By Bill Finley
“Inside the Winner's Circle, Presented by Keeneland” is a series showcasing graduates of the Keeneland September sale who have gone on to achieve success on racing's biggest stages.
Trainer John Sadler does a lot of things well. But give him a chance to get a feel for a horse, what it needs and let it develop at its own pace and there may be no one better. It's probably no coincidence that the two best horses he's ever trained, Accelerate (Lookin at Lucky) and Stellar Wind (Curlin) both had their best years as 5-year-olds. Both horses were owned by Hronis Racing LLC.
“The Hronis Brothers are throwback owners that allow horses to come into their best, no matter at what age,” said David Ingordo, the bloodstock agent who purchases horses for the Hronises. “John has done a great job managing a lot of these horses. They get a little problem, they stop on them and when they have ability, they are allowed to develop it. On our end, we are given the ability to identify the talent, John is given the luxury to develop it. The Hronis Brothers never complain, John says what is best, and they let it roll.”
Now, there's another one. At age 5, Cistron (The Factor) picked up his first Grade I win when capturing the July 27 GI Bing Crosby at Del Mar. He was a $180,000 purchase at the 2015 Keeneland September Sale. At the same sale, Ingordo, Sadler and Pete and Kosta Hronis also teamed up to buy Catalina Cruiser (Union Rags). The recent winner of the GII San Diego H., he will be among the favorites in the GI Pacific Classic.
“We just treat them all as individuals,” Sadler said. “Some are capable of going early, some need more time. We take it on a one-by-one basis. I've been in Breeders' Cup Juvenile races many times. If they need time, we give them time. It's not complicated.”
Cistron was actually a horse that showed promise early on. Bred by St George Farm LLC and consigned by Lane's End, he broke his maiden as a 2-year-old and won the Northern Spur S. at 3. But Sadler wasn't able to get him to the next level.
Then he got a little bit lucky, which never hurts.
Cistron was racing almost exclusively in the 6 1/2-furlong down-the-hill turf races at Santa Anita and only with mixed success. But when Santa Anita decided to end the downhill-races and run all turf sprints at five furlongs, Sadler knew that distance would be too short for his horse. So he tried him in the GII Kona Gold Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs on the dirt and Cistron ran off to win by five lengths. The GII Triple Bend was next and he was second, beaten just a head.
The next logical spot was the Bing Crosby, and Cistron won by a half-length.
“He got back to dirt by accident,” Sadler said. “They cancelled the down-the-hill races and I thought five furlongs would be too short for him. We tried him back on the dirt and now he's really found his form the last three races on the dirt. Sometimes, you get to places not with grand designs, but by the nature of the game. We thought he would run well on the dirt. My assistant said he was working great on the dirt, so that's why we decided to give it a try. He's been a pleasant surprise at five.”
While Sadler's name is on the program and he deserves much of the credit, Cistron's success was the matter of a team effort among Ingordo, the trainer and the Hronis Brothers. Ingordo comes up with a short list of horses he believes Sadler should look at at Keeneland and then Sadler and the Hronis Brothers go over Ingordo's recommendations and try to pick out future stars.
Ingordo signed the ticket on behalf of the Hronis Brothers for GI Breeders' Cup Classic winner Accelerate at the 2014 Keeneland September sale. At the 2015 sale, they brought five horses, three of which went on to become graded stakes winners. In addition to Cistron and Catalina Cruiser, they bought Yuvetsi (Bodemeister), the 2018 GIII Rancho Bernardo winner.
“John is very capable,” said Cistron's breeder, Ian Banwell. “David Ingordo has worked with him for 15 years and he's obviously talented and broad with regards to his horsemanship. With regards to advice and training, those are two important elements. It's clear they are doing some things extremely well. For the Hronis Brothers to buy horses exclusively and succeed as well as they have is quite some accomplishment. Kudos to them.”
Ingordo might have been ahead of the pack when it came to Cistron because, along with Banwell's wife, Caroline, he planned the mating.
“After this horse was born, their farm manager told us this horse was going to be the one to put The Factor on the map,” Ingordo said.
Cistron's victory was also a big win for The Factor, who stands at Lane's End, giving him a second Grade I winner from his first crop. He joins Noted and Quoted, who won the GI 2016 Chandelier S. The timing was good as The Factor was sent to stand at stud in Japan for the 2018 breeding season only to return this year. He stood for $15,000 in 2019, and currently sits in second on the fourth-crop cumulative sire list, just off the lead of I'll Have Another.
Sadler said the plan is to run Cistron in one prep before the GI Breeders' Cup Sprint. Sadler may just have them right where he wants them. The horse has found a new home on the dirt, he'll be running at his home track in Santa Anita in the Breeders' Cup and he's and he's five, a sweet spot for his trainer.