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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.

Maximum Security wins Haskell, survives inquiry

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OCEANPORT, N.J. (AP) Maximum Security captured the $1 million Haskell Invitational and, unlike the Kentucky Derby, survived a steward’s inquiry Saturday night.

It capped a long day that included a major delay triggered by intense heat and the safety concerns for the horses and riders. It led to the cancellation of six races and the delay in six stakes, including the Haskell, the biggest race in Monmouth’s meet.

When racing resumed around 6 p.m., the stakes went off without a hitch until the Haskell.

Maximum Security got to the finish line first, outlasting trainer Bob Baffert’s Mucho Gusto by 1 1/4 lengths.

For a minute, it seemed a clear-cut win in the Grade I race. However, the stewards posted the inquiry sign. Videotape replays showed King for a Day had to check when Maximum Security and Mucho Gusto stormed past.

However, it was quickly dismissed, unlike the Derby when there was a 22-minute delay before Country House was elevated to the top spot and Maximum Security was dropped to 17th place. It was the first time a horse that crossed the finish line first in the Derby was disqualified.

Owners Gary and Mary West are still trying to overturn that decision in federal court in Kentucky.

This was one of the most bizarre days in the 52-year history of the Haskell and it was just another weird twist in the 3-year-old thoroughbred picture which has had one strange turn after another.

There was the Kentucky Derby disqualification. A riderless horse in the Preakness. Three different winners of the Triple Crown races.

The latest turn came Saturday as the extreme temperature and a heat index value reaching 107- caused track officials to a order a 4 1/2-hour delay after the running of the first two races on the 14-race card.

The Haskell went off at 8:11 p.m., 2 hours, 24 minutes after its scheduled start. The field was reduced to six horses when third-place Belmont States finisher Joevia scratch after the delay.

The 1 1/8-mile race was outstanding. King for a Day, who beat Maximum Security in the Pegasus here last month, and the four of the other five colts were closely bunched for the early going with only Everfast trailing.

Around the far turn, Maximum Security and jockey Luis Saez and Mucho Gusto and rider Joe Talamo charged around King for a Day, who was on the rail.

Maximum Security was in the middle lane with Mucho Gusto on the outside. As they turned for home, Maximum Security seemed to put King for a Day and jockey John Velazquez in tight quarters. The only question was whether King for a Day committed a foul or King for a Day ran out of room as he tried to charge up the rail.

There was no change this time. The Jason Servis-trained Maximum Security covered the distance in 1:47.56 and paid $3.60, $2.60 and $2.20.

Mucho Gusto returned $3.40 and $2.80. Spun To Run finished third and paid $5.60 to show.

For the second straight day, the National Weather Service posted an excessive heat warning advisory Saturday, with near steady temperatures in the lower 90s in Monmouth County. The heat index values reached 107. It dipped to 103 by the time racing resumed.

Animal rights activists protested outside the New Jersey Shore track before the first race was to run.

Dennis Drazin, chairman and chief executive of Darby Development, operators of Monmouth Park, said a group of track, state and independent veterinarians monitored the heat for days and felt it was safe to race.

“However, given the heightened concern from the public about the heat, and in the interest of the safety of the horses and jockeys, we’ve decided to proceed with an abundance of caution, to cancel the remaining nonstakes races and to delay the six stakes races,” he said.

None of the horses who competed in the eight races run showed any sign of injury.

Drazin said he had been in contact with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. The governor left the final decision on whether to run to Drazin. He opted for caution in delaying the card, fearing harm to the horses and industry if there were a death.

With racing under pressure because of many horse deaths horses in California, most East coast tracks on Friday canceled their Saturday cards, including Saratoga Race Course.

“It would have created additional momentum to the crisis that already exists because of California problems,” Drazin said of a possible death of a horse. “We’re on the cusp of a crisis in the industry.”

A crowd of 37,186 attended last year’s Haskell, and another big crowd was expected Saturday for Monmouth Park’s biggest racing day. When the announcement came of canceled races and the delayed stakes, fans streamed to the exits. The track announced an attendance of 25,173 but many left before the big races.

Drazin said no decision had been made on how to compensate fans who paid for admission and parking. The track canceled its card planned for Sunday.

NBC was going to televise the Haskell live when it had a 5:47 p.m. post time, but it ended up streaming the race live on its digital platform.

Midnight Bisou won her fifth straight stakes this year, capturing the $150,000 Molly Pitcher with Mike Smith riding.

In other stakes, Just Howard edged Divisidero by a head in the $150,000 Oceanport; Justaholic ($5) won the $75,000 Wolf Hill; War Story ($16) took the $200,000 Monmouth Cup and I’m So Fancy ($5.80) captured the $150,000 WinStar Matchmaker.

The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series continues on NBC Sports with the Whitney Stakes from Saratoga Springs on August 3. Coverage begins at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Monmouth racing card shaken amid fierce heat, track protests

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OCEANPORT, N.J. — With extreme heat draining fans and causing concern about the horses, Monmouth Park canceled six races and pushed back until early evening its stakes races, including the $1 million Haskell Invitational headlined by Maximum Security.

The decision came after the start of the first race was delayed and the racing card was re-evaluated after the second race.

The National Weather Service again posted an excessive heat warning advisory Saturday, with near steady temperatures in the lower 90s in Monmouth County. The heat index values reached 107.

Animal rights activists protested outside the New Jersey Shore track before the first race was to run.

Dennis Drazin, chairman and chief executive of Darby Development, operators of Monmouth Park, said a group of track, state and independent veterinarians monitored the heat for days and felt it was safe to race.

“However, given the heightened concern from the public about the heat, and in the interest of the safety of the horses and jockeys, we’ve decided to proceed with an abundance of caution, to cancel the remaining nonstakes races and to delay the six stakes races,” he said.

Drazin said he had been in contact with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who left the decision on whether to race to Drazin. He went with caution, fearing harm to the horses and industry if there were a death.

With racing under pressure because of many horse deaths horses in California, most East coast tracks on Friday canceled their Saturday cards, including Saratoga Race Course and Finger Lakes in New York and Laurel Park in Maryland.

“It would have created additional momentum to the crisis that already exists because of California problems,” Drazin said of a possible death of a horse. “We’re on the cusp of a crisis in the industry.”

A crowd of 37,186 attended last year’s Haskell, and another big crowd was expected Saturday for Monmouth Park’s biggest racing day. When the announcement came of canceled races and the delayed stakes, fans streamed to the exits.

Drazin said no decision had been made on how to compensate fans who paid for admission and parking.

In addition to the Haskell, the card’s other stakes races are The Oceanport, The Molly Pitcher, The Wolf Hill, The Monmouth Cup and the Matchmaker.

NBC was going to televise the Haskell live when it had a 5:47 p.m. post time. Monmouth spokesman Tom Luicci said the network planned to fill its 5-6 p.m. slot with other horse-racing covering. It was going to stream the race live on its digital platform at 8:05 p.m., he said.

The start of the first race was delayed by almost 40 minutes, with no reason given at the time for the move. The 14-race card was reassessed after the next race. The six stakes races were reset for 6 p.m., with the Haskell at 8:05 p.m.

Maximum Security, who finished first in the Kentucky Derby and then was disqualified, leads the field of seven in the 1 1/8-mile Haskell.

The first two races went off without incident. The horses were hosed down on the track after the races. There were misting fans in the paddock before the races.