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Harry Connick Jr. to sing national anthem at Kentucky Derby

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Grammy and Emmy award-winning entertainer Harry Connick Jr. will sing the national anthem at the Kentucky Derby next month.

The jazzman, actor and former “American Idol” judge will perform the anthem in the Derby Winner’s Circle at Churchill Downs on May 6. His performance before more than 160,000 fans will be broadcast live as part of NBC’s coverage of the 143rd running of the Derby.

Connick has performed the anthem at the Super Bowl and World Series but says it will be his first time at the Derby. He says he expects the crowd to be among the best he’s performed for.

Connick was born in New Orleans and lives in Connecticut.

Previous Derby national anthem singers include Lady Antebellum, Mary J. Blige, Jordin Sparks, Rascal Flatts and LeAnn Rimes.

Accelerate runs away with Pacific Classic at Del Mar

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DEL MAR, Calif. — Trainer John Sadler woke up feeling confident on Pacific Classic day, believing he had the best horse in the field.

“The toughest thing all day was getting into the parking lot,” he said.

Accelerate never gave Sadler reason for concern, living up to his name with a record 12 1/2-length victory in the $1 million race at Del Mar on Saturday.

He became just the third horse to sweep all three of Southern California’s major races for older horses in the same year, joining Lava Man in 2006 and Game On Dude in 2013. They won the Santa Anita Handicap, Gold Cup and Pacific Classic.

Ridden by Joel Rosario, Accelerate ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.83 at the seaside track north of San Diego. The winning margin was the largest in the race’s 27-year history, bettering Game On Dude’s 8 1/2-length win.

“He put me in a good place and took me to the outside and we went from there,” Rosario said.

Bobbling slightly at the start, Rosario moved Accelerate to engage pacesetters Roman Rosso and Prime Attraction up the backstretch racing off the rail.

Accelerate suddenly surged away from his rivals to a four-length lead at the mile mark and increased his margin to eight lengths in the stretch while racing home unchallenged.

Sadler earned his first Pacific Classic win in 11 tries.

Accelerate paid $2.80, $2.40 and $2.10 as the 2-5 favorite in the eight-horse field. The win price was the lowest in race history, beating the previous mark of $3 by Gentleman in 1997.

The victory, worth $600,000, increased Accelerate’s career earnings to $2,772,480, with eight wins in 20 starts. He earned an automatic berth in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic in November at Churchill Downs.

“We don’t get to see a lot of 5-year-old horses anymore,” co-owner Kosta Hronis said, “so this was great that he was able to stay on the track for another year and really mature and get better.”

Pavel returned $4.20 and $3.40. He already qualified for the BC Classic by virtue of his win in the Stephen Foster at Churchill.

Prime Attraction was another 3 3/4 lengths back in third and paid $4.20 to show.

Accelerate finished third in last year’s Pacific Classic.

This year, he’s won four of five starts. At Del Mar, Accelerate owns four wins in six races.

“He’s better this year so you had to figure he’d be better on this track this year,” Sadler said. “The only thing I was nervous about was Joel. I told him, `Ride him like he’s the best horse. Don’t let anything cheap get in front of you. Stay in contact with the leaders.’ He did that.”

Rosario was subbing for injured Victor Espinoza aboard Accelerate.

In other stakes:

– Fatale Bere won the $300,000 Del Mar Oaks for 3-year-old fillies by a neck over Ollie’s Candy.

Ridden by Kent Desormeaux, Fatale Bear ran 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:48.14 and paid $16, $6.80 and $5.20 at 7-1 odds for trainer Leonard Powell.

Ollie’s Candy returned $4.40 and $3.40, while Californiagoldrush paid $6.20 to show in the Grade 1 race.

– Fashion Business rallied around the final turn to win the $250,000 Del Mar Handicap by 5 1/4 lengths and earn an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf this fall.

Ridden by Flavien Prat, Fashion Business ran 1 3/8 miles on turf in 2:13.84 and paid $10.20, $5.80 and $4.20 at 4-1 odds.

Prat began serving a three-day suspension for careless riding on Friday, but racing rules allow him to ride in designated races, which include stakes, on Saturday and Sunday.

Ya Gotta Wanna returned $35 and $13.40, while Multiplier was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third and paid $4.60 to show.

Trained by Phil D’Amato, Fashion Business earned his first stakes victory in seven tries. The 4-year-old gelding, a son of Frankel, began his career in England.

Itsinthepost, the 5-2 wagering favorite, finished seventh and fell to 0-11 at Del Mar.

Santa Anita, Keeneland, Del Mar are Breeders’ Cup sites

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — The Breeders’ Cup has chosen Santa Anita, Keeneland and Del Mar to host its World Championships from 2019-2021 respectively, continuing its recent venue rotation between California and Kentucky tracks.

Santa Anita will host the season-ending event for a record 10th time in Nov. 1-2, 2019. Kentucky-based Keeneland (Nov. 6-7, 2020) and Del Mar (Nov. 5-6, 2021) will present the races for the second time each after debuting as venues in 2015 and 2017 respectively.

Breeders’ Cup president and CEO Craig Fravel noted those tracks’ success with the event in a release on Friday and added we “look forward to building upon past triumphs.”

Louisville’s Churchill Downs will host races on Nov. 2-3. The last Breeders’ Cup held outside California and Kentucky was at New Jersey’s Monmouth Park in 2007.