Hat trick for Acclamation in Whittingham
Champion Acclamation made a winning return to the races with a gate to wire victory in the $250,000 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap (gr. IT) at Betfair Hollywood Park June 9.
Ridden confidently by Patrick Valenzuela, Acclamation (Unusual Heat-Winning in Style, by Silveyville) broke sharply and went straight to the front to set the pace. He was allowed to set easy fractions of 24.89 and 49.68 for the first half mile as he opened up a slight lead over Barney Rebel. Slim Shadey tracked the front pair from third as he saved ground along the inside rail.
As the field turned for home, Acclamation spurted away and continued to cruise through the stretch, winning easily by 1 1/4 lengths.
Slim Shadey finished second, with Utopian coming in third. Final time for the 10 furlong turf contest was 2:01.50 over the firm going.
It was the third straight victory in the Whittingham Handicap for Acclamation, who is trained by Donald Warren for the partnership of Hilvers, Johnston, and Johnston, et al.
Whittingham Handicap Quotes/Press Release:
Acclamation, the champion older male of 2011, picked up where he left off in his comeback Saturday at Betfair Hollywood Park.
For the third year in a row, the California bred son of Unusual Heat wired the field in the Grade I, $250,000 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap.
In the process, Acclamation, the even-money favorite against four opponents, matched the legendary John Henry as a three-time winner of a race that was once called the Hollywood Turf Invitational Handicap. Trained by Hall of Famer Ron McAnally for owners Sam and Dorothy Rubin, John Henry’s wins came in 1980, 1981 and as a 9-year-old in 1984.
Owned by breeders Bud and Judy Johnston and Peter and Mary Hilvers and trained by Don Warren, Acclamation won for the sixth time in a row as he made his first appearance since taking the Grade II Clement L. Hirsch last Oct. 2 at Santa Anita.
A winner for the sixth time in nine tries over the Betfair Hollywood Park grass, Acclamation covered the 1 ¼ miles in 2:01.50 while defeating 13-10 second choice Slim Shadey by one length.
In his three Whittingham wins, Acclamation, a 6-year-old out of the Silveyville mare Winning in Style, has had a different rider. Christian Santiago Reyes was the accomplice for a 1 ½ length score in 2010 while Joe Talamo rode him to a 3 ½ length decision a year ago.
Patrick Valenzuela, who went 2-for-2 with Acclamation in 2011 – the Grade I, $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar prior to the Hirsch – was the jockey Saturday. It was the first mount for Valenzuela, who has been battling weight issues, since May 19. The win was the second for the 49-year-old rider since he ended his four-month retirement in late April.
Able to make the lead with little effort, Acclamation set moderate fractions – 24.89, 49.68, 1:14.86 for six furlongs – and had more than enough in reserve to fend off Slim Shadey’s stretch bid.
The victory was the 10th in 29 starts for Acclamation, who carried top weight of 124 pounds, and pushed his bankroll to $1,778,048. He paid $4, $2.60 and $2.20.
“It was kind of a bumpy road getting here, but we made it,’’ said Warren. “He’s been training like he was ready. The setback (that led to the Inglewood scratch) he had didn’t worry me that he would be short because I had another month to work with him.
“We never found out what was wrong. You can guess maybe it was this or maybe it’s that, but it’s nothing you can put your finger on. The ultimate goal is the Breeders’ Cup Turf (Nov. 3 at Santa Anita). We’ll look at the races we ran in last year.
“Who knows, we may even want to look at the (Grade I, $500,000) Hollywood Gold Cup (July 7). I’d like to keep him on turf, though.’’
Valenzuela was happy to be back atop the classy bay.
“This is just a tremendous horse,’’ he said. “I feel like Acclamation does, really good. I’ve been working out a lot and doing my cardiovascular work. I feel like he’s going to improve off this race. (Warren) has done a tremendous job bringing him back to where he was at today.’’
Returning to California after a runner-up effort in the Grade I Turf Classic May 5 at Churchill Downs, Slim Shadey returned $2.60 and $2.10. The English bred gelding finished 4 ¼ lengths clear of Utopian.
The show price on Utopian, who won the Grade II Inglewood Handicap – a race Acclamation scratched from when he took a couple of awkward steps the day before – April 27, was $2.40. Juniper Pass and Barney Rebel completed the order of finish. Make Music for Me was scratched Saturday morning.