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Accelerate tops entries for 14-horse Breeders’ Cup Classic

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The Breeders’ Cup World Championships will have its biggest entry field along with a new race, which means plenty of story lines.

Especially in its main event.

Accelerate leads the 14-horse field for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, which will offer the 5-year-old a rematch against West Coast in a marquee race that’s missing unbeaten Triple Crown winner Justify.

Horse racing’s 13th Triple Crown champion, who was trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, was retired with an ankle issue in July after winning all six career starts this year. Baffert’s confirmed entries in the Classic are McKinzie and West Coast, whom Accelerate beat by 2 1/4 lengths last month at Santa Anita.

Monomoy Girl will seek another Grade 1 win at Louisville’s Churchill Downs in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. The filly has won eight of 10 starts, including the Kentucky Oaks in May at Churchill.

A record 221 horses were announced Wednesday for the 35th World Championships on Nov. 2-3. The 14-race schedule totaling a record $30 million in purses includes the inaugural Juvenile Turf Sprint on that Friday, the 2nd.

The Distaff and Dirt Mile have been moved to Saturday’s nine-race Cup card culminating with the Classic.

The Breeders’ Cup entries include a record 51 foreign horses aiming to race at Churchill Downs, which will host for the record-tying ninth time. Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien has 18 entries, including 2017 Juvenile Turf champion Mendelssohn in the Classic. Coolmore Stud’s 20 pre-entries are up six from last year.

Final entries and the post-position draw are Monday.

No matter which spot Accelerate starts from in the Classic, the quest will be capping his roll with another victory.

The John Sadler-trained colt has won five of six starts including his victory over West Coast, who can avenge that finish and improve on a third place in last year’s Classic that helped him earn the Eclipse Award as top 3-year-old male.

However, Sadler likes the current performance of the California-based son of Lookin at Lucky.

“He’s got a good style that he can stalk the speed; he doesn’t have to be in front,” Sadler said in a teleconference. “He’ll get a good trip, no doubt. The other thing I’m comforted by is he is proven on an off track if we get rain.”

As for Baffert, a Classic win would be his fourth in five years. Besides McKinzie, which won the Grade 1 Pennsylvania on Sept. 22, the trainer has Collected among five horses just outside the 14-horse limit.

“We feel like he deserves a chance at the Classic,” Baffert said. “I can’t believe how many pre-entered. I was hoping to get Collected in there. He was a little late to the party, but he’s doing well and working well.”

Oscar Performance aims to defend his Cup Mile win on turf in his third consecutive Breeders’ Cup start. The 4-year-old is coming off a 1 1/2-length victory in the Woodbine Mile and has won two of three starts this year.

Five races for 2-year-olds highlight the Breeders’ Cup first day as “Future Stars Friday.” The $1 million Turf Sprint is open to colts and fillies and will cover 5 1/2 furlongs.

What to know about the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby

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The Kentucky Derby is one of the most iconic sporting events in the world. Every year, millions of fans tune into NBC to watch top race horses from around the globe compete in “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports.”

What is the Kentucky Derby? The Kentucky Derby, run the first Saturday in May, is one of the most well known Grade 1 Thoroughbred stakes races in the world. First run in 1875, this 1 1/4 mile–or 10 furlongs–race kicks off the American Triple Crown of horse racing.

When and where is the Kentucky Derby? The 145th running of the Kentucky Derby is on Saturday, May 4, 2019 with a post time of 6:50 p.m. ET.

The Derby is run on the dirt track at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, where it has been held since its inaugural running in 1875.

How can I watch the Kentucky Derby? NBC is home to the 145th Kentucky Derby, providing comprehensive race coverage and analysis live on TV and NBCSports.com before, during and after. NBC will also broadcast the 2019 Preakness Stakes and 2019 Belmont Stakes.

How are horses picked for the Derby? Only 3-year-old Thoroughbreds can qualify for the Kentucky Derby. Eligible horses compete in the Race to the Kentucky Derby, a series of 35 races around the world. Horses win points for finishing in the top four spots, and the 20 horses with the most points at the end of the series gain entry into the Derby.

Who won last year? WinStar Farm’s colt Justify, trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Mike Smith, won the 144th Kentucky Derby. He went on to win the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, becoming the 13th horse ever to win the Triple Crown.

What are the biggest Kentucky Derby traditions? Bold formal outfits for both men and women are synonymous with the Kentucky Derby. Celebrities and fans a like go all out, donning creative and colorful hats, bright colors and wild patterns. In fact, hats and outfits are such a big part of the Kentucky Derby that the Derby Museum has a whole exhibit for the most lavished fashions.

The Mint Julep, made with Kentucky bourbon, is the signature drink of the Derby, and Kentucky’s state song “My Old Kentucky Home” is played during the pre-race post parade. After the race, the champion horse is given the iconic garland of roses in the winner’s circle.

What else is there to do during Derby Weekend? The Kentucky Oaks is a Grade 1 stakes race held annually the day before the Kentucky Derby. The Oaks has the same 3-year-old restriction as the Derby but is for fillies only. Additionally, there is a week of events at Churchill Downs, and the month-long Kentucky Derby Festival celebrated across Louisville.

Jockey Craig Perret among nine finalists for HOF

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Jockey Craig Perret, trainers Mark Casse, Christophe Clement and David Whiteley, and five thoroughbreds are contemporary finalists for the National Museum of Racing’s 2019 Hall of Fame ballot.

The racehorses are Blind Luck, Gio Ponti, Havre de Grace, Rags to Riches and Royal Delta.

Results of the voting on the contemporary candidates will be announced April 22. All candidates that receive majority approval of the voting panel will be elected to the Hall of Fame.

The hall’s induction ceremony will be held Aug. 2 in Saratoga Springs.