Accelerate made one thing certain in the $1 million, Grade 1 TVG Pacific Classic Stakes Aug. 18 at Del Mar. On the West Coast, he’s the top handicap horse, and it’s not close.
Accolades beyond that will be decided soon enough.
Hronis Racing’s 5-year-old Lookin At Lucky horse made a powerful move around the far turn, blew by pacesetter Roman Rosso, and drew off to win by 12 1/2 lengths — a record margin for the 1 1/4-mile event. The final time was 2:01.83.
Stephen Foster Handicap winner Pavel made a run, after a stalking trip behind a three-wide wall of leaders in the backstretch — Roman Rosso, Prime Attraction, and Accelerate — but came nowhere near Accelerate and had to settle for second, as the John Sadler trainee picked up his third Grade 1 win of the season.
Accelerate joined Lava Man (2006) and Game On Dude (2013) as the only horses to sweep the Santa Anita Handicap, Gold Cup, and Pacific Classic in one season.
“I’ve been training in Southern California my whole career, so to win this race down here [means a lot],” Sadler said of his first win in the Pacific Classic. “We’ve been second and third a lot of times, so it was fun to get the win today.”
Joel Rosario rode Accelerate for the first time Saturday, and after some asking out of the gate got him into a stalking position, although three wide, outside of Roman Rosso and Prime Attraction. Roman Rosso set quarter-mile fractions of :23.05, :46.69, and 1:11.25 through six furlongs, but took pressure on the backstretch. Accelerate was four lengths clear at the quarter pole and was under no threat the rest of the way.
“He’s a very nice horse,” Rosario said. “He put me in a good place, and took me to the outside, and we went from there.”
Owners Kosta and Pete Hronis, who only started their venture into horse ownership in 2010, relished the moment of their 13th Grade 1 score.
“I’m so happy for John Sadler [to get] his first Pacific Classic win,” Kosta Hronis said. “For Hronis family to be a part of it — it’s an honor. ... It’s such an honor to be in the conversation [with Lava Man and Game On Dude]. Those are all Hall of Fame horses. To be in that conversation is such an honor.”
Kosta Hronis said he expects Accelerate to run in the Sept. 29 Awesome Again Stakes to prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in November. He was asked about Accelerate’s potential for Horse of the Year honors, should the chestnut win the rest of his races in 2018.
“With all due respect to [Triple Crown winner] Justify, who was a brilliant horse and did something no one has ever done ... but that’s 3-year-olds only, restricted, two turns on dirt,” Kosta Hronis said. “It’s kind of a narrow lane compared to what this level of racing is. I guess I consider the Breeders’ Cup the Super Bowl, not the 3-year-old races. ... Being in the same conversation with him is wonderful, but we’ll see how it plays out.”
Pavel finished 3 3/4 lengths clear of third-place finisher Prime Attraction.
Accelerate now has eight wins, five seconds, and five thirds from 20 starts and more than $2.3 million in earnings.