Triple Crown winner Justify (left, Nellie Carlson photo) and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate (Matt Goins photo)

Horse of the Year will be announced Jan. 24, and it will be either Justify or Accelerate, currently in a pitched battle for honors five weeks before the winner will be revealed.

To the credit of both camps, there has been no vicious or vindictive mud slinging, personal attacks or demonizing, as is rampant 24/7 in today’s political arena, where uncorroborated allegations have become the norm.

Bob Baffert, trainer of undefeated Triple Crown winner Justify, has been benign in his recognition of the accomplishments of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate, trained by John Sadler, who received equal time Tuesday to lobby for his candidate, winner of six of seven starts this year, five of them Grade I stakes, four at a mile and a quarter.

“They are two good choices; that’s what’s really nice about it,” Sadler said. “All I can do is make the case for my horse, who achieved many remarkable achievements this year: five Grade Is, four at the classic distance of a mile and a quarter, most of the time carrying high weight (from 122 pounds to 126), which is not easy to do.

“He won the Pacific Classic by the largest margin (12 ½ lengths) by which any horse has ever won it. He won good races all year long against whatever horses they put against him. In the Breeders’ Cup Classic, he faced the best horses and beat them all (13 rivals by a length while breaking from the extreme outside 14 post position).

“Accelerate and Justify had spectacular campaigns, although Accelerate earned slightly faster speed ratings and his Ragozin numbers were excellent. I think perhaps some voters were waiting to see how the three-year-olds fared in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, so there’s a little cloud floating out there in that respect.

“It wasn’t Justify’s fault he got hurt (and was retired after winning the Belmont Stakes on June 9). That said, Accelerate’s had a wonderful career, so the voters will decide.”

Accelerate still has the Grade I, $9 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 26 as his final race before being retired to stud at Lane’s End in Versailles, Ky. The five-year-old chestnut son of Lookin At Lucky has had two breezes towards that prestigious race staged by The Stronach Group since capturing the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 4.

“We’re looking forward to the Pegasus,” Sadler said. “Accelerate will breeze five furlongs again this Saturday, and he’s right on target.”


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