HORSE OF THE YEAR 2018: IS IT JUSTIFY OR ACCELERATE?
FIVE SO CAL-BASED HORSES TASTE BREEDERS’ CUP GLORY
MANDATORY RAINBOW PICK SIX COULD SURPASS $7 MILLION
TOP JOCK ROSARIO COMING WEST FOR THE WINTER MEET
JOCKEY AND TRAINER TITLES MAY GO DOWN TO THE WIRE
JUSTIFY, ACCELERATE VIE FOR HORSE OF THE YEAR
While Accelerate did nothing but enhance his chances of being named Horse of the Year by winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic yesterday, Justify, only the second undefeated Triple Crown winner in the annals of racing, was a precarious leader in the clubhouse.
Meanwhile, the jury is out until the decision is announced on January 24 at Gulfstream Park in Florida.
It boils down to this: will the voters adhere to a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately dictum and bestow honors upon Accelerate, who won five Grade I races this year, all but the Classic in Southern California, losing his only other venture out of the Golden State to City of Light at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, or opt for perfection in Justify, whose career was aborted due to injury after capturing the final jewel in the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes on June 9?
Brian Beach understandably could be somewhat ambivalent and vacillate on the issue. He is the agent for Victor Espinoza, who captured the 2015 Triple Crown aboard American Pharoah for trainer Bob Baffert, and who was the regular rider of Accelerate before being injured in a training mishap at Del Mar in July.
“My heart would be with Accelerate,” said Beach, who also represents Victor’s nephew, promising apprentice Assael Espinoza. “It has something to do with the fact that Justify’s Triple Crown came on the heels of American Pharoah’s, so I guess it doesn’t register as much impact.
“But Accelerate did something special as well, winning all the Grade I’s on the West Coast and beating the best the east had to offer at the end of the year. The amazing thing about Accelerate is how he matured.
“At one time, a mile and a quarter wasn’t really considered his best distance, and he needed to have a certain trip in the race, but he’s overcome all that and is actually better at a mile and a quarter now, and the trip isn’t as important.
“He can be on the lead, he can sit off it, he can be inside, he can be outside, so from an insider’s point of view, he’s really come a long way. The owners (Kosta and Peter Hronis) have had the patience to keep him in training, while (trainer) John (Sadler) and his team have developed him to where he is.”
Neil Drysdale, with a Kentucky Derby winner (Fusaichi Pegasus), a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and Horse of the Year (A.P. Indy) on his Hall of Fame resume, chose to walk the politically correct line.
“I would abstain from voting,” Drysdale said with a hearty laugh on a glorious Sunday morning at Santa Anita, where streaks of pink and blue mingled in a tranquil powder blue sky above the majestic San Gabriel Mountains. “I’m going to do a ‘no comment’ on that one.”
John Shirreffs, who won the Kentucky Derby with 50-1 shot Giacomo in 2005, trained the fabled female Zenyatta to an “un-be-liev-a-ble” Breeders’ Cup Classic triumph in 2009 in addition to Horse of the Year honors in 2010, wore his diplomat’s vest.
“We had a Triple Crown winner three years ago,” he said, “and that was the first time in 37 years (since Affirmed in 1978), so that sort of took some of the luster off of Justify’s achievement–not a lot, just a little bit.
“Accelerate ran against all ages, but for me it’s a real tossup. Justify never ran against older horses, even though he couldn’t because he got hurt, but still, he didn’t do it.
“I don’t think you can penalize Accelerate for that, but by the same token, you can’t penalize Justify, either.”
And the beat goes on.
ACCELERATE HEADS FIVE-WIN SCOREBOARD FOR SO CAL-BASED HORSES
In a remarkable achievement, five Southern California-based horses were victorious over the course of the two-day Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs.
On Friday, Gary and Mary West’s Game Winner, trained by Bob Baffert, overcame considerable adversity to win the Grade I, $2 million Juvenile under Joel Rosario. A 4 ½ length winner of the Grade I American Pharoah Stakes here on Sept. 29, the Santa Anita-based colt by Candy Ride took the Grade I Del Futurity on Sept. 3 and was a first-out maiden winner at Del Mar Aug. 18.
On Saturday, trainer Peter Miller pulled off a year-to-year double for the ages, as Stormy Liberal and Roy H each won their respective races, the Turf Sprint and the Sprint, for the second year in a row while based at San Luis Rey Downs.
Owned by Gary Hartunian’s Rockingham Ranch and David Bernsen, LLC, Stormy Liberal took a couple of turf sprints this past summer at Del Mar and he used Santa Anita’s Grade III Eddie D Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs down the hillside turf course as his final prep for yesterday’s win with Drayden Van Dyke up.
Roy H, also owned by Rockingham Ranch and Bernsen, used the Grade I Santa Anita Sprint Championship as his springboard to Breeders’ Cup Glory–Take 2, with Paco Lopez aboard.
A graduate of Arcadia High School and a longtime assistant to Todd Pletcher, Michael McCarthy (formerly Whitey) sent Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren’s City of Light out to win yesterday’s Grade I, $1 million Dirt Mile under Javier Castellano. A winner of last December’s Grade I Malibu Stakes, Santa Anita-based City of Light capped a tremendous year that also included victories in the Grade I Triple Bend Stakes here on March 10 and the Grade II Oaklawn Handicap on April 14.
The 35th Breeders’ Cup World Championships drew to a crescendo yesterday with Hronis Racing’s Accelerate winning the $6 million Classic under Joel Rosario, his fifth Grade I victory of 2018. With Sadler at the controls, the Santa Anita-based five-year-old full horse by Lookin At Lucky won six out of his seven starts this year; the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes here on Feb. 3, the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on March 10, the Gold Cup at Santa Anita May 26, the Pacific Classic at Del Mar Aug.16, and most recently, the Grade I Awesome Again Stakes here on Sept. 29.
CLOSING DAY RAINBOW PICK SIX ‘LIVE MONEY’ POOL COULD EXCEED $7 MILLION
With a mandatory payout in place and a “live money” carryover of $1,143,194 setting Santa Anita’s pari-mutuel table, it is expected today’s 20 cent Rainbow Pick Six Jackpot could exceed $7 million by fifth race post time, which is set at 1:20 p.m. PT.
Wildly popular at Gulfstream Park in Florida for several years, Santa Anita instituted the 20 cent Single Ticket Rainbow Pick Six Jackpot on opening day of its 22-day Autumn Meet Sept. 28 and the results have been solid, with consistently big payoffs during the five-week run.
With $351,020 in “new” money wagered Saturday, the Rainbow Pick Six pool totaled $1,413,849, which resulted in 142 tickets with six winners, each worth $1,321.60.
CATCH XBTV’ IN-DEPTH VIDEO COVERAGE OF TODAY’S PICK 6 BELOW:
- PREVIEW OF THE SEQUENCE
- RACE 5
- RACE 6
- RACE 7
- RACE 8
- RACE 9
- RACE 10
- AARON VERCRUYSSE’S TOP PICK
- JEFF SIEGEL’S TOP PICK
ANDERSON CONFIRMS IT’S ‘WESTWARD HO’ FOR ROSARIO
Super agent Ron Anderson confirmed via text this morning that eastern-based Joel Rosario will shift his tack full-time to Santa Anita, beginning Dec. 26, opening day of the track’s Winter Meet.
“To clarify, Joel will be there for the Winter (Meet) starting Dec. 26,” said Anderson. “Keeneland after that. Kind of what we did with Garrett Gomez.”
Rosario, regarded as one of the strongest finishers in racing, comes off a huge weekend at Churchill Downs, beginning on Friday when he won both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies, with Bob Baffert’s Game Winner and the John Servis-trained Jaywalk. His crowning achievement came yesterday, as he guided Accelerate to victory in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.
A winner of nine Breeders’ Cup races over his career, the 33-year-old native of the Dominican Republic completed a rare double in 2013 when he won the Dubai World Cup with the Graham Motion-trained Animal Kingdom and then won the Kentucky Derby with the Shug McGaughey-conditioned Orb.
Among the top six money earning riders in America for nine consecutive years dating back to 2009, Rosario, who was formerly based in the San Francisco Bay area and here in Southern California, joined Hall of Famers Bill Shoemaker, Laffit Pincay, Jr. and Kent Desormeaux when he won six races in one day at Hollywood Park on Dec. 11, 2009.
FINISH LINES: Going into the final day of the 22-day Autumn Meet, the race for leading jockey and trainer were thisclose. Flavien Prat leads surging Rafael Bejarano by one win, 18-17, while Peter Miller, Jerry Hollendorfer and Doug O’Neill stood at 15, 14 and 13 victories, respectively . . . Mike Smith missed his engagements at Santa Anita today due to travel delays from Kentucky . . .The brothers Fuentes, journeyman Ruben, 21, and seven-pound apprentice Luis, 18, finished one-two in Saturday’s second race on Staythirstymyamigo ($6 to win) and 32-1 shot Discrete Stevie B ($24.60 to place), forming a $60.30 exacta. The winning numbers were 8-7 . . . Agent Joe Griffin now represents jockey Keiber Coa, son of former rider Eibar Coa. The third-leading jockey at Delaware Park with 39 wins at the meet that ended Oct. 20, Keiber will be doing some of his riding for trainer Tom Proctor . . . The first three races at Churchill Downs Friday were in the “Van.” Jack Van Berg, named for the late Hall of Fame trainer, won the second race, while Casino Star won the third. Both horses were trained by Jack’s son, Tom Van Berg, For good measure, the first race was won by Dutch Parrot trained by William Van Meter. The 50 cent Van Pick Three paid $849.55.
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Saturday, Nov. 3)|
|Drayden Van Dyke||70||14||14||12||20%||57%||$839,285|
|Robert Hess, Jr.||28||6||6||3||21%||54%||$257,400|
|J. Keith Desormeaux||38||5||3||4||13%||32%||$178,455|