Is Pegasus World Cup Favorite Accelerate Past His Peak?

In a column for Horseracing Nation, Reinier Macatangay argued that Accelerate, the morning line favorite in this weekend’s $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1), was “not in his best form.”

“…when Accelerate starts in the Grade 1, $9 million Pegasus World Cup on Saturday at Gulfstream Park, I’ll question whether he can offer another monster effort, as his speed figures declined toward the end of his 2018 campaign,” Macatangay wrote.

The author used the TimeformUS speed/performance figures to make his case and, not surprisingly, got some pushback from a few readers:

Cugel

Look, take it from Derek the Delightful, but speed figures do matter. If they didn’t, the Mexican invader Kukulkan, who is a perfect 14-for-14 in his racing career and has won his last three starts by double-digit margins, would be 3-1 instead of 30-1 on the morning line. But when your last race — over the same track and at the same distance as Saturday’s World Cup — is timed in 1:54-4/5 (Gun Runner won the 2018 edition of the Pegasus World Cup in 1:47-2/5), your not going to get anybody’s pulse racing. Heck, I doubt that time got Kukulkan’s pulse racing!

So does Macatangay have a point? Is Accelerate past his prime?

I think the simple answer is yes — but I don’t draw that conclusion solely on the basis of speed figures, which, frankly, are inconclusive.  Two other things bother me about the Pegasus favorite:

  1. His pace figures (specifically, his late speed rations).
  2. His age.

Let’s start with the former. As I’ve noted in the past, I’m a big fan of my LSRs because, by measuring late energy disbursement, they also — to a certain degree — measure form. Deteriorating LSRs are almost never a good sign.

Remember Arrogate?

After recording a series of excellent LSRs, culminated by a career-best +2 in his spectacular Dubai World Cup win, Bob Baffert’s superstar earned a lifetime-low (and very poor) -18 LSR in the San Diego Handicap (where he was beaten by — guess who? — Accelerate, who recorded an excellent figure of -3, I might add).

Arrogate-speed-rations

Now the shoe is on the other foot, as Accelerate enters the Pegasus after earning uncharacteristic mediocre numbers in back-to-back starts. Even though he won both of those contests — and he expended more energy early than usual — the declining numbers are still not a great sign.

Accelerate

Then there’s the age factor.

Unless your name is Tom Brady, Father Time has a way of leveling the playing field. And, at six years old, Accelerate is clearly past the prime racing age, which, in a 2010 academic study, professor-turned-tournament-player Marshall Gramm determined was between 4 ¼ to 4 ½ years old for thoroughbreds on the flat.

Accelerate is 5.7 years old.

Racing-Age-Marshall-Gramm

From “The Effect of Age on Thoroughbred Racing Performance” by Marshall Gramm and Ryne Marksteiner.

Based on Gramm’s findings, this means the son of Lookin at Lucky is potentially a length slower than he was when he won the Pacific Classic (G1). (I say “potentially” because we’re dealing with averages here, not universal truths.)

Of course, none of this means that Accelerate can’t — or won’t — win the Pegasus World Cup Invitational, but it does, I hope, provide some food for thought. Accelerate and City of Light are sure to dominate the betting on Saturday, so finding flaws with either favorite could certainly pay off at the windows.

Derek Simon
Derek Simon is the Senior Editor and Handicapper at US Racing.