Saturday’s $300,000 San Diego Stakes (G2) at Del Mar was supposed to be an easy prep for multiple Grade 1-winning star Arrogate ahead of the $1 million Pacific Classic (G1) on August 19.
Instead, the 1 1/16-mile contest went to one of only two horses with the distinction of previously finishing in front of Arrogate. Accelerate pulled off the upset in effortless fashion, drawing away to be 8 1/2 lengths clear of Donworth in second, who in turn had 2 1/2 lengths to spare on Cat Burglar.
Arrogate followed in fourth by 4 1/4 lengths, while El Huerfano was eased in the stretch.
The race had a rocky beginning the minute the gates opened. El Huerfano, who broke to Arrogate’s inside, went to his knees and hit his head on the ground. Jockey Evin Roman managed to stay aboard but lost his irons as El Huerfano banged into Accelerate, who exited from the rail post on his inside. It took some time for Roman to get his feet back in the stirrups and he steered El Huerfano to the outside when the gelding rushed up to press the early pace.
Accelerate took command of the race after the initial bump, leading the way through splits of :23.49, :47.06 and 1:11.39. Jockey Victor Espinoza stayed calm on the Lookin at Lucky chestnut, letting him gallop along under his own power. Mike Smith was doing the same with Arrogate, but the gray four-year-old was well behind in fourth.
In fact, Arrogate never left that position, even when Smith began asking him for more run. The Unbridled’s Song colt appeared lethargic and maintained a one-paced lope as Accelerate lived up to his name in the lane, kicking clear to stop the clock in 1:42.15 over the fast main track.
As Arrogate was sent off the 1-20 prohibitive favorite, his finishing fourth set place and show price records at Del Mar. Donworth, the 24-1 second longest shot in the five-horse field, was worth $119.80 to place and $67.40 to show. The previous record was set by Cipria in 1955, who returned $101.60 to place and $40.20 to show.
Accelerate paid $17.60 as the 7-1 second choice for the win, his first since taking the Los Alamitos Derby (G2) last September. Prior to that contest he captured the Shared Belief Stakes and broke his maiden, the latter by 8 3/4 lengths, both at Del Mar.
Accelerate took four tries to break his maiden, and in his very first attempt took second by a head over Arrogate, who was also making his debut in that April 17, 2016, contest at Los Alamitos. Westbrook captured the maiden by a half-length but has been unable to climb out of the optional claiming ranks since.
In contrast, Accelerate and Arrogate both advanced by leaps and bounds, the latter more so when taking the Travers Stakes (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). Arrogate was honored as the 2016 champion three-year-old male and continued that dominance into his four-year-old campaign with easy wins in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) and Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) before faltering in this spot.
Accelerate, on the other hand, ran third in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) to close out his sophomore season. The John Sadler trainee opened 2017 with a runner-up effort in the San Pasqual Stakes (G2), ran third in the San Antonio Stakes (G2), filled the second spot behind multiple Grade 2 hero Danzing Candy in an allowance/optional claimer and most recently was a well-beaten third in the Precisionist Stakes (G3) on June 24.
This return to the winner’s circle improved Accelerate’s scorecard to 12-4-3-4 and he’s now banked $607,480 in lifetime earnings.
Bred in Kentucky by Mike Abraham, Accelerate is campaigned by Hronis Racing LLC. He is out of the stakes-placed Awesome Again mare Issues, making him a half-brother to stakes scorers Amarish and Daddy D T, the latter of whom ran third in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1).
Accelerate’s fifth dam is Broodmare of the Year Smartaire, and this female family includes champion Smarty Angle and Grade 1-winning successful stallion Wagon Limit, just to name two.
SAN DIEGO QUOTES
John Sadler, trainer Accelerate, winner
“He liked this track last year; you know he won two here last year. He trained really well Sunday up at Santa Anita and showed a lot of pop when Victor (Espinoza) worked him from the gate and they kept telling me it was $50,000 for second. You want to win, you don’t want to concede anything, but I’m surprised we won because Arrogate is the best horse in the world. A couple of things went right for us and one of them was that Arrogate didn’t fire his best. That’s what has to happen for these big upsets.”
Bob Baffert, trainer Cat Burglar (3RD) Arrogate (4TH)
“He was just flat. I think he was just flat. I knew coming down here can be tough. Maybe I should have blown him out (down here). Mike (Smith) said he was just flat and never in the race did he feel he had any horse. The other horse (Cat Burglar) was flat, too. I thought he’d run better than that, but he just didn’t want to go. I think he (Arrogate) just laid an egg. I don’t think it had anything to do with the track. He was just flat.”
Victor Espinoza, jockey Accelerate, winner
“I was surprised by how far I won (8 1/2 lengths). I wasn’t surprised that I did; I was here to win. I thought I’d sit second or third, but when that speed horse (El Huerfano) stumbled at the start, I made an easy lead. (Accelerate) got in a nice rhythm; he was going easy. He’s a nice horse. This is the first time I rode him. I hope he can go on, so we can look at the Pacific Classic (going 1 1/4 miles).”
Mario Gutierrez, jockey Donworth, second
“Good try for him. Good try.”
Rafael Bejarano, jockey Cat Burglar, third
“The loose horse (El Huerfano) bothered me most of the way around there. I had to use my horse to stay away from him. (Cat Burglar) could have run better.”
Mike Smith, jockey Arrogate, fourth
“I’m at a loss for words. He just was flat, so flat. We were going around there OK, and then I took him outside like I did in Dubai (where he won the March 25 Dubai World Cup last out), but he just didn’t pick it up. So I dropped him inside again and cut the corner, then wheeled him outside once more and tried to get something from him. But he was just flat. He wasn’t trying. So I just wrapped up on him and got him home safe. We’ve got to go back and start over again. Get it back right.”
Evin Roman, jockey El Huerfano, fifth
“He just stumbled badly at the start. I thought he was going down. Then I had a hard time getting back in the irons (It took him almost a half-mile to do so.)