ACCELERATE CAN JOIN ALL-TIME GREATS IN PACIFIC CLASSIC
The Pacific Classic is one of those iconic races that can make a career if you happen to win it. For one runner in particular, the 2018 version could put him in an elite class for sure.
Accelerate is a flashy five-year old that has taken the California racing circuit by storm in recent times. The San Diego Handicap on July 22, 2017 at Del Mar gave us a look-see the John Sadler trained runner might just be lightning in a bottle for the veteran conditioner. In that race, Accelerate took on the then considered unbeatable Arrogate and made like his namesake throughout the entire race. Leading every step of the way under jockey Victor Espinoza, this son of Lookin At Lucky hit the gas as he turned for home and won by a widening 8 ½ lengths. The San Diego was his last win of 2017 as he finished the year with a third place finish in the Pacific Classic, a troubled ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, and a closing second in the San Antonio Stakes, but it was a glimpse of the talent housed in these four hooves.
The light bulb came on for the Hronis Racing owned runner once the calendar turned to 2018. Powerful scores in the San Pasqual Stakes (February 2) and Santa Anita Handicap (March 10) were followed by a hard-fought second in the Oaklawn Handicap (April 14). Bouncing back in late May, Accelerate set the stage for a run at the history books with a huge win in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. Widely considered the top older male classic distance horse in the country, Sadler has him pointed toward the Pacific Classic with a chance to join California cult heroes Lava Man and Game on Dude as the only runners to sweep the Big Cap, Gold Cup, and Classic in the same year.
“We are extremely pleased with the year he has had so far and are awfully proud of him,” says Sadler. “We just want to keep him going and the Pacific Classic is our next stop. Hopefully we can use that as a spring board for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.”
The Pacific Classic can serve several purposes for the Accelerate team. Not only can it land him in select company as winner of the California Cap Crown, but it would give Golden State staples Hronis Racing and Sadler their first win in the richest race on the regular racing calendar in California. Also the mile and a quarter distance will give him a chance to showcase the amazing turn of foot in the stretch that makes him aptly named.
“We know he can relax and finish at that distance because he has done it twice this year,” says Sadler, the winner of over 60 stakes races at Del Mar. “He has developed a good stalking style of running and then has that explosion when he hits the top of the stretch.”
To the surprise of some, Accelerate skipped this year’s San Diego at Del Mar as his conditioner chose to rest up a bit ahead of the Pacific Classic. The four race run in a four month stretch provided enough competition and his handlers wanted him fresh for the Pacific Classic. Recent works at the Seaside Oval has all systems go for this grandson of Awesome Again. One hurdle he may have to overcome is the loss of regular rider Victor Espinoza. Injury has taken his normal pilot off and his replacement is Joel Rosario, who won the Classic in 2012 (Dullahan). With three wins previously on the Del Mar dirt and having finished in the top three in seventeen of nineteen lifetime starts, the smart money says he can be right there ready to write in the history books come August 18.
We hate losing Victor to injury because he and Accelerate have made a great team,” says Sadler. “Accelerate has been doing really good and has had some bullet works of late. We know he likes the track and we just need him to be him.”