Ac­cel­er­ate wins Breed­ers’ Cup Clas­sic

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Numbers Game - By GARY B. GRAVES

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-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.

As for Ac­cel­er­ate be­ing named this year’s top thor­ough­bred, Sadler said he’d leave that up to the sports writ­ers 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 1¼ miles in 2:02.93 and paid $7.40, $6 and $4.40.

“He broke re­ally well,” Rosario said of Ac­cel­er­ate. “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 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 last­place 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 is­sue 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 the ques­tion of if he could con­tinue his roll af­ter beat­ing West Coast by 2¼ lengths in the Awe­some Again Stakes at Santa Anita. And it fol­lowed other no­table per­for­mances on the se­cond day of the $30 mil­lion cham­pi­onships.

Monomoy Girl bol­stered her case as the top 3-year-old filly by win­ning the $2 mil­lion Distaff. The an­tic­i­pated duel be­tween the reign­ing Ken­tucky Oaks win­ner and her 2017 pre­de­ces­sor Abel Tas­man never ma­te­ri­al­ized, as Monomoy Girl made her move at the fi­nal turn and held off Wow Cat by a length for her sixth vic­tory this sea­son.

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-yearold Roy H swept past Prom­ises Ful­filled and flew to a 3¼-length win in the Sprint. Jockey Paco Lopez earned his first Breed­ers’ Cup vic­tory.

As­so­ci­ated Press

OUT FRONT Joel Rosario rides Ac­cel­er­ate to vic­tory in the Breed­ers’ Cup Clas­sic horse race at Churchill Downs on Satur­day in Louisville, Ky.

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