Accelerate Makes Quite the First Impression on Rosario in TVG Pacific Classic

Accelerate won the TVG Pacific Classic Stakes by a record margin under jockey Joel Rosario on Aug. 18 at Del Mar. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Welcome to this week’s edition of America’s Best Racing’s Main Track.

Each week in this spot we’ll present the most meaningful story of the past seven days, detailing a story that will stand out because of its importance or perhaps the emotional response it will generate.

Looking ahead, if you believe there’s a story this week that should be featured in next week’s edition of the Main Track, let us know by tweeting it to @ABRLive using the hashtag #ABRMainTrack.

As for this week’s story, we’ll take a look at a rather successful journey to the West Coast.

It usually takes something pretty big to convince a New York-based jockey to give up a Saturday card at Saratoga and jockey Joel Rosario surely found just that at Del Mar.

Rosario left New York to travel west for the TVG Pacific Classic Stakes card on Saturday and was rewarded with four winners that day and one more on Sunday in a reflection of the immense value of a couple of things.

For one, it’s quite nice to have an agent as accomplished and renowned as Ron Anderson booking mounts for you.

It’s even better when the telephone rings and trainer John Sadler is on the other end.

The glittering lure that brought Rosario to Del Mar was offered by Sadler when he inquired if Rosario would be able to replace the injured Victor Espinoza on Accelerate in the $1 million Pacific Classic.

Espinoza was riding Bobby Abu Dhabi in a morning workout last month when his mount suffered a fatal heart attack and the Hall of Fame jockey was tossed to the track and suffered a fractured C3 vertebrae, leaving him with a long-and-arduous struggle to regain fluid movement in all parts of his body.

Rosario regretted how the ride on Accelerate became open, but it was an opportunity that was impossible to pass up.

“I had ridden for John before. I used to ride for him when I rode in California and he gave me a lot of support,” Rosario said.

This time Sadler gave Rosario a multiple Grade 1 winner in Accelerate who was coming off a lopsided 4 ¼-length in the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita and sported a generous price of 8-5 on the morning line.

Rosario after winning Pacific Classic. (Eclipse Sportswire)

With an offer like that, who could say no?

“I watched his races and you could see how talented he is,” Rosario said on Monday while once again riding at Saratoga.

Yet even while trying to pass the time during a cross-country fight, Rosario could never have envisioned what awaited him in Pacific Classic.

Bet down to an odds-on 2-5 favorite, Accelerate ($2.80) lived up to every one of those expectations as he toyed with his six overmatched opponents. Under mild urging from Rosario, Accelerate moved up from third in the early stages and coasted to a four-length lead at the quarter pole.  

“I was a little surprised at how easily he won. I thought some of the other horses would make it hard for him, but he won easily. It was impressive,” Rosario said. “I never rode him before, but he was easy to ride. He’s a runner.”

In the stretch, Accelerate expanded the lead to double-digits as he crossed the finish line by a record margin of 12 ½ lengths in a monstrous effort.

“I was on Frosted when he won easily [by 14 ¼ lengths in the 2016 Mohegan Sun Metropolitan Handicap] but that’s not easy to do,” Rosario said. “The Pacific Classic is a tough race with so many good horses in it; and for him to win like that, it’s very impressive.”

The victory was such an eye-opener that when coupled with Accelerate’s prior 2018 wins in the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita, Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap Presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino, and Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes and a neck loss in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap, it elevated him past recently retired Triple Crown winner Justify and into the top spot in Monday’s National Thoroughbred Racing Association Top 10 poll.

Sadler indicated that the Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita on Sept. 29 could be next for Accelerate, and beyond that, if all goes well in the next two months, Accelerate could be the horse to beat in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 3.

That could create a sticky situation for Rosario. He’s been riding Mind Your Biscuits, the Whitney runner-up who is also targeting the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

While Rosario was talking about Accelerate, Chad Summers, who is the part-owner and trainer of Mind Your Biscuits, walked by and then leaned over and said, “Ask him who he is riding in the Classic.” When Rosario was asked about which horse he would prefer to ride at the World Championships, he was diplomatic. But then Summers answered the question for him, saying, “I think I need a new jockey.”

Indeed he might. After all the good things that happened to Joel Rosario on Saturday when he traveled to California, a trip to Kentucky would seem to be in order as well.


Here are some of the other noteworthy stories that made for a lively week in the U.S. Thoroughbred racing industry:

Accelerate dominates Pacific Classic by record margin

Eskimo Kisses upsets Alabama Stakes

Rushing Fall returns to winning ways in Lake Placid

Fashion Business makes early move to take Del Mar Handicap

Catapult wins Del Mar Mile on Van Dyke’s big day

Martine Bellocq accepts Pincay Award at Del Mar

Hall of Fame puts on women in racing panel

Breeders’ Cup host sites announced through 2021

Santa Anita names stakes after American Pharoah

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