Hallandale Beach, Fla.
They were rivals on the racetrack three times, going eyeball to eyeball twice last spring before they met one last time in Saturday’s $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational.
Actually, it was the next to last time that City Of Light and Accelerate would be together at the racetrack.
The morning after City Of Light won their rubber match in the slop here at Gulfstream Park, they were loaded together onto a van to be shipped to Lane’s End Farm in Kentucky. That is where they will begin their breeding careers right away.
In the muted environment of an early morning at the back-side stables, it was a quietly emotional farewell.
“This is like a kid-to-college feeling,” said trainer John Sadler, who watched Accelerate finish third Saturday. “He’s going to be away from us, but he’s still going to be with us. We’re going to breed some mares to him. Obviously we’ll be looking to buy some of his offspring if we see some we like, so we’ll support the horse.”
Where Sadler spent just a few minutes supervising Accelerate’s short sprint on the pavement behind his barn, trainer Mike McCarthy spent two hours with City Of Light. He walked him, helped bathe him, walked him some more and then sat in the stall with him.
“I try to spend as much time as I can with him,” McCarthy said. “This week I’m sure he’s sick of me staring at him all day long.”
Pried away from the stall to speak with a few reporters, McCarthy said that he was not surprised that City Of Light’s only time racing on a wet track would be as successful as it was in Saturday’s 5¾-length victory at odds of 9-5.
“His pedigree suggested that he might like it,” he said, referring to City Of Light being by Quality Road out of a Dehere broodmare. “He’s a very athletic horse. For a big horse he’s very nimble. It just happened to work out.”
“They were extremely challenging conditions for Accelerate,” Sadler said. “Speed was winning, and the other horse ran a beautiful race. Credit to the winner. It was a dominating performance by City Of Light.”
But now the two Breeders’ Cup winners are retired to stud, leaving a void among older horses still in training. Among them is Accelerate’s stable mate Catapult, a fourth-place finisher in the Pegasus Turf won Saturday by Bricks And Mortar.
“He bled a little bit,” Sadler said. “We’ll go home and give him a little rest in California and regroup. We may take him back in distance, probably back to a mile.”
Sadler and McCarthy both admitted that their Santa Anita barns will not feel the same without Accelerate and City Of Light.
“Accelerate has been a rock star in there for two or three years,” Sadler said. “But it’s the natural thing. It’s supposed to happen.”
“It’s pretty neat,” McCarthy said. “It’s been neat for the people of California to have two horses like this that competed on a stage like this. We were fortunate yesterday to get the upper hand. To be able to line up in the gate with a horse like (Accelerate) and actually win, it’s pretty special.”
Pegasus notes and opinions
Sadler said that his top 3-year-old – Nolo Contesto – may go in next Saturday’s Robert B. Lewis Stakes, a Kentucky Derby points prep at Santa Anita. That is where the Pioneerof The Nile colt broke his maiden three weeks ago. Nolo Contesto is 50-1 in William Hill’s Kentucky Derby futures. Game Winner remains the 5-1 favorite.
Speaking of those Derby futures, Hidden Scroll opened at 25-1 and shortened to 15-1 after his jaw-dropping debut in the slop here Saturday. Owned by Juddmonte Farms and trained by Bill Mott, the colt sired by Hard Spun out of an Empire Maker mare won by 14 lengths in a one-turn mile. If nothing else, Hidden Scroll is a candidate to break what is now the 267-day Curse of Justify – the last horse to win the Kentucky Derby without having raced as a 2-year-old.
In his absence, Chad Brown’s staff reported that Pegasus Turf winner Bricks And Mortar and last-place Pegasus dirt finisher Patternrecognition were fit Sunday morning before they were loaded onto a horse trailer for their 45-mile trip north to their home base at Palm Meadows. No plans were announced for their futures, but Bricks And Mortar certainly seems destined for major turf races in 2019.
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 and through providers such as Apple Podcasts, Google Play Podcasts and Stitcher.