INGLEWOOD, Calif. (June 9, 2012)—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.
Earlier in the day, My Gi Gi, a nose loser in the Grade III Senorita Stakes May 5, was on the right end of a similar photo, edging favored Lady of Shamrock in the $150,000 Honeymoon Handicap.
Making her second start for trainer Peter Eurton and a partnership that includes Dennis Conner, Lloyd DeBruycker and Wade Jacobsen, the 3-year-old E Dubai filly got the jump on the 1-2 choice and held on for the slimmest of victories.
Ridden for the first time by jockey Rafael Bejarano since she finished 12th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf last Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs, My Gi Gi covered the 1 1/8 miles on grass in 1:49.22.
Out of the Sadler’s Wells mare Relish The Thought, My Gi Gi has won two of seven. The $90,000 payday in the Grade II pushed her earnings to $157,540.
The 3-1 second choice in the field of five, My Gi Gi, who was bred in Kentucky by Darley, paid $8.40, $2.80 and $2.20.
Bejarano’s second consecutive victory in the Honeymoon – he went gate-to-wire with Sarah’s Secret in 2011 – was the first of two stakes wins Saturday. The jockey, who leads all riders with 10 stakes wins through 28 days, also captured the $72,100 Manhattan Beach with 7-10 favorite Byrama.
Bill Shoemaker holds the Spring/Summer record for stakes wins. He won 18 during a 77-day season in 1971.
“When I saw that filly (Lady of Shamrock) was getting close to me (on the far turn), I decided to get first jump on her,’’ said Bejarano. “I knew she was the one I had to beat and I thought that was the only way I could beat her. I was pretty lucky because she passed me just after the wire. My horse just never quit. I think she is going to improve off this race.’’
The loss was the first in four California turf starts for Lady of Shamrock. Last for most of the trip behind the slow pace set by longshot Long Face, the daughter of Scat Daddy finished fast as the 123-pound top weight, but fell short.
A triple stakes winner during the Winter/Spring meet at Santa Anita, Lady of Shamrock returned $2.20 and $2.10. She finished a half-length in front of Stormy Lucy, who paid $2.60 to show.
One length behind My Gi Gi when third in the Senorita, Byrama appreciated a cut back in distance and a drop in class in the Manhattan Beach.
Racing in blinkers for the first time for Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and trainer Simon Callaghan, Byrama rallied from last to defeat Lemon Hero and four other fellow 3-year-old fillies.
The English bred daughter of Byron and the Darshaan mare Aymara covered the six furlongs on turf in 1:09.76 while winning by a neck.
The win was the third in eight attempts for Byrama. She increased her earnings to $146,028. She’s 2-for-6 in the United States.
Byrama, who has earned all of her wins sprinting, paid $3.40, $2.40 and $2.10. Lemon Hero, who was ridden for the first time by Garrett Gomez, returned $3.40 and $2.80.
Dypsy, who had a 4 ½ length lead after the opening half mile, paid $3.60 to show. The 11-1 outsider finished 2 ¾ lengths behind Lemon Hero.
Hidden Passion, Love My Girl and My Selection, the 3-1 second choice, completed the order of finish. Belloma was scratched.
Racing resumes Sunday. Post time is 1 p.m. Track gates at Betfair Hollywood Park will open at 9:55 a.m. for simulcasts.
The feature attraction is the $70,000 Redondo Beach Stakes, a one mile turf race for fillies and mares. Headlining the field is Star Billing, who is making her first start since winning the Grade I Matriarch last November. She’s owned by breeder George Krikorian and trained by John Shirreffs. The Redondo Beach is the eighth of nine races.
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