Accelerate drills for Pegasus
ARCADIA, Calif. – Accelerate, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic and four other Grade 1 races in 2018, worked seven furlongs in 1:27.20 on Friday at Santa Anita in preparation for the $9 million Pegasus World Cup on Jan. 26 at Gulfstream Park.
The exercise was moved forward a day because of expected inclement weather in Southern California this weekend and was a little longer than originally scheduled out of concern for wet conditions next week, trainer John Sadler said.
“We wanted the longer work because next week we could be looking at track closures,” Sadler said.
Ridden by exercise rider Juan Leyva, Accelerate worked alone at dawn and galloped out a mile in 1:40.40, Sadler said. The time of the workout left Sadler impressed.
“I think the track is slow,” he said.
Owned by Pete and Kosta Hronis, Accelerate has not raced since winning the BC Classic on Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs. He was the leading older male in the United States in 2018 and is a finalist for the Eclipse Award as Horse of the Year.
Friday was a busy morning for workouts at Santa Anita. City of Light, who won the BC Dirt Mile on Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs, worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 for the Pegasus, which is run at 1 1/8 miles. City of Light worked alone but was briefly joined by another horse on the backstretch, trainer Michael McCarthy said.
“He’s a very willing work horse and an amazing athlete,” McCarthy said.
McKinzie, who won the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs on Dec. 26, worked a half-mile in 47.80 seconds, though trainer Bob Baffert timed the exercise in “a minute and change” for five furlongs.
The Pegasus World Cup and the Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes at 1 1/8 miles at Santa Anita on Feb. 2 are options for McKinzie.
“We could go there,” Baffert said of the Pegasus. “We’re not in any hurry” to make a decision.
In other works, multiple stakes winner Battle of Midway worked five furlongs in 1:00.20 for the San Pasqual, while Kanthaka worked five furlongs in 1:00 for the Grade 2 Palos Verdes Stakes at six furlongs on Jan. 19. Battle of Midway and Kanthaka are trained by Jerry Hollendorfer.
Catapult, trained by Sadler, worked six furlongs in 1:14.20 for the $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf on Jan. 26 at Gulfstream Park. Catapult was second in the BC Mile on Nov. 3.
Catapult worked in company with St. Joe Bay, who was timed in 1:14. St. Joe Bay is expected to run in the Palos Verdes, Sadler said.
Espinoza seeks third opinion
The return of jockey Victor Espinoza from injuries sustained last summer has been postponed.
Brian Beach, Espinoza’s agent, said Friday that the popular rider plans to seek opinions from doctors in the near future regarding the condition of his spine, which was injured in a training accident at Del Mar last July.
Espinoza worked a horse on Jan. 5 at Santa Anita but has not scheduled any additional workouts. Espinoza, 46, received a favorable diagnosis from a doctor in December, allowing him to return to the saddle for workouts. Another doctor has recommended a more cautious approach, Beach said, leading to the decision to seek a third opinion.
“We’re on hold,” Beach said. “We’ll get another opinion. He’s feeling good after he worked that horse. He’s got a doctor that has a different opinion than the other doctor.
“You can’t just go with the answer you want to hear. He’ll continue to do his therapy. In football terms, we have to make sure he’s ready for full contact.”
Espinoza had hoped to resume riding in the final weeks of January. On Friday, Beach did not put a time line on any return, pending consultations with doctors.
Spring-summer stakes schedule
Led by a Memorial Day program with three Grade 1 races worth $500,000 each, Santa Anita has scheduled 34 stakes for its spring-summer meeting from April 12 to June 23.
This will be the richest Memorial Day program since Santa Anita inherited the springsummer meeting from Hollywood Park in 2014. The $500,000 races are the Gamely Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on turf, the Shoemaker Mile on turf, and the Gold Cup at Santa Anita at 1 1/4 miles on the main track.
The Gamely Stakes purse has been increased $200,000, while the Shoemaker Mile is worth $100,000 more than in 2018. The races will offer the winners a fees-paid berth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf and BC Mile, which will be run here Nov. 2, officials said.
There are several other changes to the 11-week meeting. Two Grade 1 races from 2018 are Grade 2 races this year and have been moved from March into the spring. The Santa Margarita Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on April 27 and the Triple Bend Stakes at seven furlongs on May 25 will be run with their purses halved to $200,000.
The Grade 3 Honeymoon Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles will be worth $150,000, $50,000 less than last year. The Cinema Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on turf is worth $150,000, $50,000 more than in 2018, when the race was known as the Rainbow Stakes.
The season ends with six stakes over two days on June 22-23, including the Grade 3 San Juan Capistrano Stakes at about 1 3/4 miles on closing day.
Accelerate won the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November to cap a stellar 2018 season in which he won five Grade 1 stakes.