Full disclosure: I felt Blame was robbed of the Horse of the Year title in 2010 when voters gave it to Zenyatta. To me, it was a no-brainer. But too many others didn’t agree. I bring this up so that the opinion expressed below can be read with additional context.
This year, the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year should go to Accelerate. And I feel this way for two reasons.
Accelerate was the best horse on the track this year, and his body of work, including the races he won and the competition he defeated, is more impressive than Justify’s. The fact that Justify was the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby without having raced at age 2 since 1492 or whenever is completely irrelevant. Would Justify somehow be LESS deserving of HOTY if a different horse had done the same thing in 1957, or 2017? Of course not. What is also not relevant is that Justify won six races in a short period of time. Other horses have done that before, and did so against better competition. No, they didn’t win the Triple Crown in the process. But my point is that the central argument in favor of Justify winning HOTY over Accelerate seems to be that he accomplished something few have accomplished before him. And while inherent within that fact is a certain understood acceptance of his talent, anyone making this argument in favor of Justify is relying too heavily on failures of racehorses from past generations. One does not need to make such arguments when making their case for Accelerate. His 2018 campaign stands on its own merits, with his lone narrow defeat coming to a horse who won multiple Grade 1s during the year, including a dominating win in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.
Justify was prematurely retired in an effort to protect his value as a stallion, while word on the street is that Accelerate will race at least once more. And while I don’t feel like year-end awards should be used to send messages to owners, if you happen to feel both Justify and Accelerate are equally deserving of HOTY, this fact can and should be used to break the tie.
I don’t have an Eclipse Award vote. So I will have virtually zero impact on how the race for Horse of the Year is ultimately decided. However, I have decided to do my best to fight for Accelerate. And to that end, I am going to ask everyone on social media who agrees with me to use the hashtag #YouCantJustify when posting about this topic.