Trainers learned long ago they don't need to give instructions to jockey Victor Espinoza, because he knows how to make quick, usually correct judgments as soon as the gate opens in a horse race.
It happened again Saturday at the start of the Grade 1, $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita. Accelerate broke sharply in the 1 1/4-mile race but Espinoza quickly made the decision to let Dr. Dorr and favored City Of Light battle it out for the lead while letting Accelerate patiently wait in third place on the rail for much of the race.
"I shook him up at the start," Espinoza said. "I wanted him up close. When I saw the other two go, I tried to track them. It was perfect."
Dr. Dorr put away City Of Light at the top of the stretch, but Accelerate swept by on the outside and won by 4 1/4 lengths for trainer John Sadler, giving Accelerate a sweep of Santa Anita's two richest races. He also won the $600,000 Santa Anita Handicap on March 10.
"He was riding confidently knowing his horse would get the distance," Sadler said.
Dr. Dorr and City Of Light were both trying the distance for the first time. City Of Light had beaten Accelerate in the Oaklawn Handicap on April 14 at 1 1/8 miles. This time, even though Accelerate had to carry 125 pounds, four pounds more than his two challengers, the 5-year-old son of 2010 Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky finished with a vengeance.
"He's finally clicked," Espinoza said. "He's one of the top horses right now."
Accelerate returned $5.80, $3.00 and $2.10 and his career earnings reached $1,712,480 for owner Hronis Racing. Dr. Dorr was second and City Of Light third. Next up for Accelerate is the Pacific Classic at Del Mar this summer.
In the $200,000 Charles Whittingham Stakes, Itsinthepost recorded a 1 1/4-length victory over Kenjisstorm under jockey Julien Leparoux. He was filling in for regular rider Tyler Baze, who's still recovering from a spill last week.
Trained by Jeff Mullins, the 6-year-old gelding closed in the stretch to continue his domination of local turf races. "He's by far the most consistent horse I've had, especially at the marathon distances," Mullins said. "He's just solid."
In the Grade I, $300,000 Gamely Stakes, it was a blanket three-horse finish at the wire in the 1 1/8-mile turf race. Sophie P, at odds of 15-1, won by a nose under jockey Kent Desormeaux. Madam Dancealot was second and Madame Stripes was a neck behind in third.
"That was a total nail-biter," Desormeaux said.
Even-money favorite Hawksmoor slipped at the start and almost went down before recovering but ended up fifth.
Sophie P was making her second U.S. start for trainer James Cassidy after racing in England.
Santa Anita will have another Grade 1 race on Monday with the Shoemaker Mile during a Memorial Day card.