Accelerate Completes Sensational Season with Breeders' Cup Classic Victory

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

November 4th, 2018

Long ago, there was some doubt about Accelerate’s ability to handle 1 ¼ miles in top company. He was more of a miler, or so the thinking went; a talented horse no doubt, but not exactly a superstar.

But Accelerate has proven to be a classic example of a horse who requires time to mature and reach his peak, and now that he's reached his peak, his abilities have expanded beyond what anyone could have reasonably anticipated. On November 3rd, Accelerate put the finishing touches on a simply sensational season by winning the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs... which marked his fourth Grade 1 win of the year going 1 ¼ miles and his fifth Grade 1 win overall!

He had to work for it, as you would expect given the quality of competition he was facing, but Accelerate won the Classic in precisely the manner that has become his trademark. With Joel Rosario in the saddle for trainer John Sadler, Accelerate tucked behind the leaders in fifth place early on, about three lengths behind fractions of :22.68, :46.46, and 1:10.61 set by the accomplished three-year-old Mendelssohn.

But as the field moved around the far turn, Accelerate made his move, launching a four-wide bid to reach even terms with the leaders. Such an early, decisive, sweeping rally would be too ambitious for many horses, but for Accelerate it’s as normal as a morning workout, and he entered the homestretch in command of the lead. The Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) winner Thunder Snow gamely tried to match Accelerate’s move, but couldn’t keep pace in the final furlong and finished third; the consistent Gunnevera rallied fast from off the pace, but ran out of ground as Accelerate remained steady to the wire.

And so the horses flashed under the finish line with Accelerate the winner by a length in 2:02.93 seconds. The modest final time—the result of a final quarter-mile in just :27.03 seconds—produced a Beyer speed figure of just 105, but for the time being, times and speed figures are of secondary concern. What matters most is Accelerate’s overall record for the year—between February and November, Accelerate ran seven times, winning six times while competing exclusively in Grade 1 or Grade 2 races and sweeping four of the nation’s five Grade 1, 1 ¼-mile dirt races for open company. It was a season of near-perfection genuinely unlike any other in recent memory.

Now the debate begins—can Accelerate challenge Triple Crown winner for Horse of the Year honors? Certainly Accelerate’s campaign would be sufficient to earn the title in the vast majority of years, but there is a historical precedent for Triple Crown winners to be named Horse of the Year regardless of what happens after the Belmont Stakes, which could play against Accelerate in the voting.

But regardless of who wins the title, it’s impossible to deny that Accelerate has removed any and all doubt about his distance abilities and his class. He was the best horse in the Classic on paper, and he proved it on the track against a top-class field of international challengers, a feat that is so often easier said than done.