Mon, 11/05/2018 - 10:26

John Sadler, Breeders’ Cup-winning trainer.


A much-discussed 0-for-41 heading into this year’s two-day Championships, the 62-year-old finally put that story to bed with a popular, one-length victory by Accelerate (Lookin At Lucky) in Saturday’s GI Breeders’ Cup Classic on a spectacular late fall afternoon before a lively crowd of 70,423 at Churchill Downs.


Longshot Gunnevera (Dialed In) rallied smartly from far back to finish second after getting bumped badly at the start. Thunder Snow (Ire) (Helmet {Aus}) was a solid third.


“Yeah, I’m thrilled, no doubt,” Sadler said. “I mean, this is what I do every day, every year for my whole career, so to really get the big one, I couldn’t ask for a better day.”


Accelerate, drawn widest of all in post 14, was backed as the 5-2 favorite after dominating the California Grade I handicap division this term with wins in the GI Santa Anita H. Mar. 10, GI Gold Cup at Santa Anita S. May 26, GI TVG Pacific Classic S. Aug. 18 and GI Awesome Again S. Sept. 29. He was also a narrow second behind Saturday’s GI Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner City of Light (Quality Road) in the GII Oaklawn H. Apr. 14.


The 5-year-old broke well and secured a good spot in a three-wide fifth through an opening quarter in a scorching :22.68. Continuing to cover all the ground down the backstretch, jockey Joel Rosario let him roll with a four-wide move on the far turn. He set his sights on the pacesetting Mendelssohn (Scat Daddy) at the top of the stretch, gained a narrow advantage as they straightened, and despite wandering some in the stretch, stayed on well to gut out his fifth Grade I victory of the season.


Sadler failed to find the mark in three Breeders’ Cup races earlier on the program, including a strong second by Catapult (Kitten’s Joy) in the Mile; a sixth-place finish by heavily favored Catalina Cruiser (Union Rags) in the Dirt Mile; and a 12th-place effort by ‘TDN Rising Star’ Selcourt (Tiz Wonderful) in the F/M Sprint.


“You know, we’re prepared for the worst and hope for the best,” Sadler said. “You know, you never know. I mean, horse racing is a great sport, and this horse has been good. I felt good about him today. I think [winning owner] Kosta [Hronis] said the same thing. He’s been the best horse in this division all year, so I thought if we had a good trip, he’d be tough.”


Winning owner Kosta Hronis (click for a previous TDN Breeders’ Cup profile) has also campaigned standouts such as MGISW Stellar Wind (Curlin), a painful second in the 2015 GI Breeders’ Cup Distaff; Hard Aces (Hard Spun); Iotapa (Afleet Alex); and Lady of Shamrock (Scat Daddy). Hronis Inc., a family-run business based in California’s San Joaquin Valley, has been raising table grapes since 1945.


Can Accelerate snatch Horse of the Year honors from the sport’s 13th Triple Crown winner and ‘TDN Rising Star’ Justify (Scat Daddy)?


“I think he’s done something no one else has done,” Hronis replied. “He swept the California Grade I’s. He’s undefeated at the mile and a quarter. I think today, they’ve been saying all along that, he had to win the Classic to be in the conversation. He won the Classic, and then I read somewhere where it said maybe he did this all on the wrong year, but maybe Justify won the Triple Crown in the wrong year, I don’t know.


He continued, “This horse is special. He’s showed up every time. He’s danced every dance. He’s been solid. This is the Horse of the Year. It’s a body of work, and what he has done in the last 12 months, I think he’s well deserved to be of that honor. There’s no doubt.”


The win by Accelerate capped a tremendous weekend for Rosario, who also guided home Friday’s Juvenile dirt winners Jay Walk (Cross Traffic) and ‘TDN Rising Star’ Game Winner (Candy Ride {Arg}).


“That was about as good as it gets,” Rosario said. “That horse is simply unbelievable. I’m so happy for the owners and John. It was a great performance. He has so much heart.”


Accelerate is slated to stand at Lane’s End Farm upon the conclusion of his racing career.


“We have an option to run him in the Pegasus,” Sadler said. “The plan right now is he’ll probably go up to Lane’s End Farm in Lexington tomorrow, and they’ll show him there as a stallion this week, we’ll bring him back to California, and if all is good, will probably go in the Pegasus, kind of our all-out Gun Runner of last year, and then he’ll go off to stud.”


Pedigree Notes:

Accelerate, a $380,000 KEESEP yearling graduate, becomes the first Breeders’ Cup winner for sire Lookin At Lucky, who finished an unlucky second in the 2009 Juvenile at Santa Anita. Accelerate’s dam went two-for-two to begin her career and was claimed out of both starts en route to four wins in eight tries with a stakes placing. Selling for $140,000 to Abbot Bloodstock as a broodmare prospect at KEEJAN in 2007, she hammered for just $25,000 to breeder Mike Abraham at KEENOV in 2011 and subsequently RNA’d for $450,000 while in foal to Scat Daddy at FTKNOV in 2014. Second dam Darlin Echo (Eastern Echo) is a half-sister to GISW and sire Wagon Limit (Conquistador Cielo), as well as Taine (Sir Ivor), the dam of MGSW/MGISP Puzzlement (Pine Bluff). Issues is also the dam of Amarish (Scat Daddy), SW & GSP, $208,519; and GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf third Daddy D T (Scat Daddy), SW & GISP, $354,229. Issues is responsible for a juvenile Bernardini colt named Communicator, who sold for $300,000 at KEESEP to Twin Creeks Racing, and a yearling colt by the same sire, who RNA’d for $200,000 at that same sale earlier this fall. She was bred to Curlin most recently.


SOURCE: TDN 11/3/18