Justify Vs. Accelerate: Horse Of The Year Debate Heats Up After Breeders' Cup - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Justify Vs. Accelerate: Horse Of The Year Debate Heats Up After Breeders’ Cup

Accelerate (Lookin At Lucky) wins the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on 11.03.2018. Joel Rosario up, John Sadler trainer Hronis Racing owners

While Accelerate did nothing but enhance his chances of being named Horse of the Year by winning the Breeders' Cup Classic yesterday, Justify, only the second undefeated Triple Crown winner in the annals of racing, was a precarious leader in the clubhouse.

Meanwhile, the jury is out until the decision is announced on January 24 at Gulfstream Park in Florida.

It boils down to this: will the voters adhere to a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately dictum and bestow honors upon Accelerate, who won five Grade I races this year, all but the Classic in Southern California, losing his only other venture out of the Golden State to City of Light at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, or opt for perfection in Justify, whose career was aborted due to injury after capturing the final jewel in the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes on June 9?

Brian Beach understandably could be somewhat ambivalent and vacillate on the issue. He is the agent for Victor Espinoza, who captured the 2015 Triple Crown aboard American Pharoah for trainer Bob Baffert, and who was the regular rider of Accelerate before being injured in a training mishap at Del Mar in July.

“My heart would be with Accelerate,” said Beach, who also represents Victor's nephew, promising apprentice Assael Espinoza. “It has something to do with the fact that Justify's Triple Crown came on the heels of American Pharoah's, so I guess it doesn't register as much impact.

“But Accelerate did something special as well, winning all the Grade I's on the West Coast and beating the best the east had to offer at the end of the year. The amazing thing about Accelerate is how he matured.

“At one time, a mile and a quarter wasn't really considered his best distance, and he needed to have a certain trip in the race, but he's overcome all that and is actually better at a mile and a quarter now, and the trip isn't as important.

“He can be on the lead, he can sit off it, he can be inside, he can be outside, so from an insider's point of view, he's really come a long way. The owners (Kosta and Peter Hronis) have had the patience to keep him in training, while (trainer) John (Sadler) and his team have developed him to where he is.”

Neil Drysdale, with a Kentucky Derby winner (Fusaichi Pegasus), a Breeders' Cup Classic winner and Horse of the Year (A.P. Indy) on his Hall of Fame resume, chose to walk the politically correct line.

“I would abstain from voting,” Drysdale said with a hearty laugh on a glorious Sunday morning at Santa Anita, where streaks of pink and blue mingled in a tranquil powder blue sky above the majestic San Gabriel Mountains. “I'm going to do a 'no comment' on that one.”

John Shirreffs, who won the Kentucky Derby with 50-1 shot Giacomo in 2005, trained the fabled female Zenyatta to an “un-be-liev-a-ble” Breeders' Cup Classic triumph in 2009 in addition to Horse of the Year honors in 2010, wore his diplomat's vest.

“We had a Triple Crown winner three years ago,” he said, “and that was the first time in 37 years (since Affirmed in 1978), so that sort of took some of the luster off of Justify's achievement–not a lot, just a little bit.

“Accelerate ran against all ages, but for me it's a real tossup. Justify never ran against older horses, even though he couldn't because he got hurt, but still, he didn't do it.

“I don't think you can penalize Accelerate for that, but by the same token, you can't penalize Justify, either.”

And the beat goes on.

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