Hronis Racing's Accelerate took the long way around the racetrack and had to wait out a lengthy inquiry, but was able to survive both to win his graded stakes debut Sept. 24 in the $200,000 Los Alamitos Derby (gr. II).
On Saturday, however, the John Sadler trainee needed every stride to get past his rival. After a three-wide trip during the first turn and a four-wide bid in the second during the 1 1/8 mile test—while Semper Fortis took command in the final bend with a dream rail run—Accelerate still had plenty to do in the long Los Alamitos Race Course stretch, but found just enough late to win by a head.
"We had a wide trip all the way around, so it was a game effort, considering we didn't get to save any ground," Sadler said.
Blackjackcat also put in a bid in the stretch, but was pinched between the top two finishers and had to be steadied by jockey Gary Stevens before coming in 1 1/2 lengths behind the top pair. A stewards' inquiry, which involved the top three finishers, resulted in no change.
Accelerate broke his maiden in his fourth attempt, but first start around two turns, July 28 at Del Mar, where he cruised to an 8 3/4-length victory before his half-length Shared Belief win. In his debut in April at Los Alamitos, he finished second, a head in front of eventual Travers Stakes (gr. I) winner Arrogate.
"He got behind the calendar," Sadler said. "He's a 3-year-old that wasn't ready early and he's been coming on strong. We're excited where he is and hopefully we have a Saturday horse going into next year."
"He's a horse who is still learning and has a lot of room for improvement," added winning jockey Tyler Baze, who has been aboard in all six of the colt's races.
The winner paid $3.80, $2.40, and $2.10 across the board. Semper Fortis brought $2.80 and $2.20, while Blackjackcat delivered $2.60 to show.
Bred in Kentucky, out of the Awesome Again mare Issues, Accelerate was a $380,000 purchase by Sadler and Hronis out of the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale. He now has a 3-1-1 record from six starts, with $236,880 in earnings.
"Lookin At Lucky has been off to a little bit of a slow start, but I think he's Curlin -esque," Sadler said. "I've got a couple good Lookin At Luckys. We have Lucky Bryan, who was unlucky in the Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT), but I like the stallion and (bloodstock agent) David (Ingordo) liked the conformation, so it was a team effort."