May 20, 2019

Accelerate meets returning West Coast in Awesome Again; Game Winner tops five-horse American Pharoah

Accelerate has had no peers in the Southern California older horse ranks this year (c) Cecilia Gustavsson/Horsephotos.com

Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) favorite Accelerate will receive his final tune-up in Saturday’s $300,000 Awesome Again (G1) at Santa Anita. A record-setting 12 ½-length winner of the August 18 Pacific Classic (G1) at Del Mar, the John Sadler-trained horse has also posted dominant wins in the Santa Anita H. (G1) and Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) at the Classic’s 1 ¼-mile distance this season.

Accelerate will cut back to a 1 1/8-mile distance in the Awesome Again, a “Win & You’re In” for the $6 million Classic at Churchill Downs on November 3, and face a returning West Coast, who finished third in last year’s Classic and will make his first appearance since a second in the Dubai World Cup (G1) in late March.

Unplaced in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), Accelerate has risen to the top of the older horse ranks at age 5 with four graded stakes wins for owners Hronis Racing. His BRIS Speed ratings have also increased significantly, netting a 111 for his 4 ¼-length romp in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita prior to a whopping 114 for his Pacific Classic tally, and he’s thrived at Santa Anita of late, posting three consecutive victories after dropping his first eight attempts under the backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains. Joel Rosario, who replaced an injured Victor Espinoza in the Pacific Classic, will retain the mount and the son of Lookin at Lucky will break from the far outside post among six rivals.

West Coast strung together five straight wins last year, including the Travers (G1) and Pennsylvania Derby (G1), prior to a third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar. He opened this year with a respectable second to Gun Runner in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) at Gulfstream Park, finishing 10 ¾ lengths clear of third, but could not catch the lone speed when second as the favorite in the Dubai World Cup.

Conditioned by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, West Coast is eligible to need a race following an 182 -day layoff and connections are just hoping for a solid effort that provides a springboard for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Mike Smith retakes the assignment on the four-year-old Flatter colt.

Other runners include Suburban (G2) runner-up The Lieutenant, a well-beaten sixth in the Pacific Classic; Grade 3 winner Prime Attraction; and last-out California-bred stakes victor Shades of Victory.

A total of five stakes races, including four “Win & You’re In” events for the Breeders’ Cup, will be offered on the 12-race program.

Del Mar Futurity (G1) hero Game Winner can make a strong case for Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) favoritism and gain 10 points toward a berth in the 2019 Kentucky Derby in the $300,000 American Pharoah (G1). The second of 35 races in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, the 1 1/16-mile race will award a total of 17 qualifying points (10-4-2-1) and drew a field of five two-year-olds.

A smashing 5 ¾-length debut winner for two-time Triple Crown winner Baffert, Game Winner registered a commendable 97 BRIS Speed rating for a determined 1 ½-length score in the September 3 Del Mar Futurity. The Candy Ride colt races in the colors of Gary & Mary West and Rosario will be up on the $110,000 yearling purchase.

Del Mar Futurity runner-up Rowayton will be the one to catch. The front-running son of Into Mischief is conditioned by Jerry Hollendorfer and Rowayton will gain a new rider in Florent Geroux. Gunmetal Gray has separate ownership and will make his stakes bow for Hollendorfer following a 6 ¾-length runaway win over maiden foes in his second start. The gray Exchange Rate colt stretched out to two turns last time and netted a 96 Speed figure. Flavien Prat will be up.

Del Mar Futurity fourth-placer Sigalert and maiden Jefe complete the field.

The $300,000 Chandelier (G1) awards a free berth to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and is part of the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series. Bellafina will go favored in the 1 1/16-mile test following her 4 ¼-length win in the Del Mar Debutante (G1). Trainer Simon Callaghan removes blinkers and the Quality Road filly will break from the far outside among six youngsters with Prat.

Del Mar Debutante runner-up Mother Mother promises to show speed from the rail for Baffert and Smith. Brill, who finished fourth as the 3-5 favorite in the Del Mar Debutante, and Sorrento (G2) second-placer Del Mar May are also entered.

Cambodia heads a field of eight Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) hopefuls in the $300,000 Rodeo Drive (G1). Third in the 2017 Filly & Mare Turf, the six-year-old mare posted a convincing win in the Yellow Ribbon (G2) two back but will seeking a measure of revenge after recording a belated second as the 4-5 favorite in the September 1 John C. Mabee (G1). Drayden Van Dyke rides for Tom Proctor.

Mabee winner Vasilika, who has thrived under the care of Hollendorfer since being claimed for $40,000 in February, will seek her seventh straight triumph under Prat. Other contestants include the Grade 2-winning sophomore filly Paved; and Sophie P, who posted an upset in the Gamely (G1) earlier this season over the Santa Anita turf.

The $75,000 Unzip Me completes the stakes action and an overflow field of 14 three-year-old fillies, including a pair of also-eligibles, has been entered for the about 6 ½-furlong turf affair down the hill. Stakes winners Ms Bad Behavior and Out of the Flames are leading contenders.