Review of Sword Dancer Stakes, Grade I, at Saratoga on August 25

Race 10. Sword Dancer Stakes, Grade I. For three-year-old and up at 1 ½ miles on turf. Purse $1,000,000.

The Sword Dancer is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Turf.


PP Horse Jockey Trainer M/L
1 Glorious Empire Julien R. Leparoux James L. Lawrence, II 10/1
2 Spring Quality Edgar S. Prado H. Graham Motion 4/1
3 Funtastic Jose L. Ortiz Chad C. Brown 9/2
4 Hi Happy John R. Velazquez Todd A. Pletcher 6/1
5 Highland Sky Manuel Franco Barclay Tagg 12/1
6 Bigger Picture Irad Ortiz, Jr. Michael J. Maker 8/1
7 Channel Maker Joel Rosario William I. Mott 5/1
8 Seahenge Wayne Lordan Aidan P. O’Brien 30/1
9 Revved Up Junior Alvarado Jorge R. Abreu 15/1
10 Sadler’s Joy Javier Castellano Thomas Albertrani 7/2


Sadler’s Joy is seeking to become the second straight horse to win back-to-back editions of the Sword Dancer, following Flintshire in 2015 and 2016.

Sadler’s Joy ran third, beaten a half-length in the Grade II Bowling Green July 28 at Saratoga, run over a soft turf course at 1 3/8 miles. He ran second in the Grade I Manhattan June 9 at Belmont Park.

Sadler’s Joy will be facing a familiar cast of characters in the Sword Dancer, including Bowling Green dead-heat winners Channel Maker and Glorious Empire (IRE), Manhattan winner Spring Quality, Man o’ War winner Hi Happy (ARG) and Bigger Picture, third as the only other Sword Dancer holdover from 2017. Castellano returns to ride from the far outside post in a field of 10 at 122 pounds.

Hi Happy didn’t prefer the soft going in the Bowling Green, giving way to be sixth as the favorite after stalking the pace for six furlongs. He won the Grade II Pan American on March 31 at Gulfstream Park. He won the Grade I Man o’ War. He was third, beaten two necks, in the Manhattan.

Spring Quality won the Manhattan. He won the Grade 3 Red Smith Handicap in November.

Funtastic won the 1 3/8-mile United Nations June 30 at Monmouth Park. It was the second straight win.

Channel Maker won his first graded victory in the Bowling Green after running third in the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile March 10 at Santa Anita and second in the Grade I Hollywood Derby last November at Del Mar. Channel Maker has run at 1 ½ miles twice in his 18-race career, both last year. He won the third leg of Canada’s Triple Crown, the Breeders’ Stakes, on Woodbine’s turf course and then was sixth facing older horses in the Grade I Turf Classic Invitational last fall at Belmont in his subsequent start.

Completing the field are:

Grade 1 winner Bigger Picture, fourth by a length in the Bowling Green;

Glorious Empire a dead-heat winner of  Bowling Green ;

Highland Sky, beaten a neck in the 2016 Grade 1 Belmont Derby and fifth last out in the Bowling Green;

Revved Up ran second in the Grade III Arlington Handicap; and

Seahenge his first start since finishing fifth in the Grade 3 Dwyer July 7 at Belmont.


The top six out of the recent Grade II Bowling Green Stakes on wet turf meet here to claim the  “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

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