Ac­cel­er­ate takes Clas­sic

Big move in the stretch gives him vic­tory, which is a first at Breed­ers’ Cup for Sadler

Albany Times Union - Sunday - - SPORTS - By Tim Wilkin Louisville, Ky.

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

Photos by Skip Dick­stein / Times Union

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.

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