Accelerate spurts ahead in stretch to win Gold Cup

ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) Victor Espinoza shook Accelerate’s neck to encourage him leaving the starting gate. That got the usually slow-breaking horse away in good position.

Then Espinoza waited.

With pacesetting Dr. Dorr and City of Light going at it up front, Accelerate and Espinoza laid third before rallying in mid-stretch to win the $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita on Saturday by 4 1/4 lengths over Dr. Dorr, trained by Bob Baffert.

Accelerate ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.38 and paid $5.80, $3 and $2.10 at 9-5 odds.

”He had a lot of patience, a lot of confidence in the horse,” winning trainer John Sadler said. ”He was riding confidently in the sense that he knew his horse could get the distance.”

Dr. Dorr, owned by Baffert’s wife, Jill, returned $4.20 and $2.60 and had his three-race winning streak snapped. City of Light, the 6-5 favorite, was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third and paid $2.20 to show in the Grade 1 race.

City of Light’s three-race winning streak ended when Accelerate turned the tables on his rival. Accelerate finished second as the favorite by a neck to City of Light in the Oaklawn Handicap last month in Arkansas.

Espinoza swung the 5-year-old son of Lookin At Lucky out and drifted four-wide into the stretch before Accelerate gained the lead under the whip.

”I was hoping to be on the inside but at the three-eighths I knew it wasn’t going to happen,” Espinoza said. ”I knew the outside horse (City of Light) was getting tired, so I just kept following and had to be patient.”

Accelerate carried high weight of 125 pounds – four more than his rivals – under the handicap conditions.

”What we kind of forget in modern-day horse racing is that because he already won a Grade 1, he’s the high weight under 125 pounds and was giving weight to every other horse at a mile and a quarter,” Sadler said. ”That makes his win that much more impressive, when you give away four pounds to the competition at this distance.”

City of Light won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap on March 10, one of his four victories in eight starts. He had never finished worse than second until Saturday.

”Accelerate really ran strong at the end and we couldn’t go with him,” jockey Drayden Van Dyke said.

The victory, worth $300,000, increased Accelerate’s career earnings to $1,712,480, with six wins in 19 starts.

”He looked beautiful today,” Sadler said. ”He’s a 5-year-old, a strong horse, a happy horse. Sometimes I look to keep him in the barn, but he’s just doing so well, he says, `I should be running,’ so that’s what we did.”

Sadler said Accelerate will be pointed toward the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 18.

Pavel was fourth, Prince of Arabia was fifth and Chile-bred Full of Luck finished last.

In the $300,000 Gamely Stakes for fillies and mares, 14-1 shot Sophie P won by a nose in a photo finish under Kent Desormeaux.

Trained by Jim Cassidy, the Britain-bred mare ran 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:48.53 and paid $30, $11.80 and $6.80 in the Grade 1 race.

Ireland-bred Madame Dancealot returned $5.40 and $3.40. Argentina-bred Madame Stripes was another neck back in third and paid $5.60 to show.

In the $200,000 Charles Whittingham Stakes on turf, 4-5 favorite Itsinthepost won by 1 1/4 lengths under Julien Leparoux, who replaced the injured Tyler Baze.

The 6-year-old gelding bred in France ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.10 and paid $3.80, $2.40 and $2.10 in the Grade 2 race.

Kenjisstorm returned $4.60 and $3. Frank Conversation was another 2 1/4 lengths back in third and paid $4 to show.

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