Accelerate vs. West Coast in the Awesome Again: Who Will Prevail?

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

September 27th, 2018

There might be six horses entered in the $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes (gr. I) on Saturday at Santa Anita, but from all appearances, the race is shaping up to be more of a match race between #5 West Coast and #6 Accelerate.

On paper, these two Grade 1 winners pretty much tower over the field in this 1 1/8-mile “Win and You’re In” prep race for the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I). West Coast was the champion three-year-old male of 2017 thanks to a campaign that included victories in the Travers Stakes (gr. I) and Pennsylvania Derby (gr. I), while Accelerate has been a beast going 1 ¼ miles this year, scoring eye-catching victories in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I), Gold Cup at Santa Anita (gr. I), and Pacific Classic (gr. I).

Given the choice between both runners at their absolute best, I’d be tempted to side with West Coast, who turned in a tremendous effort while finishing second behind Horse of the Year Gun Runner in the 1 1/8-mile Pegasus World Cup (gr. I) back in January, an effort that earned him speed figures of 117 (Beyer) and 116 (BRIS)—slightly higher number than Accelerate has posted during his career.

However, it’s very possible that West Coast won’t be at his best this Saturday. The son of Flatter has not run since finishing second in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) on March 31st, and trainer Bob Baffert recently told Santa Anita publicity that West Coast is only about 80% fit for the Awesome Again—this race is being used as a prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic rather than a goal in and of itself.

In that case, Accelerate becomes clearly the horse to beat on the basis of his tremendous 12 ½-length romp in the Pacific Classic last month. With the advantage of a recent run under his belt, Accelerate should prove difficult to beat even as he cuts back in distance to nine furlongs, which is arguably shorter than his absolute best these days.

The remaining four contenders would need to step up their game to challenge the top two. #3 Prime Attraction, third in the Pacific Classic, has been pretty effective over this distance and might be the most likely candidate to round out the trifecta, though #4 The Lieutenant—runner-up in the Suburban Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont two starts back—has emerged as a highly capable graded stakes competitor this year and can contend if he rebounds from his sixth-place finish in the Pacific Classic.

Since betting both Accelerate and West Coast to win at short prices probably isn’t an efficient strategy, I’ll key Accelerate on top in the trifecta and hope that West Coast needs a race off the layoff:

$10 trifecta: 6 with 5 with 3,4 ($20) $5 trifecta: 6 with 3,4 with 5 ($10)

Good luck!