Accelerate dominated the Breeders Cup Classic with a devastating turn of foot around the final turn. In doing so, he cemented himself as the top handicap horse in the country. He also did something nobody thought was possible — challenge Triple Crown winner Justify for Horse of the Year.
The debate began right after Accelerate crossed the finish line at Churchill Downs last Saturday. Yes, Justify was a monster who won six races against three year old’s, winning the Triple Crown with a tightly contested win in the Belmont Stakes. But the question needs to be asked. Is winning against your own age group more impressive than winning five Grade 1 Handicap races in the same year? Let the argument start.
Justify is as deserving champion as we have seen in some time. While American Pharoah broke the Triple Crown curse, Justify shattered it with devastating domination. A natural combination of speed and power, the chestnut colt dominated his competition and, essentially, made the Triple Crown a foregone conclusion. I don’t think anyone in racing believed there was a three year old who could beat Bob Baffert and Justify.
Accelerate, also based in California right along the Triple Crown winner, has had a year for the ages. In addition to the Santa Anita Handicap and the Pacific Classic, the John Sadler-trained colt has been a model of consistency in winning the biggest races on the biggest stages. His lone loss the last two years, in the Oaklawn Handicap, was to what is now one of the most impressive horses of his generation, City of Light, another Breeders Cup champion. He won five Grade 1 races in this year alone, which makes this debate not only viable, it makes Accelerate winning Horse of the Year very plausible.
Accelerate’s performance in the Breeders Cup Classic definitely accelerated the argument. Getting a wide trip and having plenty of trouble, Sadler’s charge did just that — charge down the stretch to put them away in impressive fashion. On the surface, it was a big win. Taking a closer look, there is no question the best horse won.
Two great horses. Two great champions. Let the debate begin.