May 18, 2022

2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic Transcript

Accelerate was crowned Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) champion beneath Joel Rosario at Churchill Downs on November 3, 2018 (c) Jamie Newell/Horsephotos.com

2018 BREEDERS’ CUP CLASSIC
Saturday, November 3, 2018

John Sadler
Kosta Hronis
Joel Rosario

THE MODERATOR: We’re joined now live in the press conference room with the winning co-owner of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate, Kosta Hronis. Kosta owns along with his brother Pete. And just for your information in the press center and elsewhere, John Sadler has a horse in this final race. He is saddling his horse and will come up to the interview room here actually before that race even goes off, so he’ll be here shortly, and Joel Rosario is riding in the race, and we hope to have Joel in after the running of the upcoming 12th race.

As mentioned, now we’re joined by Kosta Hronis, winning owner, head of Hronis Racing, LLC.

Kosta, congratulations. I know it’s your first Breeders’ Cup win. Beyond that, just amazingly thrilling to win a Breeders’ Cup Classic and cap off what’s been a dream season. I’ll let you do your own campaigning now because the topic of conversation is certainly going to be Horse of the Year. To have a Triple Crown winner not win it would be surprising in normal circumstances, but give us your pitch on why Accelerate should be considered.

KOSTA HRONIS: I think he’s done something no one else has done. He swept the California G1s. He’s undefeated at the mile and a quarter. I think today, they’ve been saying all along that, he had to win the Classic to be in the conversation. He won the Classic, and then I read somewhere where it said maybe he did this all on the wrong year, but maybe Justify won the Triple Crown in the wrong year, I don’t know.

This horse is special. He’s showed up every time. He’s danced every dance. He’s been solid. This is Horse of the Year. It’s a body of work, and what he has done in the last 12 months, I think he’s well deserved to be of that honor. There’s no doubt.

He’s been a very classy horse. I think the fact that we took our time with him, he ran late as a three-year-old, we brought him along as a four with all intentions of running him as a five-year-old because that’s when we thought he would be at his best, and it’s worked out. The trick in horse racing, to keep a horse like him on the track, we had opportunities to sell him and take him off, but I think we owed it to him, we owed it to this industry to keep him on the track and let him do what he was born to do. He was born to be a racehorse. He was healthy, he was happy. He loved being out there, and as long as that was what he wanted to do, that’s what he’s going to do.

Q. Kosta, you tend to ride the race with the jockey from the sidelines. Can you take us through your emotions as the race progressed?

KOSTA HRONIS: I just kept waiting to see the finish line. Just like it couldn’t come fast enough. When he came around the corner — Joel kept him out of trouble. He does like to stay a little to the outside. That seems to be his style, stays out of trouble, and I think that’s always been kind of a thing you want to do if you think you have the best horse, keep him out of trouble, let him run his race. If he gets beat, he gets beat.

But let’s not get bogged down, let’s not get tied, let’s not have to check back. It’s hard to stop and start a horse like that. So keep him where he needs to be in clean air. I guess that’s a term they use in NASCAR. Just let him run his race, and that’s what they did. He’s been doing that all season, and he’s been very solid and a solid campaign, and we’re really proud of him.

Q. Kosta, in terms of this race, where did you see the biggest threat, if it was a horse, the draw, what was it that you thought was the biggest threat to a victory today?

KOSTA HRONIS: I guess I was just worried about Accelerate. I don’t think I really worried about the other 13 horses. Really felt like if he showed up and was on his best that he was going to — we think he’s the best horse in the country, so I don’t think any competition really worried us as much. I don’t think any competition worried us as much, but we just — I think we really — I know I felt coming in, and I think the post was the post.

We’re glad we weren’t on the rail, but when he drew the 14, that was cool. We were fine with that. He’d be, again, on the outside, in clean air, stay out of trouble, just run your race, and he did. We just thought we were going to be fine.

But yeah, I think as long as Accelerate showed up, we felt really good about our chances.

THE MODERATOR: We’re joined now also of course by winning trainer, John Sadler. Congratulations, John. I’ll get the obvious question out of the way first. You hit the board 10 times in Breeders’ Cup races, but this was your first victory. Is it a big weight off your back?

JOHN SADLER: Yeah, I’m thrilled, no doubt. I mean, this is what I do every day, every year for my whole career, so to really get the big one, I couldn’t ask for a better day.

THE MODERATOR: Kosta talked about the race itself. Accelerate held up the start for quite a while there. Is that something you’d done before, and yes or no, whether he had or hadn’t, were you concerned at that point that something might be amiss?

JOHN SADLER: He’s been tricky at the gate at times. We schooled him here in Louisville at the gate, and they kind of seemed to get like what we were telling them, how he likes to go in the gate. If you grab his ear, they did it last time at Santa Anita, he kind of resented it. Today I know they didn’t grab his ear, they just kind of smooshed him behind and he got in.

He’s a little tricky because as a five-year-old when we school him in the morning sometimes, he knows the difference. If you take him there a lot in the morning, it doesn’t really help him. You just have to kind of watch him. But I thought he’d be fine in the gate. Once he got in there, he looked like he was good and broke good.

THE MODERATOR: And if John and Kosta seem distracted the next few minutes, they’re trying to pull off the late double with the 3 horse in the Chilukki Stakes. Questions for either Kosta or John?

Q. Are you going to keep him around for the Pegasus, or does he have to go?

JOHN SADLER: We have an option to run him in the Pegasus. The plan right now is he’ll probably go up to Lane’s End Farm in Lexington tomorrow, and they’ll show him there as a stallion this week, we’ll bring him back to California, and if all is good, will probably go in the Pegasus, kind of our all-out Gun Runner of last year, and then he’ll go off to stud.

Q. When Catalina Cruiser did not run, did not do well, and then you just got nipped in the other race, were you just thinking — did it occur to you that this might not be your day?

JOHN SADLER: Oh, absolutely. I think that way all the time. You know, we’re prepared for the worst and hope for the best. You know, you never know. I mean, horse racing is a great sport, and this horse has been good. I felt good about him today. I think Kosta said the same thing. He’s been the best horse in this division all year, so I thought if we had a good trip, he’d be tough.

Q. John, can you account for his — kind of his transformation from a grade maybe 2 1/2, middle distance horse, to the best older horse of the Classic distance of a mile and a quarter?

JOHN SADLER: I think what has helped him is that he came back at five. Me and Kosta have a philosophy, if at the end of the year we evaluate the horses, if they’re in good shape and we think they’re going to have another good year, then we continue to race them because that’s what we do and that’s what we enjoy, and he came out of his race last year with a quarter crack, and we got — fixed that, I have a great blacksmith in Wes Champagne that’s been right along with him this year and maintaining his feet.

This year at five he seems like he’s more ready to go those long distances. He has a great constitution because he needs a lot of training to run in those races. He’s been able to run in them, pull up good, continued to train hard and keep going. So it’s a tribute to him at five.

Q. Kosta was asked, make the case for him to be Horse of the Year.

JOHN SADLER: That’s for the sportswriters. But for me, he’s — I’m prejudiced. To me he’s the Horse of the Year, no doubt. He’s won all those great races. For me to win the Santa Anita handicap was for me probably one or two on my bucket list. I’ve been a California guy my whole life. The classic is a newer race but a great race, and he won that so smashingly. He’s just a great horse and had a great year.

Q. Would you be kind enough to comment about the job that Joel Rosario did the last three races and also the job that Victor Espinoza did before that?

JOHN SADLER: Victor did a great job with him this year, and a shout-out to him. He’s recuperating in San Diego off a very, very rough spill. We send our best to him. And Rosario, I have a long history with him. I saw him ride up north, and when he came to Southern California, I believe I put him on his first winner, and we had a really good run there in Southern California. We’ve won titles. I’ve been the leading trainer, he’s been the leading rider at several meets. So I like him a lot. He likes me a lot. And I felt like he owed me one with Twirling Candy in the Pacific Classic, got beat a head one day. We won a lot of races together, and he’s a great rider, no doubt.

KOSTA HRONIS: Side note, Joel Rosario rode our very first horse in our very first race in February of 2010 on Sleep Tide, a little horse that John claimed for us, and to turn all the way around and have Joel win the Breeders’ Cup Classic today, it’s a special day, and we’re very happy for Joel.

THE MODERATOR: John and Kosta, congratulations. Just a terrific performance by your horse, and congratulations for your personal accomplishments with the victory. We’re delighted for you, and again, we’ll remind the media we hope and expect to be joined by Joel Rosario.

Back with you in the press conference room, and John Sadler has been kind enough to stick around, and now we’re joined after his race day is complete by winning Breeders’ Cup Classic jockey Joel Rosario.

This was the third Breeders’ Cup winner of the weekend for Joel, having previously scored with Jaywalk and Game Winner in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile respectively.

Congratulations. You were wide much of the way, probably a byproduct of Post 14, though you did make a deft little move coming down the stretch to save some ground. Take us through the journey, if you would.

JOEL ROSARIO: Yeah, first, thank you. Yeah, I was in the clear on the outside and he liked to be up there, had time to get up to him, and at that point he responded really well to me. I just after that, he did — I just busy with him, so I had to ride him a little bit, yeah.

Q. And we discussed this with John a little bit before, but the delay at the start, did this catch you off guard perhaps? What was causing that?

JOEL ROSARIO: Yeah, when he go to the gate, he just kind of — he refuse to go inside, but they push him a little bit and he go in, so that’s normal for him. That’s what he do before he going to get in the gate.

Q. So you weren’t concerned at all by that?

JOEL ROSARIO: No, because they got after him and then he got in there, so I was really comfortable with that. It wasn’t bad, yeah. He went in there fine.

Q. Were you concerned at any point during the race? It looked like you were asking him for quite a bit around the turn, and he just sort of gutted it out and held everybody safe from there. How confident were you as the race was progressing?

JOEL ROSARIO: I was very confident in the backside when I got to the leader, when it cleared, and I can feel that he was getting nicely comfortable and it looked like he wanted to do that, and then I just — after that, I took the lead, and then I just had to keep after him because he’s the kind of horse, like I say, that he wants you to ride him, and then he give it to you.

Q. Joel, given his issues, like what he had at the Santa Anita at the gate and all that, is it almost like if you just get him through the start, that’s half the battle?

JOEL ROSARIO: Yeah, you know, he’s just — like I said, he’s going to go to the gate (indiscernible) that’s the main key, get him out of the gate, yes.

Q. Joel, while we have you, since you were a very busy man yesterday, I suppose from a jockey standpoint, you won three of the best Breeders’ Cup races from the standpoint you won the richest, you won the one or two that give you the most excitement for the following year. Could you comment on the performances by Game Winner and Jaywalk?

JOEL ROSARIO: Yeah, they run really well. Jaywalk, she broke out of the gate really well, and then she just — it’s one thing, she takes off, and she just come and get me. She runs really well like she did the race before that.

And Game Winner, he was fighting (indiscernible) took him out a little bit, and we kind of bump each other a little bit, and he’s a nice horse.

Q. Joel, you’ve won the Kentucky Derby, obviously, with Orb; this weekend you’re the only rider to win as many as three races. Is this the best weekend of your career?

JOEL ROSARIO: Yes, probably, yes. You know, I have to say something. I’m really happy for John. When I was in California in the beginning, John gave me a lot of opportunity to be what I am today, and just very happy they got to win the Breeders’ Cup, the Classic.

JOHN SADLER: I used to yell at him a lot. I like to think that I molded him a little bit when he came down from Northern California. I’d like to think I had an influence on his career. But he’s always showed himself to be a great talent. I’m not surprised, and like I said, we’ve won titles in California. I think we’re leading rider, leader trainer at Delmar and some of the other big meets, and he’s continued to show himself a top jockey.

JOEL ROSARIO: Thank you, John.

Q. Joel, we had a technical difficulty during your description of the running of the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Would you be kind enough to review your trip once again for us?

JOEL ROSARIO: Yes, he break out of the gate, he broke really well, and when I was in the outside, I had to kind of use him a little bit to just get a position because I was way up there, and I had a long run to the turn, but I want to be just like — not to be too wide in the first swing and kind of be up close, not too far back in the beginning, and it was perfect.

It was perfect going to the first turn, and then like a couple horses was in the lead, like three or four horses, and I kind of just had to be there, save a little ground, and then when I got to the backside, just like I said, trying to be in the clear with what he likes to do.

Q. And how about turning for home and down the stretch?

JOEL ROSARIO: Like I said, turning the home, I took the lead, and I was — we’re a long way from the airport in LA. I was trying to stay busy because I know he always has a lot of extra run in the end. He wants you to ride him a little bit.

JOHN SADLER: He wants you to ride him. He can be a little bit smart or a little bit lazy, so when he’s in front, Joel has to keep riding him hard. That’s when I thought that when Victor went down, Rosario would be a good fit on him because he’s so physical. He’s one of the great jockeys in the game in the United States now, and he’s so strong and powerful, and that’s a good fit for Accelerate.

THE MODERATOR: John Sadler, Joel Rosario, congratulations on a memorable Breeders’ Cup victory with Accelerate, and congratulations also Joel on a terrific weekend for you personally.

JOEL ROSARIO: Appreciate it. Thank you very much.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports