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Horses Are Like Strawberries

Posted by Brian Mulligan on 5/17/2010 3:01:06 PM

Charlie Whittingham said it, “horses are like strawberries, they spoil overnight.” And that fact was never more evident when Eskendereya was scratched from the Kentucky Derby because of a filling in his left front leg.

He joins last year’s Kentucky Derby morning line favorite I Want Revenge as one that was so highly respected but never got this shot at glory. Through the years runners, prominent threats like A.P. Indy, Graustark, Sir Gaylord and Gen. Duke were injured just within hours of getting a chance in the Derby.

Eskendereya’s defection obviously opens up the race and will likely mean that Lookin at Lucky will go favorite with Sydney’s Candy second choice and all others a lot closer in evaluation.

Look here Wednesday for my Derby selection and maybe we can all get lucky.

HELLO AMERICA

The equine nation doesn’t need to know anything about the usual guys that will stir the drink during this Triple Crown run as the Todd Pletchers, Bob Bafferts, Nick Zitos and Kenny McPeeks of the world need no introduction but there are a couple of bit players that could upset the apple cart.

Enter John Sadler and Shannon Ritter.

Sadler has his gun locked and loaded with two bullets, Sidney’s Candy and Line of David while Ritter will put all her eggs into the basket of Endorsement.

At the tender age of less than 55, Sadler has been on a flat out roll for years out West with a stable of nearly 100 runners.

The former show rider tried out for the U.S. Olympic equestrian team back in the day and learned under trainers like Tom Pratt, David Hofmans and Eddie Gregson, who won the Kentucky Derby with Gato del Sol.

He has a great handle on the medical part of the sport and he worked as a veterinarian’s assistant to Dr. Jack Robbins, whose son Jay won the Breeders’ Cup Classic twice with Tiznow and who’s other son Tom, is the racing secretary at Del Mar.

A guy that flew under the radar for years in SoCal and a trainer that could pop at a price, there are no secrets now to his talent and his stock is always well bet.

As far as his hopes for the Derby this year, both of his runners have speed but would guess Line of David to be more forwardly placed with Sidney’s Candy trying to rate and get first run on the deep closers.

Candy has a legit chance to upset the first Saturday in May.

On an everyday note, Sadler has some tricks under his sleeve. The last 5 years he has been a 19% winning trainer, 49% of his starters have been in the money and career his horses have earned over $65 million in purses.

His first timers in maiden claiming land the last 5 years have only popped at 8% but he is double that percentage with MSW runners with a median price of 9-2.

He is 14% off an extended layoff of 180 days or more the last few years and almost 20% with second off the layoff performers.

He brings Sidney’s Candy to the race with running second NOT on his agenda.

Last year, the Sunland Derby turned out to be a key prep and connections of Endorsement, are hoping lightning strikes twice and back to back to boot.

His trainer is little known Shannon Ritter but this is not her first trip to the rodeo.

She has been around the block and back and is former assistant to conditioner Elliott Walden.

Walden, of course, had touched some nice horses in his day. He worked under guys like LeRoy Jolley and John Gosden and got his own taste of national exposure when his student Victory Gallop took the 1998 Belmont Stakes. He won several training titles in Kentucky and obviously knows what to do with a good horse.

As far as Ritter is concerned, she was a rider for nearly 10 years and won a title at Portland Meadows almost 20 years ago.

She is a hands on trainer as she doesn’t have a huge stable and has the endorsement, sorry for the pun, of her star runners’s owner Bill Casner.

Casner: “Horses don’t get to the winner’s circle all by themselves. Shannon did a great job in preparing Endorsement for the Sunland Derby and she really knows how to handle horses well. She has so much knowledge of the sport and knows how to get a horse prepared.

As far as betting on her runners on a daily basis, know this, she is underrated.

Career, she is a 14% trainer, not bad for a gal that doesn’t get the top stock.

She is very good with second-time starters and that style bodes well for giving a horse a race after a long layoff.

Equally adept going sprint to route or the other way around, pay strict attention to her runners when they add blinkers.

One of her biggest assets as a trainer is that as a former rider she has the luxury of working her own horses and that’s much easier a spot to evaluate exactly how good a runner is feeling on a daily basis.

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