What to Know About the Sword Dancer Stakes

Flintshire, pictured winning the 2016 Sword Dancer, is one of six dual winners of the race (Bob Mayberger/Eclipse Sportswire)

The Sword Dancer Stakes, a Grade 1 race contested over 1 ½ miles on the turf for horses age 4 and older, will be contested on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.

Here are some facts to know about the race’s history:

Long history: The Sword Dancer was contested for the first time in 1975.

Going the distance: Run for the first time at a distance of three-quarters of a mile, the Sword Dancer was extended to 1 1/16 miles for three years and extended to its current distance of 1 1/2 miles in 1980.

Sword Dancer – Horse of the Year: While the Sword Dancer is run on turf, the race’s namesake was born in Virginia in 1956 and earned his most important victories on the dirt. The chestnut won the Belmont, the Travers, the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and the Woodward in 1959, and finished second in the Kentucky Derby. He was crowned Horse of the Year in 1959, and inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1977.

Multiple dual winners: Six horses in history have been dual winners of the Sword Dancer: Majesty's Prince (1983, 1984), El Senor (1989, 1990), With Anticipation (2001, 2002), Grand Couturier (2007, 2008), Telling (2009, 2010), and Flintshire (2015, 2016). Sadler’s Joy, who won the Sword Dancer in 2017, has a chance to join them this year.

Most wins by trainers: Trainers Bill Mott and Chad Brown hold the record for most Sword Dancer wins by a trainer with three apiece. Mott has one entry in this year’s event with 6-year-old gelding Channel Maker.

weekend Television schedule

Thursday, Aug. 27: 1-6 p.m. ET on FS2; post time varies on TVG

Friday, Aug. 28: 1-6:30 p.m. ET on FS2; post time varies on TVG

Saturday, Aug. 29: 1-2 p.m. ET on FS1; 2-6 p.m. ET on FS2; post time varies on TVG

Sunday, Aug. 30: noon-1 p.m. ET on NBC; 1-2:30 p.m. ET on FS2; 2:30-6 p.m. ET on FS1; 6-6:30 p.m. ET on FS2; post time varies on TVG

Great geldings: Five of the eight horses entered in Saturday’s Sword Dancer are geldings. Some of the most famous winners in the race’s history have been geldings, including two-time Horse of the Year and Hall of Famer John Henry, who won the Sword Dancer in 1981; the afore-mentioned With Anticipation, who has a raced named after him at Saratoga; John’s Call, who became the oldest winner of the race in 2000 at age 9; and Better Talk Now, who won the Sword Dancer in 2004 before going on to win the Breeders’ Cup Turf later that year.  

Winners bred internationally: The Sword Dancer commonly attracts good turf horses from abroad, including Ireland and England, where most of their races are run on turf. Four Sword Dancer winners were bred in Ireland (Theatrical, 1987; Anka Germania, 1988; King’s Drama, 2005; Glorious Empire, 2018) and three separate horses – two dual winners – were bred in England: (Alex the Great, 1994; Grand Courturier, 2007, 2008; Flintshire, 2015, 2016). Pedro Cara, trained by Graham Motion, will attempt to become the first French-bred winner in this year’s Sword Dancer. 

Previous experience: This year’s Sword Dancer field has a handful of prior runners including Channel Maker, who finished second and fourth in 2018 and 2019, respectively, and Sadler’s Joy, who won the Sword Dancer in 2017 and finished sixth and second in the previous two editions.

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