Accelerate wins Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs
LOUISVILLE, Ky (AP) — Even if he isn't recognised as this year's top thoroughbred, Accelerate all but assured his place as North America's best older horse.
His signature win in the Breeders' Cup Classic should solidify his credentials for multiple honours.
Accelerate took the lead at the top of the stretch and held off Gunnevera to win the US$6- million Classic by a length Saturday (November 3, 2018), strengthening his bid for Horse of the Year over Triple Crown winner Justify.
The race lacked the retired thre-year-old star and left a wide-open field, which the five-year-old chestnut horse eventually overtook after breaking from the number 14 post as the favourite. Accelerate made a sweeping move in the far turn and was in charge at the top of the stretch, then held off Gunnevera for his fifth consecutive Grade 1 victory and sixth of seven overall this year.
That gave trainer John Sadler his first Breeders' Cup win since his initial starter 30 years ago.
As for the California-based Accelerate being named this year's top thoroughbred, Sadler said he'd leave that up to media who vote on the Eclipse Awards. He noted his own bias, though.
“To me, he's the Horse of the Year, no doubt,” Sadler said. “He's won all those great races. To win the Santa Anita Handicap (in March) was for me probably one or two on my bucket list.
“The Classic is a newer race but a great race, and he won that so smashingly. He's just a great horse and had a great year.”
Ridden by Joel Rosario, Accelerate covered 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.93.
“He broke really well,” Rosario said of Accelerate. “I was on the outside and had to use him a little bit. I just wanted to get a position because I was way out there. I know I had a long run to the turn but I wanted to be not too wide.
“When I got to the backside I tried to be in the clear, which is what he likes to do.”
The Classic triumph capped a successful Breeders' Cup for the jockey, who also rode Game Winner and Jaywalk to victories on Friday in the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies Turf, respectively.
Off the board were Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert's duo of West Coast and McKinzie. They finished seventh and 12th, respectively, after projections of challenging Accelerate in the marquee event of nine season-ending championship races.
“They looked good for a mile,” Baffert said. “They just tired and just didn't have it today.”
Accelerate claimed his fourth race in a row and answered the question of if he could continue his roll after beating West Coast by 2 1/4 lengths in the Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita. And it followed other notable performances on the second day of the US$30 million championships.
Monomoy Girl bolstered her case as the top three-year-old filly by winning the US$2-million Distaff. The anticipated duel between the reigning Kentucky Oaks winner and her 2017 predecessor Abel Tasman never materialised, as Monomoy Girl made her move at the final turn and held off Wow Cat by a length for her sixth victory this season.
“She was training like a monster and ran like a monster,” said Louisville-based trainer Brad Cox, who earned his first Cup victory. Jockey Florent Geroux collected his fifth win.
Peter Miller made Breeders' Cup history as the first trainer to saddle two repeat winners in the same Breeders' Cup races. Soon after Stormy Liberal out-duelled favourite World of Trouble to retake the US$1 million Turf Sprint by a neck, six-year-old Roy H swept past Promises Fulfilled and flew to a 3 1/4-length win in the US$2-million Sprint. Jockey Paco Lopez earned his first Breeders' Cup victory.