Accelerate can spring a surprise in Santa Anita Gold Cup

Santa Anita Park presents the Grade I, $500,000 Santa Anita Gold Cup this Saturday. Eight handicap horses will try their luck at 1 1/4 miles on the main oval. The Gold Cup goes as race eight on a nine-race card, with post time estimated for 7:30 p.m. EST. Be sure to take part in FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game all weekend long!

#5 MIDNIGHT STORM (5-2, morning-line favorite) seeks his first Grade I win on dirt (he already has one on turf). He had an ideal journey in a similar spot, the Santa Anita Handicap, two-back but couldn’t hold off Shaman Ghost. He shipped to Arkansas after that for the Oaklawn Handicap and ran a disappointing third at short odds. Now he’ll have his third jockey in his last three starts (Flavien Prat), as both Mike Smith and Rafael Bejarano land elsewhere. With the pace likely to be swifter today owing to the presence of #1 AMERICAN FREEDOM, #4 PRIME ATTRACTION, and #6 CUPID, MIDNIGHT STORM appears to be a bad bet on top in the Santa Anita Gold Cup.

#8 ACCELERATE (4-1) is an appealing upset candidate stretching out to ten furlongs. He is certainly bred to handle the distance being by Lookin At Lucky out of an Awesome Again mare. He’s 0-for-3 this year and 0-for-6 at Santa Anita (albeit with five ITM finishes) but has put up some very fast speed figures under Tyler Baze. He projects to sit an ideal trip just behind the speeds before pouncing in the stretch.

#2 FOLLOW ME CREV (4-1) is also a threat from off the pace under Kent Desormeaux. After acing his comeback race last February he was unable to take advantage of a ground-saving trip in the Santa Anita Handicap, checking in third. He then ran second to Collected, who backed out of this spot at the last minute, in the Californian. FOLLOW ME CREV may have to run a lifetime best to win this, but if the pace completely melts down, he should be in the picture late.

The play: $3 exacta box 2/5/8 ($18)

DFJ analysis: Flavien Prat is unsurprisingly set up for another strong Saturday performance. He rides in five of the program’s nine races but has a quality mount each time. Acker (7-2) could kick his day off with a win in Race 4, a maiden event. Then he’ll ride Avenge, the 2-1 second-choice, in the Grade I Gamely (Race 5). Before climbing aboard MIDNIGHT STORM in the Gold Cup, Prat will pilot favored Illuminant (9-5) in the Monrovia Stakes.

Follow me on Twitter: @itsgood2beking