‘You’ve Got To Run When You’re Ready’: Higher Power Takes On Maximum Security In San Diego

Trainer John Sadler has saddled the winner of the last three runnings of the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar. A fourth would appear to be a tough task considering the intimidating record and presence of rival Maximum Security.

But Sadler, and his major client Hronis Racing, are hardly ones to be intimidated. And there’s recent history on their side.

“Maximum Security is one of the best horses in the world,” Sadler said. “But you’ve got to run when you’re ready, and we’re ready right now.”

Sadler has entered TVG Pacific Classic defending champion Higher Power for the Grade II $150,000 San Diego, a 1 1/16-mile main track event that is the primary stepping stone to the Classic. His 5 ¼-length convincing Pacific Classic victory was the highlight of a 2019 campaign as a 4-year-old in which the son of Medaglia d’Oro won three times and compiled earnings of more than $1.2 million for Hronis.

Higher Power opened 2020 with a last-place finish of 10 as the favorite in the Pegasus World Cup in January at Gulfstream Park, then went unraced until a runner-up finish, beaten 3 ¼ lengths by Improbable, in the Hollywood Gold Cup on June 6 at Santa Anita.

“We were very happy with it,” Sadler said. “It was a very good second, coming as it did off a really extended layoff because of travel and COVID. We brought him down here where he’s run well before and plan to run him twice – the San Diego and the Pacific Classic.”

Sadler and Hronis also have Combatant, a 5-year-old son of Scat Daddy who is also entered in Sunday’s Grade II, $200,000 Eddie Read Stakes on the Jimmy Durante Turf Course.

Combatant won the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on March 7 in his second start for Sadler after previously being based in the Midwest with Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. A venture to Hot Springs, Ark., in May for the Oaklawn Handicap produced only an 11th place finish in a field of 13. Combatant, generally a come-from-behind type, has four wins from 25 lifetime starts and earnings of $1,033,998. One victory, and $294,740 in earnings, came from turf races.

“He got cut off and generally had a bad trip at Oaklawn, so we’ve given him time off,” Sadler said. “Even if I go with him on the grass instead of the San Diego he’s still a candidate for the Pacific Classic.”

Catalina Cruiser secured victories in the San Diego Handicap for Sadler, carrying Hronis colors, in 2018-19. In 2017 eventual champion Accelerate did the honors. Accelerate’s victory was over the Bob Baffert-trained Arrogate, then the No. 1 ranked horse in the world. Arrogate finished fourth, beaten 15 lengths. Baffert will saddle Maximum Security on Saturday.

The San Diego Handicap, planned for July 18, was rescheduled a week later due to COVID-19 and post positions were re-drawn. It made no difference for Higher Power.

“They drew the race twice and I got the rail both times,” Sadler said. “The post is not my favorite, but we’ll live with it.”

The field from the rail: Higher Power (Flavien Prat); Ax Man (Mike Smith); Sharp Samurai (Jorge Velez); Combatant (Drayden Van Dyke); Maximum Security (Abel Cedillo), and Midcourt (Victor Espinoza).

Prat’s agent, Derek Lawson, was asked how he felt about going up against Maximum Security with Higher Power. “The same as I felt going up against Maximum Security with Country House in the Kentucky Derby,” Prat said.

Racing fans know how that turned out.

The post ‘You’ve Got To Run When You’re Ready’: Higher Power Takes On Maximum Security In San Diego appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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