Accelerate decimated them.
Sitting a close-up third early in Del Mar’s $1 million Pacific Classic last Saturday, Accelerate took command going into the far turn and quickly widened on the bend. After boasting an eight-length lead with a furlong to go, he continued to increase his advantage in the Grade I event while coming down the lane.
“And it is all Accelerate, clear by double figures with a sixteenth of a mile to go!” Del Mar track announcer Trevor Denman said during his stretch call.
Accelerate ultimately reached the finish 12 1/2 lengths in front. It was largest winning margin in the 26-year history of the race, obliterating the record of 8 1/2 lengths that had been set by Game On Dude in 2013.
Ridden for the first time last Saturday by Joel Rosario, Accelerate returned $2.80, the lowest win mutuel in Pacific Classic history. The previous record had been $3 when Gentlemen won in 1997.
Pavel, coming off a win in the Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs, finished second, while Prime Attraction ended up third in the field of seven. Accelerate previously also had outrun Pavel in this year’s Grade II San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita in February and Gold Cup at Santa Anita (formerly the Hollywood Gold Cup) in May.
Accelerate completed his Pacific Classic trip in 2:01.83. He now has won four of five starts this year. Accelerate’s lone 2018 defeat came when he finished second, a neck behind City of Light, in the Grade II Oaklawn Handicap on April 14.
When Accelerate subsequently won the Gold Cup at Santa Anita on May 26, he avenged his narrow loss to City of Light. City of Light finished third in the Gold Cup, 5 1/2 lengths behind Accelerate.
John Sadler trains Accelerate, who is owned by Hronis Racing. This was Sadler’s first Pacific Classic win. He had been 0 for 11 in the race.
Accelerate joins Lava Man (2006) and Game On Dude (2013) as the only three horses to win Southern California’s three major events for older horses -- Santa Anita Handicap, Gold Cup at Santa Anita and Pacific Classic -- in the same year. All three races are contested at 1 1/4 miles.
Speaking of Lava Man, the popular gelding currently is recovering from colic surgery. After his retirement from the racing wars in 2010, he became a stable pony for trainer Doug O’Neill.
As for Accelerate, what a difference a year makes. He came in third (behind Collected and Arrogate) in the 2017 Pacific Classic when he lost by 4 1/4 lengths and recorded a 110 Beyer Speed Figure. Accelerate received a serious 115 Beyer for his resounding victory in the 2018 Pacific Classic.
Accelerate’s 115 Beyer is the second-highest figure posted by a winner so far this year, topped only by Gun Runner’s 120 when he won the Grade I, $16.3 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park last Jan. 27. Gun Runner, the 2017 Horse of the Year, was retired to stud after his 2 1/2-length Pegasus victory.
These are the Beyer Speed Figures for the winners of the Pacific Classic going back to the first running in 1991:
2018 Accelerate (115)
2017 Collected (115)
2016 California Chrome (113)
2015 Beholder (114)
2014 Shared Belief (115)*
2013 Game On Dude (113)*
2012 Dullahan (111)*
2011 Acclamation (105)*
2010 Richard’s Kid (96)*
2009 Richard’s Kid (107)*
2008 Go Between (104)*
2007 Student Council (99)*
2006 Lava Man (109)
2005 Borrego (113)
2004 Pleasantly Perfect (112)
2003 Candy Ride (123)
2002 Came Home (116)
2001 Skimming (119)
2000 Skimming (118)
1999 General Challenge (119)
1998 Free House (117)
1997 Gentlemen (121)
1996 Dare and Go (116)
1995 Tinners Way (112)
1994 Tinners Way (111)
1993 Bertrando (117)
1992 Missionary Ridge (110)
1991 Best Pal (118)
*Run on a synthetic surface
By virtue of Accelerate’s Pacific Classic triumph, he earned a berth in the Grade I, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at 1 1/4 miles at Churchill Downs on Nov. 3. The Breeders’ Cup will pay the pre-entry and entry fees for Accelerate to start in the BC Classic, along with providing a $10,000 travel allowance because the horse is based outside Kentucky.
According to Sadler, the plan is to run Accelerate once before the BC Classic. The 5-year-old Kentucky-bred son of two-time Eclipse Award winner Lookin At Lucky is expected to head Santa Anita’s Grade I Awesome Again Stakes on Sept. 29.
Accelerate’s dam, Issues, is a daughter of 1998 BC Classic winner Awesome Again.
When Awesome Again won the BC Classic for owner Stronach Stables and trainer Patrick Byrne, the Deputy Minister colt defeated a stellar group. Future Hall of Famer Silver Charm finished second, followed in order by Swain, Victory Gallop, Coronado’s Quest, future Hall of Famer Skip Away, Running Stag, Touch Gold, Arch and Gentlemen.
THIS WEEK’S NTRA TOP THOROUGHBRED POLL
In the wake of Accelerate’s big Pacific Classic victory, he has moved into the top spot in this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll after being No. 2 last week behind undefeated Triple Crown winner Justify.
On the NTRA website, it states the poll is the “current Horse of the Year ranking of the Top Thoroughbred on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.”
However, I do not think this week’s poll accurately reflects the “current Horse of the Year ranking.” If Eclipse Award voting was conducted today, I believe Justify would be the 2018 Horse of the Year.
Justify received 31 first-place votes this week compared to only six for Accelerate. But the total points are 337 for Accelerate and 319 for Justify. Nevertheless, I think the 31-6 differential in first-place votes is a major clue that, as of today, Justify remains the favorite to be voted 2018 Horse of the Year.
If Accelerate does win the remainder of his races this year, capped by a victory in the BC Classic, he certainly will further strengthen his Horse of the Year credentials. But even if Accelerate does that, history tells us that he still is fighting an uphill battle to be Horse of the Year vs. a Triple Crown winner.
Since Granville became the first Horse of the Year in 1936, every Triple Crown winner has been voted that season’s Horse of the Year.
Here is this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll:
Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)
1. 337 Accelerate (6)
2. 319 Justify (31)
3. 269 Diversify (1)
4. 246 Monomoy Girl
5. 139 Good Magic
6. 128 Mind Your Biscuits
7. 96 Unique Bella
8. 95 Sistercharlie
9. 71 West Coast
10. 65 Bee Jersey
AUSTRALIA’S AMAZING WINX WINS YET AGAIN
Considering the name of the race, it would have been rather rude for the favorite to get beat in the Group I Winx Stakes held last Saturday afternoon at Royal Randwick in Sydney, Australia.
But win-machine Winx, the overwhelming favorite, did not get beat. Well off the early pace among 11 starters, she uncorked a devastating burst of speed in the straight to surge into the lead. And then, once another victory was assured, Winx was geared down late in the 1,400-meter (about seven-furlong) grass affair. She prevailed by two lengths. Regular rider Hugh Bowman was in the saddle.
Winx also won this race the last two years when it was known as the Warwick Stakes. The phenomenal mare got the job done in the 2017 renewal despite a horrible start.
Trained by Chris Waller, Winx now has won 26 races in a row. She broke the record for the longest winning streak by an Australian-based Thoroughbred set by another tremendous mare, Black Caviar. Black Caviar retired in 2013 after winning all 25 of her starts.
The longest winning streak in the history of Thoroughbred racing is held by Camarero, who won 56 straight in Puerto Rico from April 1953 to August 1955. Camarero, who became Puerto Rico’s first Triple Crown winner in 1954, was victorious in 73 of 76 career starts.
Kincsem, foaled in 1874, owns the record of 54 consecutive victories by a female Thoroughbred. Kincsem raced in Austria, England, France, Germany, Poland and Romania in addition to her native Hungary. She won 10 races as a 2-year-old, 17 as a 3-year-old, 15 as a 4-year-old and 12 as a 5-year-old. Kincscem was victorious at distances ranging from a half-mile to 2 5/8 miles.
Winx now has 19 Group I victories to her credit, a world record for a Thoroughbred on the flat. America’s legendary gelding John Henry is second with 16 Grade I/Group I wins. The Irish hurdler Hurricane Fly won 22 Group I races in Europe from 2008-15.
A 7-year-old daughter of Street Cry, Winx has won 30 of 36 career starts. Street Cry also is the sire of America’s 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta, who won 19 of 20 career starts. Zenyatta reeled off 19 straight wins before losing the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic by a head to Blame in 2010 at Churchill Downs. Zenyatta was inducted into this country’s Hall of Fame in 2016.
Waller told the media that Winx might make her next start in the Group I George Main Stakes at Randwick at 1,600 meters (about one mile) on the grass Sept. 15 at Randwick. According to Waller, the main goal for Winx is for her to try and become the first four-time winner of the prestigious Cox Plate at Moonee Valley on Oct. 27.
HUNCH PLAY DELUXE
Aretha Franklin, whose magnificent voice earned the R-E-S-P-E-C-T of millions, died last Thursday in Detroit. The cause of death was pancreatic cancer. She was 76.
Ironically, the “Queen of Soul’s” death came on the same day of the month as “The King of Rock and Roll.” Elvis Presley died on Aug. 16, 1977.
Some sharp hunch bettors no doubt played the winner of the eleventh race last Saturday at Gulfstream Park, Spanish Harlem, who paid $4.40. “Spanish Harlem” was a hit song for Aretha Franklin in 1971.
REMEMBERING DR. FAGER’S FANTASTIC MILE
This Friday marks the 50-year anniversary of Dr. Fager’s incredible victory at Arlington Park in the one-mile Washington Park Handicap. You can watch it on YouTube. Phil Georgeff was the track announcer for this epic equine performance that occurred on Aug. 24, 1968.
“Here they come, spinning out of the turn, Dr. Fager a short lead, Racing Room is second,” said Georgeff as they came into the stretch.
Dr. Fager turned that “short lead” into a tour de force. Despite carrying 130 pounds and running the second quarter in a scorching :20 and change, Dr. Fager drew off with ridiculous ease in the stretch and won by 10 lengths. His 1:32 1/5 clocking set a world record that stood for 29 years. It still remains the fastest mile ever run on dirt.
In the book “Thoroughbred Champions: Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century,” Dr. Fager ranked No. 6 behind Man o’ War, Secretariat, Citation, Kelso and Count Fleet.
In that book, Steve Haskin wrote of Dr. Fager’s 1968 Washington Park Handicap: “In the final furlong, the Doc had his ears pricked, while jockey Braulio Baeza was bent over with his head buried in the colt’s flying mane. It was truly a sight to behold.
“As [Dr. Fager] pulled up, Arlington track announcer Phil Georgeff’s microphone went dead for several seconds. Then out of the silence came one word: ‘Wow!’ ”
“I just said it to myself,” Georgeff recalled to Haskin. “And I didn’t even know at the time that he had broken the world record, because in those days it took a while before they posted the time. When I saw the time afterward, I was shocked, because he was running so effortlessly and was merely galloping through the stretch.”
Dr. Fager was described by Haskin as “an unharnessed force of energy who recorded what many believe to be the greatest season by any racehorse in the history of the sport. By being named Horse of the Year, champion handicap horse, champion sprinter and co-champion grass horse in 1968, Dr. Fager became the first and only horse ever to win four titles in a single year.”
After Justify’s Triple Crown sweep this year, I updated my list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th and 21st Centuries to have raced in North America. Dr. Fager ranked No. 7. My Top 10 follows (in parenthesis, when applicable, is where the horse ranked on the BloodHorse magazine’s list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century):
1. Man o’ War (1)
2. Secretariat* (2)
3. Citation* (3)
4. Kelso (4)
5. Spectacular Bid (10)
6. Native Dancer (7)
7. Dr. Fager (6)
8. Seattle Slew* (9)
9. Count Fleet* (5)
10. Affirmed* (12)
*Triple Crown winner