Accelerate takes Classic
Big move in the stretch gives him victory, which is a first at Breeders’ Cup for Sadler
The best from the east were no match for Accelerate, the top horse in California, and, maybe now, the country. The 5-yearold colt, who has been doing nothing but winning on the West Coast this season, added the biggest prize to his resume on Saturday when he won the 35th running of the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic in front of 70,423 on a sunny, pleasant day.
Accelerate, trained by John Sadler, won the Grade I 11/4-mile test by a well-measured length. And, after it was over, there was relief and hope from the team that brought us the winner of the Super Bowl of horse racing.
Sadler, a 62-year-old native of Long Beach, Calif., finally got to visit the winner’s circle after a Breeders’ Cup race. Before the big chestnut chewed up the Classic field, Sadler could only dream what it would be like to win a race like this.
Going into Saturday, Sadler was quickly becoming the poster boy for Breeders’ Cup futility. He had entered 41 horses in racing’s biggest weekend over the years — the first one in 1988 — and he had watched all of them lose.
Saturday started out just like the rest of his Breeders’ Cups. He had three horses entered and they all got beat. One of them, Catalina Cruiser in the Dirt Mile, was considered a lock by many. He came in undefeated and was the lopsided 4-5 favorite. He finished sixth.
Sadler must have started to think he was Breeders’ Cup jinxed.
“Oh, absolutely,” Sadler said.
“I think that way all the time. You know, we’re prepared for the worst and hope for the best. I felt good about this horse. I mean, this is what I do every day, every year, for my whole career. To get the big one, I could not ask for anything more.”
As good as Accelerate’s record was coming into the Classic, there were some questions. He had not faced the toughest bunch of horses in his run through the California Grade I’s, the Gold Cup, Pacific Classic and the Awesome Again.
In the Awesome Again, his final prep before the Classic, he had to work to beat the Bob Baffert-trained West Coast, who was making his first start since March.
There were many who thought Accelerate had more than a few holes dotted across his resume. He would be facing tougher horses, or so some thought, in the Baffert pair of West Coast and the 3-year-old Mckinzie, who at one time was considered to be the best 3-year-old in the Baffert barn.
The East Coast had big guns like Mind Your Biscuits, who never ran a bad race and was the all-time leading money earner among New Yorkbreds. The up-and-coming Catholic Boy, who won the Travers, was supposed to be a threat. So too, was the Bill Mott-trained Yoshida, a grass specialist that won the first time he ever ran on the dirt, in the Woodward at Saratoga.
Add in the likes of Europeans Thunder Snow and Mendelssohn and
there would be more than enough challengers.
When the running was done Saturday, Accelerate stood alone. With a quartermile to run, he took control of the race under Joel Rosario and his stride was strong and true as they plowed down the Churchill stretch. Accelerate, the 5-2 favorite, only had to hold off the fast closing Gunnevera, who was 30-1, to give Sadler his biggest win. The final time was 2:02.93.
Rosario was in the saddle for the third straight race, having taken over for the injured Victor Espinoza.
“That was as good as it gets,” Rosario said. “That horse is simply unbelievable.”
Horses that were expected to run big, didn’t. Catholic Boy got wiped out at the start and was never a factor, finishing 13th in the 14-horse field.
“The break cost us the race,” Catholic Boy’s jockey Javier Castellano said. “Down the backside, he just gave up.”
Mckinzie was prominent early and did a quick fade and was 12th. Ditto for Mind Your Biscuits, who was 11th. When Accelerate went by West Coast at the threeeighths pole, jockey John Velazquez said his horse didn’t go with him.
Now, with all the major races done, the countdown to Horse of the Year is on. It will be between Accelerate and Justify, who retired after winning the Triple Crown.
“That’s for the sportswriters,” Sadler said with a laugh. “To me, (Accelerate) is Horse of the Year, no doubt.”
twilkin@timesunion. com 518-454-5415 @ tjwilkin
Jockey Joel Rosario guides Accelerate to the win in the 35th running of the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Saturday at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.
Jockey Joel Rosario celebrates his victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic aboard Accelerate. “That was as good as it gets,” he said.