California-based trainers John Sadler and Michael McCarthy were back training the two favorites for Saturday's $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) before daylight the morning after attending Thursday night's Eclipse Awards dinner in Gulfstream's Sport of Kings facility. The Sadler-trained Breeders' Cup Classic winner Accelerate, voted champion older horse and runner-up to Triple Crown winner Justify as Horse of the Year, is the 9-5 morning-line favorite in the $9 million Pegasus. The McCarthy-trained Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner City of Light is rated second at 5-2 in the 1 1/8-mile Pegasus.
Both horses are making their last start before heading to stallion careers at Lane's End Farm.
Accelerate's 6-for-7 campaign in which he swept four Grade 1 dirt races for older horses would have earned Horse of the Year in many years. But Sadler said he and owners Hronis Racing were prepared for Justify to take Horse of the Year honors, just given the cache of an unbeaten Triple Crown winner. Still, there was a lot to celebrate as Kosta and Pete Hronis, the brothers who race as Hronis Racing, were voted Eclipse Award-winning owners.
“It's been a great week already,” Sadler said. “(Accelerate) has had a great career already. We'll just see if we can top it off tomorrow. City of Light is a top horse. I have all the respect in the world for him. I've watched him train a lot at Santa Anita. So it should be a good, dandy race.”
Sadler said Accelerate's camp “was plenty prepared emotionally” not to win Horse of the Year. “An undefeated Triple Crown winner, they're the favorite,” he said. “We were happy to see them win. He's a great horse. We're proud of our horse's campaign also, and in a lot of years we might have been Horse of the Year. We were happy for everybody. We got great results, and for Hronis Racing to get the Eclipse as owner, we thought that was sensational. We'll take last night's awards all day.”
City of Light last year was the only horse to beat Accelerate, winning the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap by a neck, with Accelerate turning the tables in the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita.
“Obviously, it's a little bit of a rubber match,” McCarthy said. “Obviously, Breeders' Cup Day both horses were victorious. Looks like both horses are training well coming in here on a neutral site, (but) there are 10 other horses in there for both of us to worry about. There's going to be a little bit of strategy involved. This time we are inside Accelerate. At Oaklawn Park we were outside of him. We'll leave that up to Javier (Castellano). And Joel (Rosario on Accelerate) can kind of cat-and-mouse around there.”
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