Trainer Michael McCarthy spent much of the 2 1/2 hours he was at Gulfstream Park Sunday morning in the stall with William and Suzanne Warren’s City of Light, winner of Saturday’s $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1).
“I try to spend as much time as I can with him, to sit around,” McCarthy said before having to catch a flight back to California. “I’m sure by the end of the week he’s sick of me sitting here staring at him all day long.”
In his racing finale, City of Light topped his impressive victory in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) on Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs with a 5 3/4-length romp over 34-1 Seeking the Soul in the winner’s first start on a wet track. Late Sunday morning, City of Light and Accelerate, the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner who finished another 1 1/2 lengths back in third, were to load onto a Sallee horse van for the trip to Lane’s End Farm in Versailles, Ky., where both are joining the elite breeding operation’s stallion roster.
“A little bit bitter-sweet, but hopefully we get something good enough to send back to Kentucky, or go see him during the sales,” McCarthy said.
“Obviously, we’d been waiting quite a while to get to the Breeders’ Cup,” he said. “That was the plan all along, to see it through and actually have all the stars align and him show up and win a race like the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile was very exciting. This was sort of icing on the cake; $9 million is a lot of money. I’d mentioned before it really wasn’t about the money for me. It was about him and not wanting to let him down. He’d been so good to me and my family and everybody around him. I’m so appreciative of the people who helped me get to this point. Obviously the owners, but all my staff, everybody who helps look after him. To see him go out like that was phenomenal.”
Video McCarthy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKhp1hOO-9M&feature=youtu.be
As if stretching out the goodbye, McCarthy had City of Light walk for about a half-hour around the shed row, then get a bath, followed by another lengthy walk, much of it with the trainer on the shank.
McCarthy, a long-time assistant to Todd Pletcher, opened his own stable with one horse almost five years to the day of the Pegasus.
“He’s the horse of a lifetime. I don’t know what else I can say,” he said. “Unfortunately he got beat a couple of times late in the spring and in the summer, in the Forego, I thought he did everything right (when second). He’s redeemed himself.”
McCarthy acknowledged it will be tough going back to his Santa Anita barn with City of Light not being there.
“So we’ll kind of hit the ground running and try to replace him,” he said. “I don’t know that we ever can, but we’ll try to find something.”
City of Light, a son of Quality Road, concluded his career with a 6-4-1 mark in 11 races, his career bankroll exploding to $5,662,600 with the $4 million Pegasus payday.
The 5-year-old horse also ended with a 2-1 record against Accelerate, owned by Kosta and Pete Hronis. City of Light was the only one last year to defeat the champion older male while taking the 1 1/8-mile Oaklawn Park Handicap (G2) by a neck in April. Accelerate then took the 1 1/4-mile Gold Cup at Santa Anita, with City of Light third.
“I tell you what, it’s really been neat for the people in California,” McCarthy said. “To have two horses like this come back here and win Breeders’ Cup races and compete on a stage like this. We were fortunate enough yesterday to get the upper hand.
“Both horses were brilliant in the Breeders’ Cup. Accelerate, you can’t say enough about him. John Sadler did a marvelous deal, it was nice for him to get his first Breeders’ Cup. The Hronises are the Eclipse Award-winning owners, which is a tremendous feat. They put a lot of money into the game. So to be able to line up in the gate with a horse like that and actually win is pretty special.
“Like I said yesterday, it was out of body. Still pretty wild to think.”
McCarthy knew City of Light was on his game heading into America’s richest horse race. The X factor was that the 5-year-old horse had never raced on a wet track.
“In California, we don’t get the opportunity to work on racetracks like this,” he said. “We close them when the racetrack isn’t ideal in order to maintain them for the afternoon. His pedigree suggests he might like it. He’s a very athletic horse. For a big horse, he’s very nimble. When they turned up the backside, and Javier had (early leader) Patternrecognition to his inside, whether he won or was last he was in the perfect spot. It was kind of up to two of them from there.”
Sadler Feels Good about Sending Accelerate Home
John Sadler made a short stop at Gulfstream about 6 a.m. to see his champion Accelerate before the trainer had to head to the airport, also heading back to California. Sadler had Accelerate jog on the pavement, pronounced the 6-year-old horse in good shape and gave him a final pat on the neck.
“It’s like sending your kid off to college…. We’ll see him in Kentucky, so it’s not like he’s going far,” he said of Accelerate’s new home of Lane’s End Farm in Versailles, Ky. “Hopefully we’ll be back there and see him soon.”
Accelerate crafted an Eclipse Award-winning career as champion older male by settling into a stalking position early in a race, taking command on the far turn or into the stretch and drawing off to victory. That worked in his length victory in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) over Gunnevera, who finished sixth in the Pegasus. But with overnight and daylong showers creating a sloppy track that was sealed, speed was dominant throughout the day.
“It just wasn’t our day, the way things were coming up,” Sadler said. “You have to kind of rush him to even be in the race. It just wasn’t a great setup for him. I thought we’d get some rain. I don’t think anybody was predicting we’d get that much rain. I was drenched when I got home.”
Jockey Joel Rosario made a short-lived attempt to go after City of Light with a quarter of a mile to go. That effort could have cost Accelerate second, with Seeking the Soul full of steam while rallying from last to be the runner-up.
“You know you can’t let that horse slip away. He was riding to win, no doubt,” Sadler said of Rosario. “But credit to the winner. He ran a really good race. (Accelerate) is honest and always runs well. He ran a good race, but probably with different conditions, he’s going to run a little better.”
The son of LookinAt Lucky concludes his career with a 10-5-6 record out of 23 starts, earning $6,692,480. Accelerate also goes down in the record books as the first horse to win the Santa Anita Handicap (G1), the Gold Cup (G1) at Santa Anita (formerly the Hollywood Gold Cup), Del Mar’s Pacific Classic (G1) and Santa Anita’s Awesome Again (G1) and the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
“The nice thing is, he’s sound this morning, he looks good. You feel good about sending him home. He’s had a great campaign, championship year and off he’ll go to his next career,” Sadler said.
“He’s been a nice horse all along, really good at 3, 4 and 5. For him to have such a historic year last year, to (sweep) those historic races (in California). There’s only been a couple of them. So he’s a great horse, and we love him to death,” he added. “I’m looking forward to seeing some of his babies.”
Sadler also finished fourth with Breeders’ Cup Mile runner-up Catapult in the $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1). Catapult had the lead after three-quarters of a mile but weakened to fourth as Bricks and Mortar won the 1 3/16-mile race by 2 1/2 lengths over Ireland’s Magic Wand.
Sadler said Catapult came out of the race well but did experience a little bit of pulmonary hemorrhaging, known as bleeding. “So we’ll go home, give him a little rest in California and regroup,” he said. “Probably take him back in distance to a mile.”
Dubai World Cup Possible for Florida Derby winner Audible
Trainer Todd Pletcher reported Sunday morning that 2018 Florida Derby (G1) winner Audible was in good shape following his fifth-place finish from Post 10 in the Pegasus under Flavien Prat, aboard for the first time.
“He came out of the race well. I thought he ran a courageous race and kept trying to the wire. I think the 10 post compromised his chances for a little closer finish,” Pletcher said. “We couldn’t quite get the position we were wanting into the first turn and he kind of got hung out pretty much on both turns.
“Certainly wasn’t going to win or maybe even be second, but talking to Flavien afterward and watching the replay several times and kind of looking at the ground that he lost compared to some of the horses that finished in front of him, maybe with an inside draw or the ability to maneuver an inside trip I think it could have provided him with a better finish,” he added. “The winner was certainly much the best on the day, but I think Audible tried hard.”
Pletcher said the $12 million Dubai World Cup (G1) March 30 at Meydan Racecourse remains a possibility for Audible, owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International, Starlight Racing and Head of Plains Partners.
“I think we’ll give it a little time to see how he bounces out of it and talk to everyone,” he said. “Going into the race, we had mentioned Dubai as a possibility and I think that he ran well enough that that’s still on the table. The [Pegasus] first and third-place finishers are retired so that won’t hurt his chances moving forward, either. We’ll get together with all the connections after a little while and make a decision.”
Stronach Stables’ multiple graded-stakes winning millionaire Something Awesome raced in contention for six furlongs before dropping back to be 10th under Hall of Famer Edgar Prado. The 8-year-old gelding was doing well enough Sunday to return to the track for trainer Jose Corrales, who said both he and 6-year-old two-time stakes-winning stablemate Unbridled Juan will return to their home base of Maryland by the end of the week.
“Something Awesome came out very good. He ran with them. He’s an 8-year-old horse. We jogged him today and he looked fresh, so it didn’t take as much out of him as I expected,” Corrales said. “He ran good all the way into the stretch. I got excited, and then something bothered him.
“When I talked to Edgar he said when he was making the last move coming to the quarter pole, another horse bumped him a little bit and took his air out or something like that,” he added. “I was thinking he bled, the way he stopped because he shouldn’t have stopped the way he did. I was thinking we could run third. But after Edgar told me that, he said he didn’t want to keep riding because he thought the horse bled.”
Gunnevera exited his sixth-place finish in good order, said Jesus Prada, assistant to trainer Antonio Sano. A trip to Dubai is not planned for Gunnevera.
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