A few weeks ago, during a break from work, Kosta Hronis took out his iPad and called up a replay of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. As Accelerate hit the Churchill Downs finish line a length in front of Gunnevera, Hronis, who owned Accelerate with his brother Peter, couldn’t get help but still get emotional.
“Tears rolled down my face, I get so emotional,” Hronis said. “It was just such a thrill. I always look at the Breeders’ Cup as the Super Bowl of racing and the Breeders’ Cup Classic is the World Series within the Super Bowl. I don’t know about the Triple Crown - I know it’s a big deal to the public - but as a horse owner the pinnacle of the sport is the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
On November 2nd, at Santa Anita, Kosta and Peter Hronis will try to go for a rare Classic repeat with a different horse. While Accelerate is enjoying the life of luxury as a stallion at Lane’s End Farm in Lexington, Kentucky, the Hronis brothers will send out HIGHER POWER, a horse they only acquired in April.
In August, Higher Power, a son of Medaglia, won the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar, the same race Accelerate won in 2018 to earn his way into the Classic. While Accelerate won the Grade 1 Awesome Again at Santa Anita before the Breeders’ Cup, Higher Power had to settle for third in the Awesome Again after stumbling at the start.
“He fell out of the gate,” Hronis said. “We lost the battle and we’re now focused on the war.”
Watch the 2019 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd November.
Higher Power has been quite the find for Hronis Racing and their trainer John Sadler. A winner of 3 of 10 starts, Higher Power was consigned to the April sale at Keeneland. His former trainer, Michael Stidham, rang Sadler to suggest he look at the horse at auction. Sadler and David Ingordo, a bloodstock agent that Sadler and Hronis use, looked at the horse and liked him. He was purchased for $250,000.
“I prefer racehorses over potential race horses any day,” Hronis said. “They go right to the track and start racing.”
With horses like Gift Box and Catalina Cruiser set for the summer and fall route dirt stakes, Hronis and Sadler directed Higher Power to the turf. He had a win and a second from two starts. When Gift Box came up with a physical issue and the decision was made to shorten Catalina Cruiser in distance, Higher Power was given a shot in the Pacific Classic, which he won by 5 1-4 lengths.
“What a thrill to win the Pacific Classic back-to-back,” Hronis said. “Before the Breeders’ Cup, the Pacific Classic was the greatest victory of Hronis Racing’s career. It was definitely a wow moment. We really have to appreciate these moments; we get spoiled going back-to-back.”
Kosta and Peter Hronis operate a Table Grapes and Citrus farm in Delano, California. Frequent visitors to Santa Anita, the Hronis brothers fell in love with racing and bought their first horse in 2010.
“In our 20s, me and my brother got box seats to watch the races and handicap,” Kosta Hronis said. “We thought we knew a lot about horse racing til we bought a horse and realized we knew nothing.”
They’ve learned fast.
They gradually built their stable and enjoyed success with runners like Lady Shamrock, Hard Aces, Stellar Wind and Iotapa and now have more than 60 horses in training. Last year, Accelerate’s 6 for 7 campaign - which included five Grade 1 stakes - was the catalyst for the Hronis brothers to be awarded the Eclipse Award for North America’s leading owner.
Before Accelerate won the Classic, Hronis Racing had started 13 horses in the Breeders’ Cup with Stellar Wind’s close second in the 2015 Distaff their best finish. Moreover, John Sadler, the trainer for Hronis, had been winless with 44 previous Breeders’ Cup starters.
In 2017, Accelerate was highly regarded for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, but he finished ninth of 10 and emerged from the race with an injury. Last year, CATALINA CRUISER was the odds-on favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and he finished sixth of nine, beaten 17 1-2 lengths. That remains the only loss for Catalina Cruiser in eight career starts.
This year, Catalina Cruiser has won a trio of Grade 2 stakes including the Grade 2 Pat O’Brien at Del Mar. He was being considered for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile but will line-up in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
Hronis said he left that decision entirely up to Sadler.
“I’ve gave him zero input,” Hronis said. “I’m let him make that call all by himself.”
Hronis Racing will have a third horse in this year’s Breeders’ Cup. ENCODER, a son of English Channel, is expected to run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.
A potential fourth Breeders’ Cup horse would have been Cistron for the Sprint. But a pelvis injury sidelined him for the remainder of this year. Hronis anticipates him being back next year, giving him and his brother already something to forward to in 2020.