KINGSTON, Jamaica - It’s just the latest case of trainer John Sadler inheriting a horse from other connections, putting him in the program and ending up with a Grade 1 winner after Higher Power rolled to a dominating — if not a bit surprising — win in Saturday’s US$1 million TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar.
Following the likes of Gift Box and Ollie’s Candy, also Grade 1 winners transferred to Sadler within the last year, Higher Power glided home at 9-1 to punch a “Win and You’re In” ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Under jockey Flavien Prat, Higher Power went to the lead after pressing pace-setting Quip, who dropped out through the far turn.
"He was dragging me the whole way," said Prat, who added the Pacific Classic to victories in races such as the Kentucky Derby and Queen's Plate this season. "It's been incredible. I'm pretty sure in a few years I'm going to look back and really realize how big this year is."
The final time was 2:02.43 with Draft Pick second and Mongolian Groom third in the field of 10, in which favored Seeking the Soul didn’t fire. Tenfold, in fourth, was the highest finisher of four east coast shippers.
Sadler and owner Hronis Racing both repeated in the Pacific Classic having taken last year’s edition with Accelerate. That's shades of Juddmonte Farms/Bobby Frankel, who did it in 1994-1995 and again in 2000-2001.
Higher Power, a newly minted graded stakes winner, made this his fifth win in 12 career starts, with his last two races on the turf following a fifth-place finish in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1).
The son of Medaglia d'Oro, Higher Power was trained previously by Donnie Von Hemel and Michael Stidham before coming into Sadler's care his last three races.
"We've had him longer," Sadler said. "When we ran him in the Gold Cup, we had him off a layoff, and (Jose) Ortiz who rode him said, 'This is a nice horse. I think he just got a little tired today.' "I said, 'Well, it's our first start. It's a pretty ambitious spot.'
"So we switched him over to the grass and he won a nice race at Santa Anita -- kind of an unlucky second in the Wickerr (Stakes). But he really breezed great on this big track. I said we can always go back to grass.
"I think this horse can run on any surface. He had a super work last week. Flavien worked him -- really loved him. We wanted to be in here for the big money today."