year-old John Shirreffs runner, will be making his graded debut off a victory in the Oct. 27 Comma to the Top Stakes. It took this gelding until June 2, four starts into his career, to break his maiden. But Midcourt has now won three straight.

“He’s getting so good right now,” jockey Victor Espinoza said after the Comma to the Top. “He is not very easy to deal with in morning, but John is an expert with those kinds of horses.”

“In the afternoon, he shows up,” Shirreffs added. “We think the further he goes, the better he’ll get. When this horse applies himself, he’s a really good horse.”

Eight were nominated in all to the Native Diver, with the others Leading Score, Major Cabbie, Overdue, Roadster, Two Thirty Five and Zestful.

Trainer Bob Baffert said as recently as Friday, when Grade 1 winner Roadster worked last, that he was still mulling a race decision. Churchill Downs’ Nov. 29 Clark (G1) and the Dec. 7 Cigar Mile (G1) at Aqueduct are also in play.

Off since the early summer, Roadster was a narrow second to Flagstaff in the Damascus off the bench with that seven-furlong race race a bit shorter than his best distance.

On Sunday, Del Mar also runs the $100,000 Cary Grant for Cal-bred s 3 and up at 7/8 of a mile. The familiar Phil D’Amato duo of King Abner and Touching Rainbows are nominated.

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