Accelerate, the presumptive champion older male and a candidate for Horse of the Year, returned to the worktab Saturday for the first time since his Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) victory. Limbering up for a last hurrah in the $9 million Pegasus World Cup (G1), the Hronis Racing star exercised a half-mile in :49.00 at Santa Anita.
Six-for-seven during an Eclipse-worthy campaign, Accelerate stayed a bit longer in the Bluegrass following the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs. The five-year-old son of Lookin at Lucky vanned over to his soon-to-be stud home at Lane’s End to be available for inspection and parade for prospective breeders. Then he rejoined trainer John Sadler to fine-tune for his grand finale in the Pegasus at Gulfstream Park.
The Pegasus will offer Accelerate an additional opportunity to avenge his only loss of 2018, a neck second to City of Light in the Oaklawn H. (G2). Although Accelerate gained satisfaction next time out in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1), leaving City of Light well back in third, that came at his preferred 1 1/4-mile distance. If he can beat City of Light at the same trip as the Oaklawn ‘Cap, 1 1/8 miles, it would be a more pointed statement.
Adding more piquancy to the rubber match is the fact that both Accelerate and City of Light are retiring to stud at Lane’s End after the Pegasus. The Versailles, Kentucky, farm has already announced their respective stud fees. City of Light will stand for $35,000 while Accelerate is pegged at $20,000, reflecting their relative commercial appeal.
City of Light was himself one of the most impressive winners at the Breeders’ Cup when dominating the Dirt Mile (G1). The Michael McCarthy charge posted his first work back at Santa Anita December 2, covering a half in :48.80.
Also returning to the worktab Saturday was the Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up, Gunnevera, who breezed a half-mile at his Gulfstream Park West base in :50.80. Trainer Antonio Sano is preparing his $4 million earner for another shot at the Pegasus, after a third-place effort last January behind Horse of the Year Gun Runner and West Coast.
Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., in the saddle for the move, was pleased.
“He worked really good, he did,” Ortiz said. “They told me he doesn’t do too much in the morning but he did good. I don’t know how fast he went, but I thought he went great. He was comfortable and he did everything right; very, very good.”
Pegasus contender Audible sped four furlongs in :48.68 Saturday at Palm Beach Downs, exactly one week ahead of his final prep in the Harlan’s Holiday at Gulfstream. The Todd Pletcher pupil scored his signature win in the Florida Derby (G1) over the same track and trip as the Pegasus and followed up with a third in the Kentucky Derby (G1). Sidelined for six months, Audible made a winning comeback in the Cherokee Run on the Breeders’ Cup Saturday undercard.
“I think Audible has been training exceptionally well,” Pletcher said. “His breeze this morning was a good, solid half with a strong gallop-out, which is what we were looking for. We really like the way he’s progressed since the Cherokee Run. You can see him physically developing from 3 to 4, and he’s giving us all the right signs at the moment.”
Audible stretched his legs in company with former Argentinean Horse of the Year Hi Happy. Bound for Saturday’s Fort Lauderdale (G2), the older turf performer posted the same time.
“They’re veteran horses that know what they’re doing. They’ve worked together in the past and they’re pointing for races on the same day,” Pletcher said. “Hi Happy is a horse that, even though he has some dirt form, is clearly better on the turf so we expected Audible to be a little stronger of the two and it worked out, but I think we got what we wanted from both of them.”
Other Pegasus candidates have emerged from a pair of late-season Grade 1s. The Clark H. (G1) trifecta — Leofric, Bravazo, and Seeking the Soul — as well as the top two from the Cigar Mile (G1), Patternrecognition and True Timber, have all been mentioned. Seeking the Soul, fifth in last year’s Pegasus, was also runner-up to City of Light in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.