Rival trainers Baffert and Lukas share a strong friendship

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Bob Baffert has spent his whole life following D. Wayne Lukas.

As a teenager at the quarter horse track in Arizona where Baffert tagged along with his dad and learned about racing, he looked up to Lukas as a legend.

Preakness Stakes: What Time, Where to Watch and More.

“I’ll never forget when he came in with his fancy trailer and man, there’s Wayne Lukas,” Baffert said. “He was huge then. He’s always set the bar.”

Baffert even asked Lukas for a job out of high school. Lukas turned Baffert down, but in the four-plus decades since, they’ve developed a friendship as deep as their combined success.

They are two of the best thoroughbred trainers in racing history and their paths are crossing again this week at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. They will go head to head in the Preakness, a race that each has won six times.

“We’ve become good friends because we have a lot in common, we had a lot of quarter horse stories and friends that we knew coming up,” Baffert said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”

Baffert goes into the Preakness with Kentucky Derby winner Justify , the heavy favorite to advance to the Belmont Stakes with the chance to give the 65-year-old his second Triple Crown champion in four years. A win Saturday would tie the 83-year-old Lukas’ record of 14 Triple Crown victories.

Lukas said Baffert “is going to roll right past that” mark.

“Bob is an excellent horseman,” said Lukas, who is expected to start Bravazo and Sporting Chance in the Preakness. “Not only has he got a good clientele base and gets some nice horses, but he absolutely knows what to do with them.”

Baffert’s dad got him involved in horse racing at age 11 and he considers his father his mentor – but he holds Lukas in high regard. Lukas has been an icon and rival for Baffert over the years, especially in the 1990s and 2000s when owner Bob Lewis pitted the two against each other.

Calling Lukas one of the hardest workers he has ever seen, Baffert set out to duplicate those efforts with incredible success. Lukas and Baffert just kept winning – including a combined 34 Breeders Cup’ races to go along with the Triple Crown victories – and became closer along the way.

“The one thing that you quickly find out is who you can greatly respect and respect is what really starts to bond these friendships that we develop over the years,” Lukas said. “I have developed a deep friendship and respect with him and his whole family, (his wife) Jill and everybody for the simple reason that I think he’s a very good horseman and he does a very, very good job.”

Baffert has done such a good job that Lukas considers him one of the top three or four trainers in history. If Justify wins Saturday, it would tie him with 19th-century trainer R.W. Walden for the most Preakness victories.

Leading up to Saturday’s race, Baffert will again share a barn with Lukas, who is looking for his first win on the Triple Crown trail since 2013. Despite the drought, Lukas is still the standard by which many younger trainers measure themselves.

“To me, he is still above me,” Baffert said. “He thinks he’s going to win everything.”

As much as Baffert praises Lukas for changing quarter-horse and thoroughbred racing, Lukas acknowledges Baffert’s more recent impact. The old-school Lukas looks to Baffert’s management model now and jokes, “I’m saddling horses for him and I’m sort of his assistant.”

“Our game is more than just trying to race horses,” Lukas said. “It’s managing people, managing horses, developing studs and put them out, effecting the breeding industry, causing economic impact in the sale ring and Bob has done all of that. … Bob affects every facet of the industry in some way or another.”

Baffert has come a long way from the 18-year-old who Lukas had no job for back in the day. Baffert ended the 37-year-old Triple Crown drought with American Pharoah in 2015 and continues to build his resume race by race.

“I learned it by trial and error – mostly error,” Baffert said. “And I said (to Wayne), `I’m sure glad you turned me down, because you’d be taking all the credit for this.”‘

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.