Accelerate draws gate 5 for his Pegasus finale

Accelerate_Benoit_photo_via_SA
Ridden by Joel Rosario, Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate will make the last start of his career as the favorite Saturday to win the $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park, Florida. (Benoit photo courtesy of Santa Anita Park)

Las Vegas

After winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic 2½ months ago, Accelerate’s exit from racing will come in two steps this week in Florida.

Before he goes to Lane’s End Farm in Kentucky to start a breeding career, the best older horse in training in the U.S. will be favored to win one last time in the $9 million Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park. Post time is scheduled for Saturday at 5:40 p.m. EST.

Accelerate was drawn Tuesday morning into post position 5 and was made the 9-5 morning-line favorite. According to Oddschecker.com, he is the 3-2 choice in live betting with European bookmakers.

Pegasus_World_Cup_comparison“It’s a good post,” Accelerate’s trainer John Sadler said. “We didn’t want to be on the outside, and we didn’t want to be on the inside.”

But before the grand finale, Accelerate will be honored at the Eclipse Awards on Thursday night, also at Gulfstream Park. A cinch to be the best Older Dirt Male, the question is whether Accelerate will also defeat Triple Crown winner Justify and be named Horse of the Year.

Once the black ties are exchanged for racing silks, Justify will try to win America’s richest race, cutting back to nine furlongs after a year when he won four Grade 1 races at 1¼ miles. His only loss in 2018 came at nine furlongs in the Oaklawn Handicap, conceding three pounds in a neck loss to City Of Light. Accelerate avenged the loss by beating City Of Light in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita, but that was at 10 furlongs.

The 5-year-old City Of Light (5-2 morning line, 10-3 in Europe) is back for the rubber match, also racing for the first time since a Breeders’ Cup victory. That was in the Dirt Mile by 2¾ lengths over two other Pegasus horses – 6-year-old Seeking The Soul (12-1, 16-1) and 4-year-old Bravazo (12-1, 14-1).

City Of Light drew gate 3 for trainer Michael McCarthy. “I’m very pleased to be drawn into the 3-hole,” McCarthy said. “He’s a horse that carries his speed a long way, so hopefully we get a nice, clean break and find ourselves in a good position going into the first turn and turning up the back side.”

This year’s field is deeper than either of the first two runnings of the race. Third in last year’s Pegasus, 5-year-old Gunnevera (8-1, 10-1) comes back after finishing second to Accelerate in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. With last year’s Florida Derby victory among his past performances, 4-year-old Audible (10-1, 10-1) already has a Grade 1 win over the Pegasus course at the Pegasus distance. Trainer Chad Brown’s accomplished New York miler Patternrecognition (10-1, 12-1) is 2-for-2 in graded stakes including last month’s Cigar Mile.

The problem for Audible and Patternrecognition, drawn to the outside posts in the field of 12, is the usual caveat that comes with the Pegasus. With only 150 yards between the starting gate and the clubhouse turn, Gulfstream Park carries a built-in disadvantage for horses drawn wide in a nine-furlong race. Only 2 of 55 starters in posts 9-12 have won two-turn races on the main track since Dec. 1, when the current meet began.

“It’s not ideal, but it’s not a killer, either,” said Elliott Walden, CEO of Audible’s owner WinStar Farm. “I didn’t really want the 12, but other than that everything else seems OK. You get a clean break, and he’s tactical, so we’ll see where he puts himself and go from there.”

Gun Runner overcame that bias last year by winning from post 10. But that Pegasus field was not as deep as this year’s.

Pegasus_Turf_comparisonYoshida is favored to win Pegasus Turf

Two-time Grade 1 winner Yoshida (5-2, 7-2) drew post 2 and is the favorite to win the inaugural $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf.

Winner of the Turf Classic last May at Churchill Downs and the Woodward on dirt in September at Saratoga, Yoshida last raced in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, finishing fourth for trainer Bill Mott.

Sadler’s Breeders’ Cup Mile runner-up Catapult (7-2, 9-2), Coolmore’s two-time European Group 1 runner-up Magic Wand (9-2, 7-1), Brown’s Grade 2 victor Bricks And Mortar (5-1, 9-1) and Japanese Group 1-winning filly Aerolithe (8-1, 9-2) are also in the field of 10 for the 1 3/16-mile race on the Gulfstream Park turf.

After thunderstorms Thursday and a dry Friday, The Weather Channel forecast for Gulfstream Park includes afternoon showers Saturday and a 10-15 mph tailwind in the homestretch.

Ron Flatter’s weekly racing column is posted every Friday morning at VSiN.com and more frequently during coverage of big races. You may also hear the Ron Flatter Racing Pod, posted Friday mornings at VSiN.com/podcasts. This week’s edition will feature Gulfstream Park TV and XBTV host/handicapper Jason Blewitt previewing the Pegasus World Cup. The feature Racehorses by the Letters will consider the best horse with a name starting with “L.” The RFRP is also available at leading providers such as Apple Podcasts, Google Play Podcasts and Stitcher, sponsored by Xpressbet, which is offering a $100 bonus to new customers who deposit $100 before the Pegasus. Log on to Xpressbet.com/Brent and use the promo code BRENT100.

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