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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.

Second horse in 4 days dies at Santa Anita

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Santa Anita had its second horse death in four days when a gelding pulled up during a race Sunday and was euthanized a day later.

Twenty-five horses have now died in racing or training at the Southern California track since Dec. 26.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Spectacular Music was running in a six-furlong maiden claiming race when the jockey pulled the horse up on the backstretch shortly after leaving the gate.

The horse was taken off the course with a pelvis injury and the decision to euthanize him was made Monday morning.

On Friday, a 3-year-old horse broke down with a shoulder injury while galloping and was euthanized at the track.

Santa Anita is scheduled to host the Breeders’ Cup Nov. 1-2. It’s considered the biggest two-day event in U.S. horse racing.

Preakness winner War of Will likely to run in Belmont

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BALTIMORE (AP) Owner Gary Barber called trainer Mark Casse for the fourth time in 11 hours since War of Will won the Preakness.

Only this time, Casse was in the middle of holding court with reporters the morning after his first Triple Crown victory.

“All’s good and we’re going to the Belmont?” Casse said to Barber with a Cheshire cat grin. “I was kidding. I was making that up.”

Well, not totally.

Assuming all goes well in the coming weeks, Casse said “there’s an extremely good shot” War of Will goes to the Belmont Stakes on June 8 in New York. If he wins, he’d be the first horse since Afleet Alex in 2005 to fall short in the Kentucky Derby before capturing the Preakness and Belmont and would be the front-runner for 3-year-old horse of the year.

“It’s the third leg of the Triple Crown, who doesn’t want to win it?” Casse said Sunday. “There are only three Triple Crown races, and they’re pretty important. I think if you can do it you should do it. …

“That’s what we do. We run.”

Those watching the Preakness saw a horse run the entire race and then some after throwing off his jockey out of the starting gate, a scene that – once it was clear rider John Velazquez was OK – served as a reminder of how much thoroughbreds love to run. Bodexpress provided a memorable spectacle as War of Will fulfilled his potential at Pimlico.

The Belmont is another substantial test for the tough and talented War of Will because it’s a third race in six weeks and is the longest of the Triple Crown races at 1+ miles.

There won’t be a Kentucky Derby rematch with Maximum Security, who was disqualified for interfering with War of Will, or Country House, who was placed first and since been sidelined by illness. And two-time Triple Crown winning trainer Bob Baffert said he probably won’t take Improbable to the Belmont after finishing out of the money in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness as the favorite.

But War of Will could have to contend with Derby returners Tacitus, Master Fencer and perhaps Baffert’s Game Winner, along with Preakness surprise second-place finisher Everfast, third-place runner Owendale and ninth-place Signalman. Trainer Bill Mott ruled out Country House but is planning to take Tacitus to the Belmont and figures the gray colt will have no problem in a significantly longer race.

“He should handle it fine,” Mott said by phone Saturday. “My guess was that he’d handle the Derby distance fine, which he did. I was pleased. I think it goes the same for the Belmont. I think it’s within his grasp.”

If the Preakness had more than an extra quarter-mile, closers Everfast and Owendale might’ve put a scare into War of Will on Saturday. Everfast was a late entry by trainer Dale Romans three days before the race and opened at 50-1 but showed he might be a good long-distance runner.

“We almost had it,” Everfast jockey Joel Rosario said. “He ran great. We have a great shot at the Belmont.”

Tacitus, Everfast and Owendale will be strong challengers, but this should be War of Will’s Belmont to lose. Had he not endured such a rough trip in and been interfered with at Churchill Downs on May 4, there could be another wave of Triple Crown talk going on right now about a third winner in five years.

But Casse isn’t thinking about that, still grateful War of Will avoided going down in the Derby and was able to rebound and run well in the Preakness. He’ll monitor the horse back at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Kentucky, to make sure a sore foot and his energy level are good enough to run in the Belmont on a three-week turnaround.

Casse can’t predict how War of Will responds this time, but he knows what it would mean if the horse comes out on top once again.

“He’s just an athlete,” Casse said. “It would just show that he’s tough and able to overcome things.”