VICTOR ESPINOZA, ACCELERATE, WINNER: “With the rain and everything, and the way the track was playing, it kind of changed my game plan a little bit. The last mile and a quarter was tough for him, which I thought would be the case before the race, but he handled it really well actually.
“I bounced out of the gate and wanted to get right into the race. But, he’s still not quick enough to get me into a good position. We were lucky that horse to our outside, Mubtaahij, broke in front of us and a bit to his outside so we were able to move out and just start tracking.
“When I passed the wire the first time, (Accelerate) really found his rhythm. He was cruising on the outside, cruisin’ along, nice and comfortable, nothing crazy and I was just waiting and waiting until another horse came next to me. I waited to wait a little bit longer because the mile and a quarter is a little far for him but it seems like he didn’t have any problem today.
“At first he was a little confused. He wasn’t really into the race for the first twenty yards. After that, he was comfortable and he started to run his race.
“John has done an incredible job with this horse to train him race by race. I know he was disappointed with the Breeders’ Cup thinking he would run big but he had some issues during the race. He didn’t perform as well as we expected him to but he came back to win a big race, he won again and now he’s come back again to win.”
MIKE SMITH, MUBTAAHIJ, SECOND: “There’s no difference in being favored or second choice as far as how you’re going to ride the race or what you’re going to do. He ran very, very well. The winner was just double-loaded and I wasn’t going to beat him today. It was his turn. I waited to make my move a little later and hopefully get second and it worked out.”
COREY NAKATANI, GIANT EXPECTATIONS, FOURTH: “He broke so sharp. The ground broke out from underneath his hind end.”
JOHN SADLER, ACCELERATE, WINNER: “He’s had some big races. He beat Arrogate twice last year, so for him to win a Group 1 here at Santa Anita at a mile and a quarter is huge. We passed up the Pegasus and Dubai to run here at home.
“We had a nice outside post, so we were hoping to be in the clear and a little off the pace. I thought maybe Giant Expectations would go and we’d be following him. Turns out we were following the eight (Mubtaahij).
“But once Victor gets this horse in a spot, we’re feeling good all the way around because we’re clear. You don’t want to be the one eating all the mud, so he’s nice and clear and he’s tracking. We’re feeling real good at this point. We were all sitting there with our fingers crossed and biting our tongue. We don’t get a lot of very wet tracks, so it’s hard to say if your horse is going to love the surface today.
“For me, it’s as good as it gets, being a California guy . . . I’m a little suspect that he’s a mile and a quarter horse, but mud will make them go further if they’re handling the track. He got a track he could handle, obviously, so the mile and a quarter wasn’t a problem today.”
Asked about possibly one day being in the Hall of Fame: “I’m always looking ahead. I’m off tomorrow for Ocala. We’ll be looking at our two-year-olds there and with Mr. Hronis, we’re off to bigger and better things. We’re going to keep going.”
KOSTA HRONIS, ACCELERATE, WINNER: “You never know under these type of conditions how your horse will do, because it’s not California type weather. You just hope his quality will translate even in these conditions. The track seems to have gotten much wetter in the last two races. Victor said before the races that it’s fine as long as it keeps raining. He said it’s usually when it stops that then, two races later it’s a mess. He said ‘don’t worry. We’re going to be fine.’
“Last time I said I’d rather go a mile and a quarter instead of a mile because I just don’t think he’s built for a mile. In his last race he proved he can settle and he can be quiet. He showed his maturity and today he showed that next step.
“He didn’t break great, but he hasn’t been breaking well lately. We had a good post out in seven and didn’t get bogged down like we did last time. Victor was able to work out a trip and keep him pretty clean and I think that was the key. He made a move down the backside, wanted to get him in the race and take over, and that’s what he did. It was a great ride by Victor. John and Victor strategized and it was a perfect idea of what they were going to do.
“The (Breeders’ Cup) Dirt Mile was tough. He had a quarter crack and he came back bad. That’s horse racing though. You just never know.
“I’m happy for John Sadler, this is a special day for him. It was great. To win the Handicap, it’s a big deal. He’s a local guy…This is a very special day for the Hronis family too. It’s special for us to be a part of John’s victories. We’re his biggest cheerleaders.”
NOTES: This was the first Big Cap win with his 10th runner for Sadler, who was born in Long Beach and resides in Pasadena. The winning owners are Kosta and Peter Hronis. Today’s on track attendance was 17,377.
Bobby Flay, world renowned chef, restaurateur, and television personality, presents the trophy to owner Kosta Hronis.