Accelerate this year already has taken down the Santa Anita Handicap, Gold Cup at Santa Anita, and Pacific Classic. His trainer, John Sadler, hopes to make it a grand slam of 1 1/4-mile races on Nov. 3 in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs, victory in which would guarantee Accelerate an Eclipse Award as champion older dirt male.
“It’s why I’m here every day, even when I’m sick,” Sadler said this week at Santa Anita as he trudged through the stable area while fighting off a cold. “The horse is so solid. You just hope to continue to have good luck along the way.”
Accelerate will have his final prep for the Classic on Saturday in the Grade 1, $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita, a 1 1/8-mile race that serves as the final California-based prep for the $6 million Classic. It is one of three races on Saturday – along with the Grade 1, $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup at 1 1/4 miles at Belmont Park and the Grade 3, $200,000 Lukas Classic at 1 1/8 miles at Churchill Downs – that could impact the Classic field five weeks hence.
At Santa Anita, Accelerate is expected to face the comebacking champion West Coast in the Awesome Again. The winner gets a fees-paid berth in the Classic through the Win and You’re In program, though Accelerate is already in owing to his victory in the Pacific Classic on Aug. 18 at Del Mar.
The Jockey Club Gold Cup is also a Win and You’re In race. The likely favorite, Diversify, already earned a berth in the Classic via his victory in the Whitney at Saratoga on Aug. 4. His rivals include European invaders Mendelssohn and Thunder Snow, both of whom have won significant races in Dubai and had disastrous experiences at Churchill Downs in their respective Kentucky Derby appearances.
The Lukas Classic will be pivotal for Mind Your Biscuits, who could stretch out to the Classic should he perform well or cut back to the Dirt Mile – which is run around one turn at Churchill Downs – or even the six-furlong Sprint, the race in which Mind Your Biscuits was third last year at Del Mar.
In addition to Accelerate and Diversify, Pavel – the winner of the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 16 – is the only other likely Classic runner who already has earned a berth in the race through the Win and You’re In program.
Pavel is one of several top Classic contenders – along with Catholic Boy, McKinzie, and Yoshida – who will not race again before the Classic.
The Breeders’ Cup is returning to Churchill Downs for the first time since the track played host to the event in 2010 and 2011. This is the ninth time Churchill Downs will host the Breeders’ Cup, equaling Santa Anita, which will host anew in 2019.
The Classic is the last and richest of the 14 Breeders’ Cup races – worth $28 million – that will be run at Churchill Downs on Nov. 2-3. Also on the Nov. 3 card are the Turf, Distaff, Mile, Sprint, Filly and Mare Turf, Filly and Mare Sprint, Turf Sprint, and Dirt Mile, with those nine races totaling $21 million in purses.
The total of 14 Breeders’ Cup races this year is one more than in recent years owing to the addition of the $1 million Juvenile Turf Sprint at 5 1/2 furlongs. That race will be run Nov. 2 as part of a Future Stars Friday card whose five Breeders’ Cup races – worth $7 million – all will be for 2-year-olds, including the Juvenile, Juvenile Fillies, Juvenile Turf, and Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form’s national handicapper, made the early line for the Nov. 3 races and has Accelerate as the 7-2 favorite for the Classic.
Watchmaker’s other favorites for the Nov. 3 card are Enable (5-2) in the Turf, Abel Tasman (7-2) in the Distaff, Recoletos (9-2) in the Mile, Imperial Hint (4-1) in the Sprint, Sistercharlie (7-2) in the Filly and Mare Turf, Marley’s Freedom (3-1) in the Filly and Mare Sprint, Stormy Liberal (4-1) in the Turf Sprint, and Catalina Cruiser (2-1) in the Dirt Mile.
Catalina Cruiser, like Accelerate, is trained by Sadler, who is seeking his first win in a Breeders’ Cup race.
Brad Free, DRF’s California-based handicapper, made the prices for the Nov. 2 card. His favorites, all at 4-1, are Game Winner in the Juvenile, Serengeti Empress in the Juvenile Fillies, Madhmoon in the Juvenile Turf, Signora Cabello in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, and Shang Shang Shang in the Juvenile Turf Sprint.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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