Accelerate, ridden by Joel Rosario, wins the Breeders' Cup Classic on Saturday at Churchill DownsAccelerate, ridden by Joel Rosario, wins the Breeders' Cup Classic on Saturday at Churchill Downs (AFP Photo/Bobby Ellis)
Los Angeles (AFP) - Accelerate made trainer John Sadler's first Breeders' Cup victory a big one, winning the $6 million Classic at Churchill Downs on Saturday.
Sadler was 0-44 in Breeders' Cup starts coming into the 1 1/4-mile showpiece of the $30 million festival, including a close call in the Mile earlier in the day at Louisville, Kentucky.
"Feels really good," said Sadler, who admitted the constant questions about his Breeders' Cup record had become "a point of irritation".
Now, all that can be forgotten.
"We've got the big one," he said. "So it's a good day."
Ridden by Joel Rosario, Accelerate showed some reluctance to enter the starting gate, but he broke cleanly and settled in as the Aidan O'Brien-trained Mendelssohn took the lead under Ryan Moore and blazed through a sizzling first quarter-mile.
Mendelssohn was still in front when they turned for home, but he couldn't hold off the challenge of 5-2 favorite Accelerate, who came wide through the last turn and swept to the lead, winning by a length from 28-1 shot Gunnevera.
Godolphin's Thunder Snow, the Dubai World Cup winner, challenged late but finished third, 1 3/4 lengths back.
"I was very confident in the backside when I got to the leader," Rosario said. "I can feel that he was getting nicely comfortable.
"I took the lead, and then I just had to keep after him because he's the kind of horse that he wants you to ride him, and then he give it to you."
The race was without Triple Crown hero Justify, who was retired in July.
But there was plenty of quality in the field, not least in the eventual winner who notched a fifth straight grade one victory.
O'Brien, who had hoped Mendelssohn would redeem himself after a last-place finish on the same Churchill Downs track in the Kentucky Derby in May, could find nothing to fault in Saturday's fifth-place performance.
"He ran a great race so we're delighted with him. We did our best but weren't quite good enough," said O'Brien, who brought 15 horses to Kentucky and departed without a winner.
Europe's other big Classic contender, Roaring Lion, came into the race off four straight victories, but in his first test on dirt was never a factor and finished last.
"He was smashed up leaving the gate, which put him in the wrong position as he got the worst of it," Gosden said of the dirt in the face that Roaring Lion experienced for the first time.
"After that, we were on the back foot completely."