ACCELERATE RUNS INTO HISTORY WITH A CLASSIC WIN
When we leave one of the things most want is to be remembered in a good way. After the 28th running of the Pacific Classic on August 18 at Del Mar, one furry athlete can ride off into the sunset without any worries.
Accelerate entered the signature event at the iconic Seaside Oval with a chance to make history. The talented John Sadler trainee had already displayed an amazing turn of foot in capturing the Santa Anita Handicap (March 18) and the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (May 18). Those powerful scores provided an opportunity for the five year old to sweep California’s big three races for older horses. Only two previous runners (Lava Man 2006, Game On Dude 2013) had done it in the 27 years in which all three have been run. With all that in mind, the added pressures were there to perform, but in the end, Accelerate delivered in way that would mark his place in the annals of time.
One of the most brilliant days the sport has to offer at one of the best venues in the world of sports, Classic Day at Del Mar speaks for itself. The trend going into the headliner was beaten favorites. The two previous Stakes races had produced upsets and only one favorite had won in the previous nine races. Loading into the gate as the overwhelming choice at 2 to 5,, the horse that had upset the supposedly unbeatable Arrogate at Del Mar in 2017 was now the one with the target on his back. The favorite monkey along with losing regular rider Victor Espinoza to injury in the weeks leading up to the race meant this was not the slam dunker some thought it to be.
“When we came here last year in the San Diego Handicap against Arrogate it was different because nobody expected us to win,” says owner Kostas Hronis. “This time around we were the hunted and that makes for a little more nerves. Victor is like part of our family and not having him here made us a little anxious too. I kept looking at the tote board and seeing the odds drop. I just thought man I hope they are right.”
As the gates opened for the mile and a quarter Classic, Accelerate ran above all the expectations. Settling in a stalking spot just off the pace-setting Roman Russo, the five-year old son of Lokkin At Lucky bided his time along the back stretch. Under jockey Joel Rosario, this grandson of Awesome Again rolled into the far turn with finishing strong on his mind. Running like much the best, Accelerate lived up to his namesake as he motored to the lead and blew the doors off. At the top of the stretch the only question was how much will he win by. At the wire the answer was a record setting 12 ½ lengths. The previous mark (8 ½) had been established by Game On Dude in his California Crown campaign.
“The only thing I was nervous about going in was the rider thing,” says trainer John Sadler.””I told him to ride Accelerate like he’s the best horse and don’t let anything cheap get in front of you. He has won stakes races here before so we know he likes the place. He had been good all week and we thought we had the best horse coming in. Joel did a great job and as it turns out the toughest thing was getting into the parking lot.”
Accelerate’s romp wrote his name in the history books in bold print. Leaving no doubt about his greatness in picking up his eight career win (20-8-5-5), the Sadler trainee may just be the top older male horse in the Classic division. With the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in November as his end goal, if he runs to his name as he did at Del Mar even more will take notice.