(Accelerate after winning the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
From the Gulfstream Park Media Team:
Hronis Racing LLC’s Accelerate will face 11 rivals in Saturday’s $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Park in an attempt to become the third straight Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner in a row to capture North America’s richest race.
The Pegasus World Cup will co-headline Saturday’s 12-race program with the $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1), North America’s richest turf race. The $16 million Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational Series will be supported by seven other stakes, including four other graded stakes. First-race post time Saturday is set for 11:30 a.m.
John Sadler-trained Accelerate, who capped a sensational 2018 season with a length triumph in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs Nov. 3, has been rated as the 9-5 morning-line favorite in a field of 12 and will break from the No. 5 post position.
The 1 1/8-mile Pegasus World Cup will be Accelerate’s final career start before embarking on a new career as a stallion at Lane’s End Farm in Versailles, KY.
“We’re going to be a little bit sad, but happy that he has a great book of mares at Lane’s End in Kentucky,” Sadler said. “It’s a pretty good scenario. We’re just looking at it as an opening of a second career for him.”
The 6-year-old son of Lookin At Lucky showed talent right from the start of his career, debuting at Los Alamitos on April 17, 2016 and finishing second, a neck ahead of third-place finisher Arrogate, who would go on to capture the inaugural running of the Pegasus World Cup in 2018. The Sadler trainee returned later in the year to win the Los Alamitos Derby (G2) before capping his 3-year-old campaign at Santa Anita with a third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), a neck behind runner-up Gun Runner, who went on to win the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar and last year’s Pegasus World Cup.
Accelerate has kept the best of company thoroughout his career and has fared extremely well but not nearly as dominating as he was during his 2018 campaign, in which he won six of seven starts, notched four Grade 1 victories, highlighted by his triumph in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs. In 22 starts, Accelerate has won 10 times, including eight stakes, and finished second or third in 10 other races, amassing career earnings of $5,792,480.
“He was a little late getting to the races. He got to the races as a 3-year-old. He was a stakes winner at 3 and he was a stakes winner at 4, but his year, at 5, he really took off. He showed he could go the classic distance in America of a mile and a quarter,” said Sadler, whose stable star won four times at the 1 ¼-mile distance last season. “He had the maturity to do it and keep doing it.”
Accelerate, a lock to be honored as the outstanding older horse in 2018 at Thursday’s Eclipse Awards dinner in Gulfstream’s Sport of Kings Theater, compiled a Horse of the Year-caliber record last year but has imposing competition for Thoroughbred racing’s top honor in 2018 Triple Crown champion Justify.
“I have nothing but respect for the other horse, obviously. He’s an undefeated Triple Crown winner, and I saw him breeze all winter at Santa Anita, my home base, so I’m pretty familiar with him. He’s a great horse,” Sadler said. “That being said, my horse was a great horse last year. He won at a mile and a quarter four times. In the handicaps, he was always the highweight. In the weight-for-ages, he was always giving weight. He spotted weight to all his rivals, which means something at a mile and a quarter, being so dominant.
“We laid out a script of the races we were going to run, and he ran in them all. He beat all the horses that came up to him,” he added. “It’s a shame Justify went to the sideline early. We were hoping we’d have a chance of meeting in the Breeders’ Cup, but it unfortunately didn’t happen. Whatever the vote, we’re fine with it. We’re just delighted with our horse.”
Joel Rosario, who won the mount when regular rider Victor Espinoza was seriously injured in a mishap last summer, has been a perfect 3-for-3 aboard Accelerate, who captured the Pacific Classic (G1) by 12 ½ lengths, the Awesome Again (G1) by 2 ½ lengths and the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) by a length.
The only horse to beat Accelerate last year will try to repeat that feat in the Pegasus. City of Light, who registered a neck decision over Accelerate in the Oaklawn Park Handicap (G2) last April, is rated second at 5-2 in the morning-line and will break from the No. 3 post.
Owned by Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren Jr., the 5-year-old son of Quality Road would subsequently finish third behind a victorious Accelerate six-weeks later in the 1 ¼-mile Santa Anita Gold Cup.
“We’ve met twice. It’s a tie ballgame so far,” trainer Michael McCarthy said.
City of Light, who won the seven-furlong Triple Bend (G1) at Santa Anita in March, raced twice following the Santa Anita Gold Cup, finishing second in the seven-furlong Forego (G1) at Saratoga Aug. 25 and winning the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) by 2 ¾ lengths.
Although he’s shown brilliance in one-turn races, McCarthy is confident City of Light will have no difficulty stretching out for the two-turn Pegasus.
“I don’t think he’ll have any problem,” McCarthy said. “He won the [1 1/8-mile] Oaklawn Handicap.”
City of Light, who will also be retired and begin his stallion career at Lane’s End, will be ridden by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, who was aboard for his Dirt Mile romp.
Margoth’s Gunnevera, who finished a late-closing second behind Accelerate in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, will be one of two starters in last year’s Pegasus to return this year. The Antonio Sano-trained Gunnevera, who finished third behind Gun Runner last year, finished second in the Whitney (G1) at Saratoga prior to his strong Classic showing.
“I’m so proud of my horse,” said Sano, Venezuela’s winningest trainer who became a U.S. citizen last week. “We need to win a Grade 1. I think my horse can do it in the Pegasus. The Pegasus will be my first stakes since I am a citizen.”
Based at Gulfstream Park West, Gunnevera won the 2017 Fountain of Youth (G2) over the Gulfstream Park racetrack and has earned in excess of $4.1 million in purses.
Irad Ortiz Jr. has the return mount aboard the 5-year-old son of Dialed In.
Todd Pletcher-trained Audible will also be running on familiar ground in the Pegasus, having won the $1 million Fasig-Tipton Holy Bull (G2) and the $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (G1) last year at Gulfstream.
“I think based on Audible’s success last year, winning the Holy Bull and the Florida Derby, [the Pegasus] would be the logical target,” Pletcher said. “He had the summer off and he didn’t get started until November, so we thought the timing was good as well. But mainly his success at Gulfstream made it a good first target.”
Owned by China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, Starlight Racing and WinStar Farm, the 4-year-old son of Into Mischief finished third after closing from far back in last year’s Kentucky Derby (G1), a head behind runner-up Good Magic. He went to the sidelines for six months following the Derby before returning with a two-length score in the Cherokee Road Stakes at Churchill Downs on the Breeders’ Cup undercard. Best down to 1-10 in his next start at Gulfstream Dec. 15, Audible was upset by a half-length following a wide trip over a sloppy racetrack in the Harlan’s Holiday (G3).
Flavian Prat will ride Audible for the first time in the Pegasus.
Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence’s Patternrecognition enters the Pegasus on a three-race winning streak. The late-developing 5-year-old son of Adios Charlie captured a second-level optional claiming allowance Aug. 11 at Saratoga before winning his stakes debut with a front-running score in the Kelso Handicap (G2) Sept. 22 at Belmont Park. The Chad Brown-trained Florida-bred came right back to win the Dec. 1 Cigar Mile (G1) at Belmont leading the way throughout the one-turn mile stakes.
“I think on this track a horse that has positional speed. I’m happy the horse we have has been running on the front, but I don’t think he has to be on the lead. He fits that profile of a speed horse that can get position at the very least,” Brown said.
“He seems to be in really great form coming off the Cigar Mile. The timing worked for us. At his point of his career he seems to be peaking,” he added. “It’s the right time to take a big swing at a huge purse.”
Calumet Farm will be represented by a pair of starters, Bravazo and True Timber.
For Bravazo the Pegasus will be his ninth consecutive Grade 1 stakes appearance. Although the D. Wayne Lukas-trained 4-year-old has gone winless at racing’s highest level, the son of Awesome Again has been highly competitive. No horse finished closer to undefeated Justify than Bravazo, who closed strongly to finish just a half-length behind the eventual Triple Crown winner in the Preakness Stakes (G1).
The Calumet homebred also finished in the money in the Haskell (G1), Travers (G1), Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) and the Clark Handicap (G1).
Gulfstream’s leading rider Luis Saez has the mount.
True Timber enters the Pegasus off a second-place finish behind Patternrecognition in the Cigar Mile.
“We have a nice horse that run second in the Cigar Mile. We’re trying to stretch him out a little bit, but he galloped out great. We’re hoping he can get the trip,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said.
“He’s improving all the time. He’s never left Belmont Park since he got there as a 2-year-old,” he added. “This will be different. He’ll be getting on a van this time, but he’s a straightforward horse and he’s doing really well.”
Charles Fipke’s Seeking the Soul returns to Gulfstream for another crack at the Pegasus World Cup, in which he finished fifth last year. The Dallas Stewart-trained 6-year-old, who earned Grade 1 credentials with a win in the 2017 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs, finished second behind City of Light in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, before finishing third in the Clark Handicap.
Hall of Famer jockey John Velazquez, who won aboard the son of Perfect Soul in the 2017 Clark, has the mount.
G M B Racing’s Tom’s d’Etat will make his Grade 1 stakes debut in the Pegasus for trainer Al Stall Jr. The 6-year-old son of Smart Strike, whose career had been compromised by chronic ankle issues, has won four straight races, including a 3 ½-length victory in the Tenacious Stakes at Fair Grounds last time out. Shaun Bridgmohan has the return mount.
Stronach Stables’ Something Awesome has blossomed since joining Laurel Park-based trainer Jose Corrales, who has saddled the son of Awesome Again for graded-stakes victories in the General George (G3) at Laurel and the $1.2 million Charles Town Classic (G2). Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado has the return mount.
Kukulkan, Cuadra San Jorge’s undefeated Mexican Triple Crown champion, returns to Gulfstream Park, where the 4-year-old son of Point Determined captured the $300,000 Clasico del Caribe Dec. 8. Kukulkan, who has won all 14 career starts, will be ridden by Frankie Dettori.
Ron Paolucci Racing’s Imperative, who captured the 2017 Charles Town Classic, brings a career bankroll of more than $2.99 million into the Pegasus. The Anthony Quartarolo-trained 9-year-old will be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione.