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.

Pegasus on Jan. 28, Florida Derby on April 1 at Gulfstream

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. — Gulfstream Park announced the schedule for the 2022-23 Championship Meet, highlighted by the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on Jan. 28.

Also on Pegasus day: The $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational, as well as the $500,000 Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

Gulfstream’s top Kentucky Derby prep race, the $1 million Florida Derby, will be run on April 1 as part of a card with 10 stakes races. Other top 3-year-old preps at Gulfstream in early 2023 include the $150,000 Mucho Macho Man on Jan. 1, the $250,000 Holy Bull on Feb. 4 and the $400,000 Fountain of Youth on March 4.

The Pegasus is returning for a seventh time. The format has changed several times in the race’s infancy; the purse structure for the Pegasus World Cup no longer requires owners to put up $1 million apiece for a spot in the starting gate for what was, at its inception, the world’s richest race with a purse that reached $16 million.

This much has remained constant: Winning the Pegasus changes a horse’s resume. No Pegasus winner has ever finished worse than sixth in the yearlong earnings among North American horses, and two past winners – Arrogate and Gun Runner – are two of the three highest-earning thoroughbreds in U.S. history.

Gulfstream’s Championship Meet runs from Dec. 26 through April 2, featuring 60 stakes races, 35 of them graded, and worth a combined $13.6 million.

Stradivarius, 3-time Ascot Gold Cup winner, retired to stud

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LONDON – Stradivarius, one of the most famous racehorses in Britain and Ireland after winning the Gold Cup at Ascot three times, has been retired to stud.

Bjorn Nielsen, the owner of Stradivarius, said he felt it would be unfair to make the horse come back next season as a 9-year-old after time away with a bruised foot.

“It has been a fairytale from start to finish,” Nielsen told British newspaper The Racing Post.

Stradivarius, bred in Ireland and the son of Sea The Stars, won 20 of his 35 races – including seven Group One races – and earned almost 3.5 million pounds (now $3.8 million) in prize money.

Stradivarius won four Goodwood Cups, three Yorkshire Cups and two Doncaster Cups.