Sadler Wins Record Third Consecutive Grade I, $600,000 Santa Anita Handicap As His ‘Avis Choice’ Combatant, Wins By A Neck
Sadler Wins Record Third Consecutive Grade I, $600,000 Santa Anita Handicap As His ‘Avis Choice’ Combatant, Wins By A Neck; Ridden By Rosario, He Gets 1 ¼ Miles In 2:02.32 ARCADIA, Calif. (March 7, 2020)–With his defending champion Gift Box scratched late this morning due to concerns over a filling in an ankle, it appeared trainer John Sadler’s quest for a record third consecutive win in the storied Grade I, $600,000 Santa Anita Handicap was a longshot at best. However, Hronis Racing’s second entrant, Combatant, proved equal to the challenge, winning the 83rd running of the Big ‘Cap by a neck while getting a mile and one quarter under Joel Rosario, who was originally scheduled to ride Gift Box, in 2:02.32.Taken in hand out of the gate, Combatant was a joint third, about two lengths off the lead set by longshot Brown Storm heading into the Club House turn. Fourth by a similar margin past the half mile pole, Combatant was on the move around the far turn and was about a half length off the lead a quarter mile from home as Rosario wheeled four-wide en route to a gutsy win, outrunning longshot Multiplier and heavily favored Midcourt late.Originally trained by Steve Asmussen, Combatant was making his second start for Sadler today, following a non-threatening third place finish behind Midcourt in the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes at a mile and one eighth Feb. 1. Beaten some 42 ¾ lengths in his only other start at a mile and one quarter, 18 races back in the 2018 Kentucky Derby, Combatant was off at 9-1 in a field of seven older horses and he paid $21.20, $10.20 and $4.00.Owned by Hronis Racing, who along with Sadler, got their third consecutive Big ‘Cap today, following wins with Accelerate in 2018 and Gift Box last year and had originally engaged Umberto Rispoli to ride Combatant, who picked up $360,000 for the win, boosting his earnings to $1,032,498. (Sadler confirmed that Rispoli would be paid a double-jock mount in the amount of $36,000).A 5-year-old ridgling by Scat Daddy, Combatant is out of Border Dispute, who is by Boundary.Ridden by Tyler Gaffalione, Multiplier, who was most recently a close fifth in the Grade II San Marcos Stakes at a mile and one quarter on grass Feb. 1, battled gamey at the rail the length of the stretch, outrunning Midcourt by a half length. Off at 33-1, Multiplier paid $28.00 and $6.40.Midcourt, a smashing 3 ½ length winner of the San Pasqual, seemed to regress off that effort, returning $2.20 to show while off at 3-5 under Victor Espinoza.Fractions on the race were 23.66, 47.87, 1:12.37 and 1:36.99.