In the post-race press conference Saturday evening for the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic, Accelerate trainer John Sadler was asked what it meant to win the signature event of the Del Mar summer meeting.
“A lot,” was Sadler's no-nonsense answer. Then he went on to expand a little.
“I've been training in Southern California my whole career and to win this, the big race of the summer down here is exciting,” Sadler said. “We've been second and third a few times, so it's fun to get the win today.”
Sadler, 62, took out his training license in 1978 and won his first race in 1979. He'd won million-dollar races ($2 million Golden Shaheen, $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic) and lots of other stakes – 62 at Del Mar — before Saturday. But when it came to the Pacific Classic, Sadler was 0-for-11 with two seconds and two thirds.
Then Accelerate changed everything. The 5-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Lookin at Lucky showed his heels to six rivals rounding the far turn and the closest view that runner-up Pavel had was from 12 ½ lengths away as Accelerate and jockey Joel Rosario crossed under the wire. The margin of victory was a Classic record, bettering the 8 ½ of Game On Dude in 2013.
“Wow,” Sadler said when informed at the press conference. “I knew it was a lot, but I hadn't heard the official.”
The Pacific Classic is a “Win and You're In” qualifier for the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in November, the goal for Accelerate and every other horse of accomplishment in the handicap division. Sadler said the plan would be one prep race at Santa Anita and then on to Kentucky.
In a 20-start career, which has now produced earnings of more than $2 million, Accelerate has only raced once outside of California. In it, he was second to City of Light in the Oaklawn Handicap in Arkansas.
Not a worry to Sadler.
“Southern California horses have done well at Churchill Downs,” Sadler said. “And the thing we're going to feel good about with this horse is that he won the Santa Anita Handicap on a muddy track. You go back to Kentucky in the fall and there's about a 50-50 chance you're going to get weather and some kind of off track.”
All the Pacific Classic horses appeared to come out of the race in good shape. Trainer Doug O'Neill may have spoken for all when he commented on the effort of runner-up Pavel.
“He ran an excellent race, but he was up against a freak,” O'Neill said. “Accelerate was super.”
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