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.
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.
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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.