Accelerate favored in Breeders’ Cup Classic from No. 14 post
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Accelerate, the California-based 5-year-old who has won five of six starts this year, is the 5-2 morning-line favorite for the Breeders' Cup Classic after drawing the far outside No. 14 post for the $6 million race.
West Coast, one of two entries trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, is the 5-1 second choice after drawing the No. 7 post on Monday. He will start to the right of stablemate McKinzie, the co-third choice with Mind Your Biscuits (No. 11 post) at 6-1 odds. McKinzie's jockey is Hall of Famer Mike Smith, who rode Justify to this year's Triple Crown before the colt was retired this summer with an ankle issue.
While Justify's absence left the Breeders' Cup's marquee race without horse racing's most notable star, it features entries that could challenge him for Horse of the Year honors. Accelerate arrives at Churchill Downs with a three-race winning streak by a combined 19 lengths.
Accelerate's most recent victory came by 2¼ lengths over West Coast in the Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita on Sept. 29. Though he beat a horse coming off a 6-month layoff, the victory demonstrated how strong Accelerate has become since a ninth-place run in last year's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Del Mar.
The next step is winning the Classic and staking a claim as the year's top thoroughbred — from the outside.
"He looks great to me," trainer John Sadler said of Accelerate. "He should make a good trip on Saturday."
West Coast and McKinzie stand poised to challenge Accelerate and maybe give Baffert his fourth Classic victory in five years.
McKinzie was just as impressive in returning from 6 months off as the 3-year-old won the Pennsylvania Derby by 1¾ lengths on Sept. 22 with Smith aboard. The colt was looking like a Kentucky Derby favorite before a left hind leg injury sidelined him, allowing Justify to step in and win all six starts on the way to becoming racing's 13th Triple Crown champion.
Baffert now hopes for Accelerate and McKinzie to separate from the field in the Classic — if they can create space from each other coming out of the gate.
"I wish they weren't next to each other," said the trainer, who has another eligible entry in Collected. "I would've liked McKinzie a little further out, would've liked the 14 (post) with him, something like that. He's not one that flies out of the gate."
The Classic features two horses seeking better results after their Churchill Downs debuts ended with last-place finishes in the Kentucky Derby.
Thunder Snow returns in search of a do-over from his 2017 Derby finish, when the 4-year-old Irish colt bucked at the start and pulled up. He has two seconds and three thirds in six starts this year, mostly in Dubai, but was the runner-up in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont.
Mendelssohn was third in his continued growth from this year's Derby, when he got banged around early in the slop. He has two thirds and a second since then.