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Accelerate early favorite to win Pegasus World Cup

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. — Accelerate’s big week is here, and it’s off to a start his connections wanted.

Accelerate is the 9-5 early favorite to win Saturday’s $9 million Pegasus World Cup, drawing the No. 5 post in a field of 12 for the race to be run over 1 1/8 miles of dirt at Gulfstream Park. It’ll be the final race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic champion, who is a mere 1 1/8 miles of Gulfstream Park dirt away from beginning his stud career.

“It’s a good post,” Accelerate trainer John Sadler said. “We didn’t want to be on the outside and we didn’t want to be on the inside. We were hoping for 5 or 6, so we’re very happy with the draw.”

Accelerate was almost certainly going to be the pre-race favorite regardless of what spot in the starting gate he drew. He’s also a finalist for Horse of the Year, the top prize that will be given out when the Eclipse Awards are unveiled at Gulfstream on Thursday night. That trophy figures to come down to either Accelerate or Justify, the now-retired winner of the Triple Crown last year.

“I have nothing but respect for the other horse, obviously,” Sadler said. “He’s an undefeated Triple Crown winner, and I saw him breeze all winter at Santa Anita, my home base, so I’m pretty familiar with him. He’s a great horse. That being said, my horse was a great horse last year.”

And a win on Saturday would only cement Accelerate as an all-time great: If he prevails, Accelerate’s career earnings would place him in the top 10 among all North American thoroughbreds. That’s the perk of the Pegasus, which offered purses of $12 million and $16 million in its first two runnings – and will pay out $16 million again this year, with $7 million of that earmarked for a newly added turf race to the program.

The Pegasus dirt is the richest purse in North America; the Pegasus turf has the richest purse for a grass race in North America.

“It’s good for racing,” said owner Ron Paolucci, who has Imperative in the Pegasus dirt race and Dubby Dubbie in the Pegasus turf. “That’s what I got into it for. And truthfully, it’s very selfish on my part. You win one of these races, it changes your life forever – not only in the racing community but in your financial situation.”

City of Light is the second choice behind Accelerate at 5-2, and Gunnevera – who was second to Accelerate at the Breeders’ Cup Classic – is 8-1 in the morning line. Gunnevera was third in the Pegasus World Cup last year.

Yoshida – a Grade 1 winner in both dirt and turf races – is the morning-line favorite for the Pegasus turf race at 5-2, just ahead of Catapult at 7-2. Yoshida finished last year on dirt, and was fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

“He’s got a pedigree for both and he’s one of the odd horses that has transitioned from one to the other,” said Bill Mott, who trains Yoshida. “It’s probably debatable whether his dirt races are better than his turf races, and they may well be, but he’s a horse that won very nicely for us in the spring last year on the turf. He’s run with good company, and we weighed our options here and thought that maybe the turf was the spot to go this time.”

Maximum Security beaten in first start since Derby DQ

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OCEANPORT, N.J. (AP) The Triple Crown series was marked by the unexpected and the whacky 3-year-old season continued when Maximum Security returned to racing for the first time since being disqualified in the Kentucky Derby.

Sent off as the overwhelming 1-20 favorite, Maximum Security simply got beat. There was no DQ, no runaway horse like in the Preakness or improbable winner like in the Belmont.

It was just an upset marked by a stumble at the start that might have cost Maximum Security the race and left the division wide open.

Second-choice King for a Day stalked Maximum Security from the start, took the lead in the stretch and posted a one-length victory in the $150,000 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park on Sunday.

“I think the next race will be better,” said Jason Servis, the trainer of Maximum Security “We needed to get that of the way. I was glad to get it out of the way even though he got beat.”

It marked the first time Maximum Security has not crossed the finish line first in six career starts, and the stumble might have been the difference.

“It was a tough week,” said Servis, who had debated whether to run Maximum Security because he was not sure he was ready. “He was feeling pretty good this morning. He was jumping and kicking. But the stumble hurt us a lot.”

Maximum Security and regular rider Luis Saez broke from the No. 2 post and quickly recovered from the stumble to take the lead in the field of six 3-year-olds.

Jockey Joe Bravo moved King for a Day from the No. 3 post to his flank and the two made this a two-horse race until the Todd Pletcher-trained winner wore down Maximum Security in the stretch.

“I really felt comfortable getting into the turn,” Bravo said. “I could see Luis was already riding. I could see that he was in trouble. Turning for home, Maximum Security did pull away a bit. My horse was still going comfortable.”

King for a Day, who won the Sir Barton at Pimlico on the Preakness undercard, covered the 1 1/16 mile race in 1:42.59. The son of Uncle Mo paid $13.80, $2.40 and $2.20 for his third victory in five career starts.

Maximum Security returned $2.10 and $2.10. Direct Order finished third and returned $3.80.

“In the end he was a little tired,” Saez said. “I’m not disappointed. Definitely not. He will be OK. I think he needed the race. This is horse racing. Anything can happen. He’s a real good horse. That hasn’t changed. I think the next time he will be OK.”

Owned by Gary and Mary West, Maximum Security finished 1 3/4 lengths in front of Country House in the Kentucky Derby on May 4 but was disqualified by Churchill Downs stewards for interference with eventual Preakness winner War of Will.

It marked the first time in the 145-year history of the Derby that the first-place finisher was disqualified for interference.

The Wests are challenging the Kentucky Derby disqualification in federal court.

Last Judgment was fourth in the Pegasus, followed by Identifier and Caladan in the feature on the Father’s Day card that drew 24,062.

Country House is probably finished racing for the year, trainer Bill Mott told the Daily Racing Form on Saturday night at Churchill Downs.

Country House has been galloping at the track in recent weeks, but Mott has not been satisfied with how the colt trained and looked. He was shipped to Saratoga last week and will be sidelined for two months or longer.

Maximum Security is next expected to run in the Haskell Invitational here on July 20. Pletcher said King for a Day will join his stable at Saratoga and be evaluated before deciding his next start.

Rafael Bejarano rides 4,000th winner at Santa Anita

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Jockey Rafael Bejarano rode his 4,000th career winner at Santa Anita.

He guided filly Portal Creek to a 3 }-length victory in the third race Saturday for trainer Bob Hess Jr.

The 36-year-old Peruvian jockey says Santa Anita has always been a special place for him. He won six races at the Southern California track in his first day riding there on April 8, 2006.

Bejarano came to the U.S. in 2002 after training at a national riding academy in Peru. He led the U.S. in victories with 455 in 2004.

He has career purse earnings of $200,611,833 and five victories in the Breeders’ Cup.