Time to Revisit Handicap Division After Catalina Cruiser’s Win

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D.S. Williamson

July 23rd, 2018

Accelerate was supposed to blow out his competition in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap this past Saturday at Del Mar. That didn't happen. Not because Accelerate didn't perform to his best. It didn't happen because Accelerate didn't perform at all.

Like Curlin Rules, El Hurefano, Sharp Samurai, and Prince of Arabia, Accelerate scratched from the San Diego Handicap. It makes sense why. John Sadler trains both Accelerate as well as the horse that ended up winning the San Diego, Catalina Cruiser.

Catalina Cruiser's win was so impressive that I think it's necessary to reevaluate the handicap division.

Top 4 Handicap Horses Heading into August

1. Catalina Cruiser

Sure, he only beat 4 other horses in the San Diego. Still, he ran the first quarter-mile in :23.07. He got the half in :47.20. That means he relaxed beautifully in the second quarter-mile. The way he pulled away implies that he should be taken seriously as one of the top handicap horses in the United States.

Sired by Union Rags, there's no reason to believe this undefeated handicap horse doesn't improve enough to be a real threat in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

2. West Coast

By the time Gun Runner won the Pegasus World Cup in January, he had become one of the top handicap horses of all time. West Coast managed to finish second to Gun Runner. It was a spirited effort. The Bob Baffert followed up that effort with another spirited second in the Dubai World Cup.

Bob's done the right thing by keeping West Coast on the bench until the fall. One prep and then a run in the Breeders' Cup Classic is what Baffert's thinking. That could work to perfection.

3. Accelerate

At the top of the stretch in the Hollywood Gold Cup, it looked like City of Light, the 6/5 favorite, might run right by Dr. Dorr and win the Gold Cup. Instead of City of Light running by Dr. Door, Accelerate ran by both of them.

Accelerate is much better this year than he was last year. That makes him a legit contender to win the BC Classic.

4. Pavel

Pavel didn't fire in the Hollywood Gold Cup. Trainer Doug O'Neil didn't get discouraged. Instead of throwing in the towel with Pavel, he sent Pavel to the Stephen Foster Handicap. Pavel responded beautifully with a stunning beat down of his opponents in the Stephen Foster. It was one of the most impressive wins from a handicap horse this year.

The Breeders' Cup takes place at Churchill Downs. Pavel's proven he can excel over the track. O'Neil might have himself the horse to beat come BC time.