The Breeders’ Cup World Championships did exactly what it was supposed to do this past weekend and that is crown champions. Over the long racing season that culminated in a weekend full of impressive performances, two horses stood out in my mind as they answered every question the doubters asked coming into the Breeders’ Cup.
Monomoy Girl is the epitome of class. The superstar filly has had one of those spectacular seasons that puts her alongside the all-time great 3-year-old fillies. She started her career on Sept. 5, 2017, at Indiana Grand Race Course. She showed talent when she blitzed the field of nine maiden fillies by some 3 ¼ lengths, but no one could really imagine how good she would become.
The only time this incredible filly hasn’t crossed the wire first was as a 2-year-old competing in the Golden Rod Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs. On that day she set a strong pace and battled down the stretch before lugging in and out late (something that would cost her later in her career), just being out-nodded by a nose.
After an unblemished start to her sophomore campaign with wins in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds Race Course and the Ashland Stakes (G1) at Keeneland, questions arose about her ability to stretch her speed to the nine furlong distance of the Kentucky Oaks. Breaking from the far outside under the twin spires of Churchill Downs, she put all her doubters to sleep when she battled Wonder Gadot all the way down the stretch, eventually prevailing by a half length under a jubilant Florent Geroux.
After two more Grade I wins in the Acorn Stakes and the Coaching Club American Oaks, the questions would arise again after she lugged in and out late, leading to her disqualification in the Cotillion Stakes at Parx. This time we heard the chirps of soundness. Did she peak too early? No way can she handle older horses in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
Just like she did in the Kentucky Oaks, Monomoy Girl silenced all the doubters in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. The Brad Cox-trained gallant filly stalked a quick pace from Wonder Gadot, took the lead at the top of the stretch and never looked back. Now there are those people who will say Abel Tasman wasn’t the same and that taints Monomoy Girl’s victory, but she was sensational…. It’s time we recognize her greatness!
Much like Monomoy Girl, Accelerate had several doubters himself, one being me. The son of Lookin At Lucky also only had one blemish on his resume this year, a loss in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) to eventual Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner City of Light.
Accelerate heard the chatter of “he hasn’t beaten anything in his wins” in the San Pasqual Stakes (G2), the Santa Anita Handicap (G1), the Gold Cup (G1), the Pacific Classic (G1), and the Awesome Again Stakes (G1). Then came the talk about him not being able to ship to Kentucky and win. That was a question I even had about this talented 5-year-old.
Accelerate put all that to bed this past Saturday. Breaking from the far outside (a less than ideal post), the John Sadler charge under jockey Joel Rosario made a menacing four-wide move to the lead, eventually repelling the bid of Thunder Snow and holding off the late run of Gunnevera to win the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic by a length.
In breaking John Sadler’s Breeders’ Cup winless streak, Accelerate also launched himself into the Horse of the Year conversation. He has a very strong argument. Accelerate proved in the Breeders’ Cup Classic he could ship, he could handle adversity with that poor post, and he could beat the best dirt horses in training.
In most years, winning the Triple Crown pretty much locks up the Horse of the Year award, but this is a different scenario. Justify will be only the second Triple Crown winner (Count Fleet) to never face older horses and to never race after the Belmont.
The rest of this year’s crop of 3-year-old males hasn’t exactly lit the racing world on fire, and Accelerate demolished the best of what’s left of that division in the Classic. Simply put, Accelerate deserves to be Horse of the Year!
Photo of Accelerate courtesy of Breeders’ Cup