Ac­cel­er­ate wins Clas­sic by a length

The Modesto Bee (Sunday) - - Sports - BY GARY B. GRAVES

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-year-old 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.

Sadler said he’d leave that up to the sports­writers to vote on the Eclipse Award for top horse.

“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.

“He broke re­ally well,” Rosario said. “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 victo- ries 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 sea­son-end­ing cham­pi­onships.

Gun­n­ev­era, Thun­der Snow and early pace-set­ter Men­delssohn made things in­ter­est­ing in a wide-open field, an up­side to the ab­sence of horse rac­ing’s 13th Triple Crown win­ner from the Clas­sic. Jus­tify’s an­kle in­jury led Baf­fert to re­tire the 3-year-old in July, elim­i­nat­ing the op­por­tu­nity to fol­low 2015 Triple Crown win­ner Amer­i­can Pharoah in pur­suit of a rare grand slam.

Ac­cel­er­ate claimed his fourth race in a row and an­swered whether he could con­tinue his roll af­ter beat­ing West Coast by 21⁄

4 lengths in the Awe­some Again Stakes at Santa Anita.

DARRON CUM­MINGS AP

Joel Rosario rides Ac­cel­er­ate in the Breed­ers’ Cup Clas­sic on Satur­day at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. The vic­tory boosted the 5-year-old’s case for horse of the year.

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