Trainer Michael Maker launches a three-pronged attack on the 1m 4f Grade 1 Sword Dancer Stakes at Saratoga this weekend with Cross Border perhaps the pick of that trio.
The son of English Channel has won four of his nine starts and was awarded his last race. That came at this venue earlier this month in the Grade 2 Bowling Green Stakes.
Cross Border has a superb record at Saratoga. Although second past the post beaten a neck by the re-opposing Sadler’s Joy, that one caused interference and was demoted to fourth by the stewards.
As Cross Border has a length and upwards in hand on everything else on that form key piece of form, he should go well again.
He is worse off at the weights with the winner, but nothing like as exposed. Many others in this Sword Dancer Stakes field have had plenty more racing than Cross Border.
There is scope for further improvement, especially at a trip he has only tried twice before. Cross Border’s handler Maker has other live chances, but they too are older.
For that reason, he appeals most to follow-up on consecutive course wins. Cross Border could well confirm he should have beaten Sadler’s Joy here.
The swing in weights from last time out mean 2017 scorer Sadler’s Joy looks the main danger. Trained by Thomas Albertani, this seven-year-old by Kitten’s Joy has seen the mile-and-a-half out before.
Notable progeny of that sire racing in Britain, Roaring Lion and Kameko, haven’t got the trip in the Epsom Derby/ However, of his six career successes, Sadler’s Joy has won five of those over 1m 3f or further.
His stamina comes from the dam side of his pedigree, then. Connections will be out for compensation and the fact that he meets Cross Border on better terms only strengthens his claims.
The concern with Sadler’s Joy is that he hasn’t finished first in consecutive races since November 2016. His disqualification last time out leaves him looking to straighten the record.
Backing up good performances has been an issue for Sadler’s Joy. It is for that reason alone that he should be taken on here.
Of Maker’s other runners, Aquaphobia comes into the race off the back of a career best. Although age seven, the son of Giant’s Causeway is another unexposed at the trip and has taken his form to a new level.
Aquaphobia has spent much of his career racing over inadequate trips. Since joining Maker in March, he has clearly made progress.
The way he ran on in the United Nations Stakes to win going away by a length at Monmouth Park suggests the extra furlong will suit.
Irad Ortiz is back on board and, although he gives weight all-round to the Sword Dancer Stakes field, a repeat of his last run should see him go close.
In a trappy renewal of this mile-and-a-half turf race, Aquaphobia can show against rivals who already know a lot about each other but not him.