Ac­cel­er­ate wins Clas­sic at Churchill Downs

San Francisco Chronicle - Late Edition (Sunday) - - SPORTS -

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Ac­cel­er­ate took the lead at the top of the stretch and held off Gun­n­ev­era to win the $6 mil­lion Breed­ers’ Cup Clas­sic by a length Satur­day, strength­en­ing his bid for Horse of the Year over Triple Crown win­ner Jus­tify.

The race lacked the re­tired Jus­tify and left a wide-open field, which the ch­est­nut 5-yearold horse even­tu­ally over­took af­ter break­ing from the No. 14 post as the fa­vorite. 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 Ac­cel­er­ate be­ing named this year’s top thor­ough­bred, Sadler said he’d leave that up to the sports­writers 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 11⁄4 miles in 2:02.93 and paid $7.40, $6 and $4.40.

The Clas­sic tri­umph capped a suc­cess­ful Breed­ers’ Cup for Rosario, who also rode Game Win­ner and Jay­walk to vic­to­ries on Fri­day in the Ju­ve­nile and Ju­ve­nile Fil­lies Turf, re­spec­tively.

Gun­n­ev­era re­turned $21.80 and $11.80, while Thun­der Snow paid $8 in re­deem­ing him­self at Churchill Downs af­ter a last-place fin­ish in the 2017 Ken­tucky Derby.

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 race of the sea­so­nend­ing cham­pi­onships.

In high­lights from other races:

 Monomoy Girl bol­stered her case as the top 3-year-old filly by win­ning the $2 mil­lion Distaff.  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 out­du­eled fa­vorite World of Trou­ble to re­take the Turf Sprint by a neck, 6-year-old Roy H swept past Prom­ises Ful­filled and flew to a 31⁄4-length win in the Sprint. Jockey Paco Lopez earned his first Breed­ers’ Cup vic­tory.

 En­able fol­lowed up last month’s Arc de Tri­om­phe vic­tory by win­ning the $4 mil­lion Turf by three-quar­ters of a length over Mag­i­cal. The 4year-old Bri­tish filly be­came the first horse to win both pres­ti­gious races in the same year.  Miss Sun­set, trained by Jeff Bonde, was close early but faded to last in the field of of 14 at odds of 37-1 in the $1 mil­lion Filly & Mare Sprint, which was won by Sham­rock Rose, a 25-1 long shot.

Skip Dick­stein / Al­bany Times Union

Jockey Joel Rosario (green hel­met) guides Ac­cel­er­ate to the win in the 35th run­ning of the Breed­ers’ Cup Clas­sic.

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