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Accelerate: 2018's Champion Older Horse

Accelerate stood stoically before a small crowd of fans, his chestnut coat gleaming under Kentucky's summer sun. A camera clicks and he immediately pricks his ears, turning his neck toward the sound until he was staring right into the lens.

Perhaps he was remembering his days taking trips to the winner's circle, days in which he would soar past his competitors in a blur of green and gold. Days on which we reflect in this piece.

Early Life (2013 - 2015):

Accelerate was born on May 10, 2013 for breeder Mike Abraham. His dam, Issues, was a stakes-placed daughter of Awesome Again. She had been carefully bred to Lookin' At Lucky, a five-time Grade 1 winner standing at Coolmore America. Mike Abraham entered his colt into the 2014 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, where his was picked up by Hronis Racing for $380,000. The price was undoubtedly helped by his half-brother Daddy D T winning the Oak Tree Juvenile Turf Stakes in his second start. [Video: Watch Accelerate sell as a yearling at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale]

After taking a year to learn the basics of being a horse, Accelerate was sent to trainer John W. Sadler. His connections felt that the horse was not ready to race as a two-year old, so his debut was delayed until his three-year old season.

Three-Year Old Season (2016):

Accelerate made his debut on April 17, 2016, at Los Alamitos Racecourse. He finished second by a half-length, narrowly holding off future champion Arrogate. He failed to break his maiden in his next two starts, finally getting to the wire first in July at Del Mar.

The win was impressive enough to prompt his connections to enter him into the innagural Shared Belief Stakes, which he won by a half-length. Afterwards, Accelerate made his graded stakes debut in Los Alamitos Derby (G2).

It would turn out to be a nerve wracking graded stakes attempt for his connections. Accelerate bumped Blackjackcat at the start, moved up into fourth, and swept very wide around the far turn. He lived up to his name, accelerating down the middle of the stretch to get to the wire first - but only by a head. A stewards inquiry into Accelerate’s start lasted thirteen nerve-wracking minutes, finally resulting in no change in order.

Accelerate made the final start of his three-year old career in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Santa Anita. He was able to drive up the rail to get third, just a head behind Gun Runner in second. Four-Year Old Season (2017):

The colt’s four-year old season resulted in a lot of near misses. He started the year by finishing second in the San Pasqual Stakes (G2) by 1 1/4 lengths. He followed that up with a third in the San Antonio Stakes (G2). Accelerate was shipped to Oaklawn Park for the Oaklawn Handicap, but he spiked a fever and returned back home to California. After taking three months off of the races, Accelerate ran second in an Allowance race at Santa Anita. He then entered the Precisionist Stakes (G3), where he again failed to win but managed to hit the board.

Accelerate had run four times as a four-year old and was still winless. It almost seemed as if he had lost his knack for winning. Not even his trainer was sure that his losing streak would come to an end in the San Diego Handicap (G2). There he would again be facing Arrogate, whom had transformed into one of the best horses in the country. Somehow Accelerate, with the new addition of blinkers, smashed the field by more than 8 lengths. [Video: Watch Accelerate dominate the San Diego Handicap]

His next step was the Pacific Classic (G1), which was set to be a very tough race. To win, Accelerate would have to defeat Collected and Arrogate. Accelerate raced in second while Collected led the field. He was never able to catch the leader and was passed by Arrogate in the stretch, ultimately finishing third.

After the Pacific Classic, the chestnut colt was entered into the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) for the second time. He finished a shocking ninth place, a result later explained when he returned to the barn with a quarter crack. He made one final start in 2017, rounding out his year with a second place finish in the San Antonio Stakes (G2).

Accelerate’s four-year old season had been full of tough losses. If nothing else, he had proved himself consistent. He was clearly a good horse, but no one had any idea what was in store for the following year; Accelerate finally matured into what he was meant to be. Five-Year Old Season (2018):

Accelerate made his five-year old debut in the San Pasqual Stakes (G2), winning by 1 ¾ lengths. He then entered one of Santa Anita's most prestigious races, the Santa Anita Handicap (G1), and romped by 5 ½ lengths. Things were looking good for a stellar season.

Afterward winning the Santa Anita Handicap, Accelerate shipped to Oaklawn Park for the Oaklawn Handicap (G2), the race he had missed the preceding year because of a fever. He just missed hitting the wire first, finishing just a neck behind City of Light.

Accelerate was able to get his revenge over City of Light in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) beating him by an easy 4 ¼ lengths. The decision was made to keep Accelerate out of the races for three months and train up to the Pacific Classic (G1), which he had finish third in the previous year. That decision paid off handsomely - Accelerate soared home to win by a record margin of 12 ½ lengths.

The victory also made him just the third horse to win the Santa Anita Handicap, Gold Cup, and Pacific Classic in a single season. It was trainer John Sadler's first Pacific Classic victory. "I'm so happy for John Sadler (to get) his first Pacific Classic win," Kosta Hronis said to BloodHorse. "For Hronis family to be a part of it—it's an honor. ... It's such an honor to be in the conversation (with Lava Man and Game On Dude). Those are all Hall of Fame horses. To be in that conversation is such an honor."

Accelerate followed up his Pacific Classic victory by defeating West Coast in the Awesome Again Stakes (G1). Afterwards, Accelerate made the cross country trek to the state in which his life began: Kentucky. He was there for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, one of the most important races in the world. He would be facing the likes of Gunnevera, Mendelssohn, and Thunder Snow. In a thrilling stretch run, Accelerate held off Thunder Snow and Gunnevera to win by one length.

[Video: Watch Accelerate win the Breeders' Cup Classic from post position #14]

He could have ended his career on that high note, but Accelerate wasn’t done just yet. His connections entered him in one final race: the Pegasus World Cup (G1). He first checked into his future home of Lane’s End Farm for an inspection and some time off before shipping down to sunny Florida.

Unfortunately, Florida wasn’t so sunny on that January day; Accelerate pounded through the slop to finish third. The loss took nothing away from his stellar season. He had finished his racing career with a record of 23:10-5-6 and nearly $6.7 million in earnings. His 2018 season was so fantastic that many people considered him a better choice for Horse of the Year than Triple Crown winner Justify. Though Justify did win Horse of the Year, Accelerate was deservingly named Champion Older Dirt Horse.

Accelerate now stands at Lane’s End Farm for $20,000. He has settled in nicely to life as a stallion, enjoying his relaxing pasture time and the attention he gets from fans who visit him on Horse Country tours. His first foal, a colt out of Sweet Congrats (Congrats), was born on January 21, 2020 in Lexington, Kentucky. Only time will tell if he will be able to produce as good as he ran, but Lane’s End Farm sure has their hopes high for this this good looking guy.


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