LOUISVILLE – For trainer John Sadler the losses in the Breeders’ Cup kept mounting and mounting.
After three losses earlier in the 35th Breeders’ Cup, the veteran trainer brought an unsightly 0-for-44 record in the World Championships to the paddock with him when he saddled Accelerate, the 5-2 favorite in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).
And then the skid was over.
Accelerate lived up to his billing as the horse to beat in the Breeders' Cup Classic by forging to the front at the top of the stretch and turning aside a late charge by 30-1 shot Gunnevera to prevail by a length in the richest and final race of the two-day, 14-race festival at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
“In getting the big one, I couldn’t ask for a better day,” Sadler said.
The victory closed a practically perfect campaign for the 5-year-old Accelerate as he won for the sixth time in seven starts and claimed a fifth Grade 1 victory in 2018. His lone loss was by a neck in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) to City of Light, who took the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) earlier on the card.
Under normal conditions that would be enough to engrave Accelerate’s name on the Horse of the Year trophy, yet in this particular year, he might have a hard time overhauling undefeated Triple Crown winner Justify, who was retired in late July.
“I think he’s done something no one has done before. He swept all the California Grade 1’s and he was undefeated (4-for-4) at a mile-and-a-quarter,” said owner Kosta Hronis of Hronis Racing. “I’ve heard he did all of this in the wrong year, well, maybe Justify won the Triple Crown in the wrong year.”
Mendelssohn, who was last earlier in the year in the Kentucky Derby (G1), carved out the early fractions in the Breeders' Cup Classic, covering a half-mile in 46.46 seconds. He remained in front until the field of 14 straightened away in the stretch and Accelerate motored past him with a three-wide move.
As Mendelssohn dropped back, first Dubai World Cup (G1) winner Thunder Snow, and then Gunnevera, who was third in the Pegasus World Cup (G1), picked up the chase.
Gunnevera had the stronger kick of the two but could not collar Accelerate, who benefitted from a smart ride by jockey Joel Rosario, who won the featured Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) a day earlier with Game Winner.
Thunder Snow was three-quarters-of-a-length behind Gunnevera and finished third a nose ahead of Yoshida. Mendelssohn was fifth.
Accelerate, who broke from the outside post in the field of 14, went off at 5-2 odds and paid $7.40.
The final time for the mile-and-a-quarter was 2:02.93.
By Bob Ehalt