2018 Breeders Cup Classic

Hronis Racing’s Accelerate rolled from just off the pace to prevail as the 5-2 favorite in Saturday’s $5,358,000 Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade 1) at Churchill Downs, in Louisville, Kentucky.

In addition to crowning an Eclipse-worthy campaign for himself, the 5-year-old son of Lookin at Lucky erased trainer John Sadler’s winless Breeders’ Cup record.

Sadler entered Saturday with a 0-for-41 career mark in the Breeders’ Cup, and the stat took on added intensity as the day progressed. After his Filly & Mare Sprint (Grade 1) runner, Selcourt, tired to 12th as a 5-1 chance, the Southern California-based horseman was widely expected to get on the board in the Dirt Mile (Grade 1). Sadler had the red-hot 4-5 favorite, Catalina Cruiser, only to see his hitherto unbeaten colt fade to sixth. The shut-out became agonizing in the Mile (Grade 1) on turf, when his 7-1 Catapult took the lead a few strides from the wire but got nailed by British shipper Expert Eye.

By the time Accelerate was balking at entering the far outside post 14 in the Classic, Sadler had a 0-for-44 albatross around his neck. Accelerate himself was responsible for two of those losses, a hard-charging third in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and a ninth in the same race last year. In 2018, however, he had developed into the nation’s leading older male, and confirmed his status here to upgrade his trainer’s Breeders’ Cup record to 1-for-45.

Well handled by jockey Joel Rosario, Accelerate was settled a few lengths off the torrid pace set by Mendelssohn. That Aidan O’Brien colt was stalked by the Bob Baffert pair of McKinzie and West Coast, while Godolphin’s Dubai World Cup (Grade 1) hero Thunder Snow tracked just behind on the inside.

Rosario began to ask Accelerate to creep closer nearing the far turn, and he responded to draw up alongside Mendelssohn, McKinzie, and West Coast in a line of four abreast. Mendelssohn soon saw off the Baffert runners, but Accelerate powered clear at the top of the stretch.

Gunnevera, whose deep-closing style was assisted by the hot early tempo, delivered his customary rally to reduce the winning margin to one length. Thunder Snow held on determinedly for third in a photo with Yoshida, a closer like Gunnevera.

Mendelssohn tired to fifth, followed by Lone Sailor, West Coast, Discreet Lover, Axelrod, Pavel, Mind Your Biscuits, McKinzie, Catholic Boy, and four-time European Group 1 star Roaring Lion, who was eased after never traveling on the dirt.

By finishing 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.93, Accelerate handed Rosario his third winner of the 2018 Breeders’ Cup, the most of any rider over the two-day championships. He’d also turned a double on “Future Stars Friday” aboard Game Winner in the Juvenile (Grade 1) and Jaywalk in the Juvenile Fillies (Grade 1). Rosario has now won nine Breeders’ Cup races over the course of his career, but he hadn’t previously won these three.

Accelerate, who paid $7.40 to win, improved his resume to 22-10-5-5, $5,792,480. He compiled a nearly perfect season, virtually locking up the title of champion older male. His only loss of 2018 came by a neck in the Oaklawn Handicap (Grade 2) to City of Light, the winner of Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Accelerate began the year with a score in the San Pasqual (Grade 2), then went on to sweep Southern California’s major prizes in the older male division—the Santa Anita Handicap (Grade 1), Gold Cup at Santa Anita Park (Grade 1), Pacific Classic (Grade 1) by a stakes-record 12 1/2 lengths, and the Awesome Again (Grade 1) in his final prep.

Now the Eclipse Award electorate has a choice to make for Horse of the Year: vote for Triple Crown winner Justify, who retired before facing older horses, or Accelerate?