Accelerate was impressive but he’s no Justify

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Accelerate, based in California and trained by John Sadler, had a campaign that would make him the logical Eclipse Award winner for Horse of the Year in almost any year.

Accelerate won six of his seven 2018 starts and was beaten just a neck in his only defeat. He won the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs, the Grade I Pacific Classic at Del Mar, the Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita, and the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap – all at the championship distance of 10 furlongs. He earned over $5 million in 2018 alone.

So why isn’t Accelerate a slam dunk to be named Horse of the Year at the annual Eclipse Awards dinner Thursday January 24 at Gulfstream Park? Because three-year-old Justify made history in 2018.

Unraced at the start of 2018, Justify announced his presence with a dominant maiden win on February 18 at Santa Anita, earning a lofty 104 Beyer Speed Figure in the process. In the less than four months that followed, the Bob Baffert-trained Justify:

• Won the Kentucky Derby in just his fourth career start, becoming the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby without having started as a two-year-old.

• Won the Preakness Stakes just two weeks after the Kentucky Derby despite suffering a foot bruise in his Derby victory.

• Won the Belmont Stakes on June 9, his sixth career win over four different tracks in four different states. In the process, he became the first Triple Crown winner in history to have never started as a two-year-old.

• Justify was retired last summer due to a minor ankle injury when it was determined there would not be enough time to make it back for the Breeders’ Cup in November. There are skeptics that will hold the short four-month campaign of Justify against him, saying the Horse of the Year should be awarded based on a full year of excellence.

• Those same skeptics will also point out that Justify never beat older horses, and that the three-year-olds he did beat have since been a disappointment when it comes to winning major races.

• On the other hand, I am not sure we ever saw Justify at his very best. Baffert was forced to pack a lot of racing and travelling into a very short period and Baffert did an amazing job just to get Justify to start in the Preakness, much less win it.

• With time to recover from his grueling schedule, I think Justify would have grown even more into his large frame and would have been a four-year-old for the ages.

• If American Pharoah had not won the Triple Crown in 2015, Justify would have become the first horse to win a Triple Crown since Affirmed 40 years before in 1978. If that was the case, there would not even be a discussion as to who the 2018 Horse of the Year would be.

• Twenty years from now, I will probably not remember that Accelerate was the champion older male of 2018.  But I guarantee you I will remember Justify won the Triple Crown the same year.

• Justify is the 2018 Horse of the Year. 

Spotlight on
Fair Grounds

There are six stakes on the 14-race card at Fair Grounds in Louisiana this Saturday, including the Grade III Lecomte Stakes for three-year-olds trying to get on the Kentucky Derby trail.

Here is a look at the six stakes races in the order they will be run on Saturday, with a 90 percent chance of rain in the forecast:

$75,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial: If this race comes off the turf, America’s Tale has won three straight and is unbeaten on wet tracks. If it stays on the grass, Hanalei Moon is improving and likes turf less than firm.

$75,000 Louisiana Stakes: Course specialist Honorable Duty runs very well fresh and gets easiest chance in a long time. His biggest concern will be track condition, since he has never won in the slop. A wet track helps the chances of Phat Man.

$125,000 Colonel E. R. Bradley Handicap: Great Wide Open comes off two wire-to-wire wins on the Fair Grounds turf and will take plenty of catching should the race stay on grass. First Premio may be the one to fear most. Pioneer Spirit and Silver Dust benefit if the race ends up on the main track.

$150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes: Plenty of lightly-raced, high potential fillies in here, but Liora was extra game winning the Grade II Golden Rod at Churchill in the slop and is unbeaten around two turns. That experience makes her the one to beat.

Grade III $200,000 Lecomte Stakes: Trip will mean everything in this 14-horse field of 3-year-olds. A fast pace seems likely, so look for Plus Que Parfait and Roiland to come flying late with some racing luck down the long Fair Grounds stretch.

$75,000 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes: Wynn Time has already won Stakes for older sprinters on dirt and turf at the meet.  He loves a wet track, too, and should get a nice trip from outside post.

Lindo Report Play for Gaming Today: Santa Anita Friday Race 2 – Sass Machine (No. 4). Track condition is a question mark as of press time with much rain forecast in So Cal this week, but Sass Machine earned her maiden win over a track rated “good” and being by Kentucky Derby winner Orb she should relish a route of ground. She galloped out last time like she is ready to stretch out and win now. 

 

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About the Author

Jon Lindo

Jon Lindo is a syndicated handicapper, long-time thoroughbred owner, and publisher of the Lindo Report. Jon is also a regular contributor to Race Day Las Vegas Radio show on KSHP 1400 in Las Vegas and Thoroughbred Los Angeles Radio show, heard in Las Vegas at thoroughbredla.com.

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