A field of six is set to contest this year’s running of the Grade 1, $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita Park. The race serves as a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” event for the Classic on November 3 at Churchill Downs. Headlining this year’s event is Accelerate, who has taken the racing world by storm with four wins in five starts in 2018. He swept Southern California’s three biggest Grade 1s: the Santa Anita Handicap, the Gold Cup at Santa Anita, and the Pacific Classic. Not only did he win, but he dominated them all by open lengths. Those performances have some believing that he could overtake Justify for Horse of the Year honors at season’s end. He will break from post 6 with Joel Rosario aboard.
National TV coverage of the Awesome Again Stakes will be shown live on the NBC Sports Network. Coverage of the race will begin at 7:00 PM ET.
The winner of the Awesome Again will receive an automatic position in the Breeders’ Cup Classic this fall at Churchill Downs. Pre-entry and entry fees will be paid and a nominator award of $10,000 will be given to the person who nominated the foal or racehorse. Also, all Breeders’ Cup starters based outside of the state of Kentucky will receive a travel allowance of $10,000 if based in North America and $40,000 if based internationally.
The Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes shares the Saturday card at Santa Anita Park with three other Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” events: the Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes (Sentient Jet Juvenile), the Grade 1 Chandelier Stakes (Tito’s Handmade Vodka Juvenile Fillies), and the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive Stakes (Maker’s Mark Filly & Mare Turf). The North American-based Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” events return on Friday, October 5 at Keeneland, and continue through the weekend at Keeneland, Belmont, and Santa Anita.
The full field from the rail out includes: Shades of Victory, Isotherm, Prime Attraction, The Lieutenant, West Coast, and Accelerate.
#6 Accelerate – He has been nearly flawless this year, with his California performances being completely unbeatable. Santa Anita has been his personal playground in 2018, and on paper, he looks like a strong favorite in his final stepping stone to the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
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#5 West Coast – The most intriguing horse in the field, he won the Grade 1 Travers Stakesand the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby, then was a solid third in the Breeders’ Cup Classicto round out a great 3-year-old campaign. This year, he started off well once again with solid runner-up finishes in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cupand the Group 1 Dubai World Cup, but he has not been seen since that runner-up effort in March. His workouts suggest that he is doing very well leading up to this race, and trainer Bob Baffert is trying to get him back to top form, but you never know if he will be up for the challenge until he actually runs in a race. If he comes back as strong as when he left, then this horse could make a major impact at the Breeders’ Cup.
#3 Prime Attraction – He is no stranger to races of this magnitude. For the last two years, he has taken on the best that California has had to offer in the handicap division. Last year, he took home the Grade 3 Native Diver Stakesat Del Mar for the biggest win of his career. This year, he has hit the board in three of four starts but has failed to win. He was third last time out in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic.
#4 The Lieutenant – After struggling to begin 2018, The Lieutenant has found some decent form lately and enters this race doing very well. Three races back, he took home his first graded stakes victory with a win in the Grade 3 All Americanat Golden Gate Fields. What followed was the best race of his career – a second in the Grade 2 Suburban Stakesat Belmont Park behind the highly-regarded Diversify. Most recently, he was a disappointing sixth in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic, so he must rebound here in order to have a shot.
#2 Isotherm –It’s always difficult predicting where this horse will show up. He switches between turf and dirt often, running decently on both, and here he finds a soft field for a Grade 1 dirt event. Last time out in the Harry F. Brubaker Stakes, he was second on the dirt to the Bob Baffert-trained Dabster, beaten by only 1 1/2 lengths. That race was at a mile, which could serve as a decent prep for this event, as he excels at longer distances.
#1 Shades of Victory – This 4-year-old California-bred tried stakes company for the first time in his last race, the E.B. Johnston at Los Alamitos, where he was victorious by a head at an eye-popping 80-1. His connections will see if lightning can strike twice while he moves up in class. We’ll see if this improbable winner can work his magic once more.