Hronis Racing's Accelerate became just the third horse to win the Santa Anita Handicap, Gold Cup and Pacific Classic in the same year on Saturday, romping by a record 12 1/2 lengths in the $1 million Del Mar feature. Ridden by Joel Rosario for his fourth win on the card, the 5-year-old son of Lookin at Lucky sat just off the pace until the turn, when he simply overwhelmed his rivals and was in a race all his own to the wire. Accelerate, favored at 2-5, ran 1 1/4 miles over Del Mar's fast main track in 2:01.83.
This is the first Pacific Classic winner for trainer John Sadler, who has saddled 12 starters in the race. Accelerate's effort also earned him an expenses-paid berth to the Breeders' Cup Classic this fall at Churchill Downs.
Accelerate broke a bit awkwardly, and Rosario had to ask him to move up rolling down the backstretch for the first time. Heading into the clubhouse turn, Roman Rosso had emerged as the leader, with Prime Attraction about a length behind him in the two-path. Accelerate stayed three-wide, maintaining a clear third position a couple lengths ahead of Pavel, who had not raced since his June 16 win in the Stephen Foster.
Roman Rosso, making his first start in the United States and given Lasix for the first time, put up steady fractions of :23.05, :46.49, and 1:11.25. He stretched his advantage to almost two lengths down the backstretch, but nearing the far turn, both Prime Attraction and Accelerate began putting pressure on the leader.
Suddenly, Rosario gave Accelerate his cue while three-wide and the horse responded with a giant kick to easily put three lengths on his rivals. Mario Gutierrez, aboard Pavel, saw Accelerate go and began urging his mount on for the chase, but Pavel could not match strides with the winner.
Cruising down the stretch, Accelerate and Rosario crossed the wire a record 12 1/2 lengths ahead of Pavel, with Prime Attraction hanging on to finish third. Roman Rosso was fourth.
“It was very impressive,” said Sadler. “He's been good on this track, he's won stakes here every year. He's better this year so you had to figure he'd be better on this track this year. The only thing I was nervous about was Joel (Rosario). I told him 'Ride him like he's the best horse. Don't let anything cheap get in front of you. Stay in contact with the leaders'. He did that so I knew (Accelerate) would kick in well. I wanted to keep them (Accelerate and G2 San Diego Handicap winner Catalina Cruiser) separated. We had the best horse and the second best horse and we wanted to use them in different races. (His personal feeling at the moment?) Just relief. I thought we had the best horse. He had a really good week. I woke up this morning refreshed. The toughest thing all day was getting into the parking lot.”
Bred in Kentucky by Mike Abraham, Accelerate was a $380,000 yearling purchase at the Keeneland September sale. Always a consistent top-level performer, he has had a breakout season in 2018, compiling four wins from five starts. On Saturday, Accelerate joined Game On Dude and Lava Man as the only winners of the Pacific Classic, Gold Cup and Big 'Cap in the same year. Overall, Accelerate's record stands at 8-5-5 from 20 starts for earnings over over $2.3 million.
“We don't get to see a lot of 5-year-old horses anymore,” said Kosta Hronis. “So this was great that he was able to stay on the track for another year and really mature and get better, and that's what he has done. I'm so happy for John Sadler. This is his first Pacific Classic win and for this horse to be a part of it is such an honor. We're happy for us, of course, but we're so happy for John. He's done so much and he's meant so much to us. He's more than a trainer. He's trained the horses and he's trained us. We had no idea about the horse racing business when we got involved in 2010. We thought we knew something. We knew nothing.”
Hronis talked about the jockey switch from Victor Espinoza, who was injured in a training accident, to Rosario.
“Joel rode a great race,” he said. “He's been good all day. When we lost Victor (Espinoza) it was disheartening. I'm glad it was John's decision. John knew what to do. He felt really comfortable going to Joel.”
(On sweeping the Big Three in California) “That's such an honor. For him to be in a position to attempt to do that was wonderful. That he actually pulled it off is great. To be in the conversation with those great horses is a thrill for us, no doubt.”.
Accelerate kicks for home under Joel Rosario, leaving the field a record 12 1/2 lengths behind to win the Grade I TVG Pacific Classic pic.twitter.com/9URS8oX93D
— Del Mar Racetrack (@DelMarRacing) August 19, 2018
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