It certainly was fitting that a grandson of Awesome Again won the Awesome Again Stakes. That’s what happened last Saturday at Santa Anita when Accelerate proved a punctual favorite for owner Hronis Racing and trainer John Sadler.
Accelerate wowed observers with his record 12 1/4-length victory in Del Mar’s Pacific Classic on Aug. 18, but he was not awesome again last Saturday. Nevertheless, it is to Acccelerate’s credit that he did overcome a lot to win the Awesome Again. When he arrived at the starting gate for the 1 1/8-mile affair, the 5-year-old Kentucky-bred multiple Grade I stakes winner acted as if he did not want to run in this particular Grade I race. He balked at going into the gate.
And then, after Accelerate finally did move into the outside post in the field of six, he thrashed around. Not surprisingly, he did not get away well. He “hopped some” at the start, as noted in the Equibase chart, causing him to break a step or two slow. But considering what a tantrum Accelerate threw in the gate, he easily could have gotten away to a much worse start than he did.
Starter Jay Slender does an outstanding job. He is one of the best at that difficult job that I have ever seen. While it did not appear to me that Accelerate was standing perfectly still when Slender dispatched the Awesome Again field, I think he definitely made the correct split-second decision to push the button when he did.
There were potential problems if Slender had waited for Accelerate to stand perfectly still. It would have increased the risk of Accelerate becoming even more worked up in the gate, perhaps even flipping. And if Accelerate had flipped in the gate, he almost certainly would have had to be scratched. Keep in mind that whenever such an overwhelming favorite is scratched, it is bad for the track from a mutuel handle standpoint. And if Accelerate would have had to be scratched, it also would have been bad for him in that he would have missed his important final scheduled start before the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 3.
Additionally, if Slender had taken more time than he did to start the race, it would have become increasingly more unfair to the other participants. During the entire time that Accelerate resisted being loaded into the gate and then thrashed about in the gate, all five other horses were standing fine. If Slender had waited any longer for Accelerate, it would have increased the chances of one of the other five runners becoming fractious in the gate.
After Accelerate’s less-than-ideal start, he raced four wide into the clubhouse turn and continued wide the rest of the way. He took the lead approaching the quarter pole, then drew clear in the final sixteenth to prevail by 2 1/4 lengths. The final time of 1:50.38 was far from anything to rave about, but at least Accelerate got job done in spite of his tantrum before the race and wide trip during the race.
Sadler did shoulder some responsibility for Accelerate’s bad behavior at and in the starting gate prior to the Awesome Again.
“He wasn’t very good in the gate and didn’t stand very well,” Sadler said of Accelerate, who has never been particularly good at the starting gate. “That’s probably my fault. He kind of missed the break. I should have taken him one more time to the gate to stand. But he overcame it.”
Accelerate received a 100 Beyer Speed Figure for his Awesome Again triumph. This is an indication that he was nowhere near his best. It was his lowest Beyer in six starts this year. These are his 2018 figures:
100 Finished first in the Awesome Again at Santa Anita on Sept. 29
115 Finished first in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 18
111 Finished first in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita on May 26
107 Finished second in the Oaklawn Handicap on April 14
110 Finished first in the Santa Anita Handicap on March 10
101 Finished first in the San Pasqual at Santa Anita on Feb. 3
Heavily favored in the Awesome Again, Accelerate paid $2.60 for a $2 ticket. West Coast finished second as the 8-5 second choice. Isotherm, virtually ignored by the bettors at 57-1, ended up third, only a half-length behind West Coast.
According to the American Racing Manual (which I highly recommend that you purchase if you do not have it), these are the Beyer Speed Figures for winners of the Awesome Again going back to 1990:
2018 Accelerate (100)
2017 Mubtaahij (102)
2016 California Chrome (112)
2015 Smooth Rider (111)
2014 Shared Belief (101)
2013 Mucho Macho Man (110)
2012 Game On Dude (109)
2011 Game On Dude (102)
2010 Richard’s Kid (106)*
2009 Gitando Hernando (106)*
2008 Well Armed (105)*
2007 Tiago (106)*
2006 Lava Man (109)
2005 Rock Hard Ten (113)
2004 Lundy’s Liability (108)
2003 Pleasantly Perfect (105)
2002 Pleasantly Perfect (116)
2001 Freedom Crest (108)
2000 Tiznow (119)
1999 Budroyale (118)
1998 Silver Charm (111)
1997 Benchmark (111)
1996 Savinio (108)+
1995 Soul of the Matter (106)
1994 Bertrando (113)
1993 Lottery Winner (105)
1992 Reign Road (108)
1991 The Prime Minister (108)
1990 Lively One (105)
*Run on synthetic footing
+Alphabet Soup finished first but was disqualified and placed third
WEST COAST CAN BUILD ON HIS COMEBACK
Bob Baffert trains West Coast. While Baffert did not win the Awesome Again with West Coast, the white-haired Hall of Famer could take some solace in that he did condition Lookin At Lucky, the sire of Accelerate. Lookin At Lucky was voted Eclipse Awards as champion 2-year-old male of 2009 and champion 3-year-old male of 2010.
West Coast was returning from a layoff in the Awesome Again. It was his first start since he finished second in the Group I Dubai World Cup last March 31.
Baffert said West Coast was about 80% for the Awesome Again. That estimation does seem in the ballpark from a Beyer Speed Figure standpoint.
There is no Beyer listed for the Dubai World Cup in West Coast’s Daily Racing Form past performances. The Beyers for West Coast’s last seven starts in this country are an indication that he was not close to 100% for the Awesome Again:
97 Finished second in the Awesome Again at Santa Anita on Sept. 29
117 Finished second in the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream on Jan. 27
112 Finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on Nov. 4, 2017
107 Finished first in the Pennsylvania Derby at Parx on Sept. 23, 2017
108 Finished first in the Travers at Saratoga on Aug. 26, 2017
100 Finished first in the Los Alamitos Derby on July 15, 2017
HUGE UPSET IN JOCKEY CLUB GOLD CUP
While Accelerate proved a punctual odds-on favorite in the Awesome Again in California, Diversify was unable to do likewise at 3-5 in the 100th running of the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup in New York last Saturday at Belmont.
Diversify won the 2017 renewal of the Gold Cup in wire-to-wire fashion. In this year’s edition of the 1 1/4-mile event, he paid the price for setting a suicidal pace when sophomore Mendelssohn pressed the issue through the early stages.
Check out the huge difference in the early fractions set by Diversify in the 2017 and 2018 Gold Cups:
:22.72, :45.64, 1:09.13 in 2018
:24.17, :47.74, 1:11.42 in 2017
Diversify won the 2017 Gold Cup by one length. He finished fifth in this year’s renewal, five lengths behind the winner, humongous longshot Discreet Lover, who won by a neck and paid a whopping $93 for a $2 win ticket.
It was the first Grade I win for both Discreet Lover and his owner-trainer, St. Lewis Uriah. Manny Franco rode the 5-year-old Florida-bred son of Repent.
Discreet Lover’s final time was 1:59.99. He was assigned a 103 Beyer Speed Figure, which tied his career-top figure. He also recorded a 103 when he finished third behind Diversify and Mind Your Biscuits in the Grade I Whitney Stakes in the slop at Saratoga on Aug. 4. After the Whitney, Discreet Lover ran 12th in the Grade I Woodward Stakes (won by Yoshida in his first try on dirt) prior to his Gold Cup shocker.
MIND YOUR BISCUITS DOMINATES LUKAS FOES
Backed down to 6-5 favoritism, Mind Your Biscuits won the Grade III Lukas Classic with authority by 4 3/4 lengths under the lights last Saturday night at Churchill Downs. Tyler Gaffalione rode the 5-year-old New York-bred son of Posse for trainer Chad Summers.
Mind Your Biscuits completed his 1 1/8-mile journey in 1:48.64. He recorded a 108 Beyer Speed Figure.
Following this splendid victory by Mind Your Biscuits in a 1 1/8-mile race, Summers said three Breeders’ Cup races are being considered: the $6 million Classic at 1 1/4 miles, $2 million Sprint at six furlongs and $1 million Dirt Mile.
As good as Mind Your Biscuits looked last Saturday evening and considering the 108 Beyer that he posted, I certainly could not blame his connections if they opt for the BC Classic.
MAN O’WAR’S 98-YEAR TRACK RECORD BROKEN
Yet another illustration why mighty Man o’ War set the standard for all other American racehorses to be measured against occurred at Belmont last Saturday.
Rocketry won the 1 5/8-mile Temperence Hill Invitational by 1 1/2 lengths in 2:40 flat (or 2:40.18 in hundredths). This clocking broke the track record of 2:40 4/5 set by Man o’ War in 1920 and tied by another of the all-time greats, Kelso, in 1960.
Granted, races have not been run at this distance very often at Belmont through the years. Still, it is incredible that Man o’ War has managed to own or co-own this track record for 98 years.
Man o’ War set the 2:40 4/5 track record in his 100-length victory over Hoodwink in the 1 5/8-mile Lawrence Realization. Man o’ War and Hoodwink were the only two starters.
In the book “Man o’ War,” Dorothy Ours noted that in the paddock before the Lawrence Realization, Louis Feustel, Man o’ War’s trainer, said these magic words to jockey Clarence Kummer: “Let him run.”
However, owner Sam Riddle “added one caveat: Kummer could turn Red [Man o’ War] loose but not push him. Especially down the stretch, he must not make the colt perform ‘beyond his own desire to run.’ ”
Ours quoted turf writer B.K. Beckwith as having written: “The most astounding display of arrogant annihilation I ever witnessed on a race track was the day Man o’ War won the Lawrence Realization.”
Regarding Man o’ War’s Lawrence Realization, another turf writer, C.J. Fitz Gerald, saw it this way: “He came through the final stages of the race like some great bird in full flight, his body beautifully poised and his great muscular legs plying with the precision of pistons, the dirt rising in little clouds where his feet had spurned the earth.”
As a 3-year-old in 1920, Man o’ War tied or broke world, American or track records at seven different distances — one mile, 1 1/16 miles, 1 1/8 miles, 1 1/4 miles, 1 3/8 miles, 1 1/2 miles and 1 5/8 miles.
These were Man o’ War’s record-breaking performances in 1920:
–On May 29 in the Withers Stakes, he broke the American record for one mile by two-fifths of a second.
–On June 12 in the Belmont Stakes, he broke the world record for a mile and three-eighths by 2 3/5 seconds. This stood as the fastest 1 3/8 miles run on dirt in America for 71 years.
–On July 10 in the Dwyer Stakes, he broke the world record for 1 1/8 miles by a fifth of a second.
–On Aug. 21 in the Travers, he tied the track record for 1 1/4 miles.
–On Sept. 4 in the Lawrence Realization, he broke the world record for 1 5/8 miles by 1 3/5 seconds. This stood as the world record for 36 years until Swaps finally broke it.
–On Sept. 11 in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, he broke the American record for 1 1/2 miles by four-fifths of a second.
–On Sept. 18 in the Potomac Handicap, he won despite carrying 138 pounds and broke the track record for 1 1/16 miles by a fifth of a second.
–On Oct. 12, in the final start of his career, he defeated Triple Crown winner Sir Barton in a match race by seven lengths at Kenilworth Park in Canada. Man o’ War broke the track record for 1 1/4 miles by 6 2/5 seconds. No, that’s not a typo. He actually broke a track record by over six seconds or by more than 30 lengths!
Man o’ War tops my list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th and 21st Centuries to have raced in North America. Here is my Top 10 (in parenthesis, when applicable, is where the horse ranked on the BloodHorse’s list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century):
- Man o’ War (1)
- Secretariat* (2)
- Citation* (3)
- Kelso (4)
- Spectacular Bid (10)
- Native Dancer (7)
- Dr. Fager (6)
- Seattle Slew* (9)
- Count Fleet* (5)
- Affirmed* (12)
*Triple Crown winner
THIS WEEK’S NTRA TOP THOROUGHBRED POLL
In the wake of Mind Your Biscuits’ sparkling performance in the Lukas Classic, he made a big move up to No. 4 this week in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll after being No. 10 last week. Diversify drops to No. 10 this week after being No. 3 last week.
West Coast and ridiculously easy Grade I Vosburgh Stakes winner Imperial Hint move into the Top 10 this week. Dropping out of the Top 10 this week are Abel Tasman and Sistercharlie.
Here is this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll:
Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)
- 379 Accelerate (13)
- 343 Justify (28)
- 208 Monomoy Girl
- 186 Mind Your Biscuits
- 176 Catholic Boy
- 152 Yoshida
- 127 West Coast
- 126 Imperial Hint
- 104 Catalina Cruiser
- 94 Diversify