Acclamation, front-runner for Horse of the Meet honors at Hollywood Park, seeks to put an exclamation point on a banner session when he carries high weight of 124 pounds in the Sunset Handicap, closing-day feature Sunday.
Acclamation, a 5-year-old horse who has already won the Grade I Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap and Grade II Jim Murray Memorial Handicap on the turf, seeks to become the first horse to win the three distance grass stakes in the same year.
“His record at Hollywood Park does have a lot to do with the decision to enter in the Sunset,” said trainer Don Warren Thursday from his Santa Anita base. “He has been awesome on that turf.”
Acclamation has recorded five firsts and two thirds in eight starts on the Inglewood lawn and earned $556,860. He is 1-for-17 elsewhere.
The 124-pound weight assignment would be the most carried by a Sunset winner since Sandpit won under that impost in 1995. Acclamation will spot eight rivals from eight to 16 pounds in the Grade III test at 1 ½ miles.
Joe Talamo has the return call on the California-bred son of Unusual Heat.
Continuing a common theme during the last three years on the Southern California circuit, jockeys Joel Rosario and Rafael Bejarano are heading to the wire in a close finish for meet honors at Hollywood Park.
Rosario holds a 57-53 lead over Bejarano with four days remaining in the Spring/Summer Meet and shoots for the first three-peat since Chris McCarron won five consecutive Spring/Summer titles from 1980-84.
Since 2008, the Peruvian-born Bejarano and Dominican Republic native Rosario have won every title on the major circuit. Bejarano holds a 9-7 edge during that time but Rosario has been steadily whittling away at the lead.
“Zazu,” said Ron Ebanks, agent for Rosario, when asked for a meet highlight. “That was an impressive performance by the rider. He surprised me. It was a very risky but rewarding move.” Rosario’s gamble paid off as he stayed inside to save ground and found daylight in the stretch en route to winning the Hollywood Oaks with Zazu.
Rosario, who has also won the last two Hollywood Park Autumn Meets, could also stretch his streak of crowns at the Inglewood track to five, the most since McCarron strung together nine during 1980-84, when he also annexed four Autumn titles.
Both riders will be busy during the final week. Bejarano has five mounts, Rosario four Thursday. Bejarano has three mounts, Rosario five Friday night. Rosario has nine, Bejarano eight Saturday. Sunday, Rosario has eight, Bejarano six.
One thing that Alan Sherman does not have to worry about is Ultra Blend giving her best effort in the $200,000 A Gleam Handicap for fillies and mares at seven furlongs on Cushion Track Saturday.
“She tries hard; that’s the main thing with her,” said Sherman, son of and assistant to trainer Art Sherman, Thursday. “She bears down.”
The 5-year-old California-bred mare drew post four in a field of nine under jockey David Flores. The ultra-consistent mare has won five of her last six starts—all stakes—and boasts an overall mark of 10 firsts, four seconds, five thirds and two fourths in 21 outings.
“I think 7 ½ furlongs is probably perfect for her,” continued Sherman. “But I think she can handle seven too. She does whatever you want. She can show speed or come from behind. She has won from six furlongs to a mile and a sixteenth. She is pretty versatile.”
Ultra Blend has a special incentive for the A Gleam. “We’ll see if we can get a free trip to the Breeders’ Cup,” said Sherman of the ‘Win and You’re In’ race for the Filly & Mare Sprint at Churchill Downs November 4.
“They’re going to send her to Kentucky at the end of the season to be bred anyway,” said Sherman of a mating that owner Nels Erickson has arranged with Big Brown.
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer will have fillies running in stakes on both coasts Saturday.
While the 2011 Hall of Fame inductee travels to Delaware Park to saddle champion Blind Luck in the $750,000 Delaware Handicap, assistant Dan Ward will send out Washington Bridge in the $200,000 A Gleam Handicap and Killer Graces in the $100,000 Landaluce Stakes here.
While Washington Bridge—like Blind Luck a 4-year-old—has languished in the giant shadow cast by her stablemate, Ward cautioned that she should not be taken lightly in the A Gleam.
“She ran well in her last start at six furlongs and got stopped on the far turn,” said Ward of a fourth-place finish in the Desert Stormer Handicap June 19. “Seven (furlongs) should be good for her.”
Washington Bridge, who won the Grade II Bayakoa Handicap over Cushion Track last December, drew post seven in a field of nine with Joe Talamo.
Killer Graces comes off a 1 ¼-length victory in the 5 ½-furlong Cinderella Stakes and leaves from post two in a field of six under Talamo in the six-furlong Landaluce for 2-year-old fillies.
“The more distance for her, the better,” said Ward of the chestnut daughter of Congaree.
Veteran jockey Martin Pedroza aims to join elite company when he rides Woebegon in the $100,000 Landaluce Stakes for 2-year-old fillies on Saturday.
Pedroza has won the race four times, one behind Hall of Fame co-leaders John Longden, Laffit Pincay, Jr., Bill Shoemaker and Eddie Delahoussaye.
Pedroza, who turns 46 July 20, guided Woebegon to an impressive maiden score at five furlongs in her first start June 26 for trainer Peter Miller.
Pedroza won the Landaluce in 2006 for Miller with Pinata following three in a row for Brian Mayberry with Garden Gal, Fluttery Danseur and Zealous Connection, respectively, from 1990-92.
Trainer Mike Harrington, who won the Hollywood Juvenile Championship with Swiss Yodeler in 1996, hopes that Pend Oreille—a chestnut son of Swiss Yodeler—follows his sire into the winner’s circle of the $100,000 stake for 2-year-olds on Sunday.
“He’s a little bigger and scopier than Swiss Yodeler,” said Harrington Thursday. “But he’s got the attitude of Swiss Yodeler, which is good.”
Pend Oreille, owned and bred by Harrington, comes off an impressive maiden score at 4 ½ furlongs on April 30. He will be ridden back by Rafael Bejarano in the Grade III test at six furlongs.
Harrington said Pend Oreille—pronounced Pond-oh-ray—is named for a county in Washington state where he once owned a ranch.
What can you give a man who has everything? Trainer Bob Baffert is in the Racing Hall of Fame. He has won three Eclipse Awards, all three legs of the Triple Crown and seven Breeders’ Cup races.
Baffert has won multiple training titles at Santa Anita, Del Mar, Oak Tree and the Hollywood Park Autumn Meet. But not until this year had he won a Hollywood Park Spring/Summer crown.
That title has been added to the white-haired Arizona native’s collection after a sizzling meet with 34 winners—seven ahead of runner-up Mike Mitchell—entering the final four days of the meet.
Baffert has been winning at a 32 per cent clip and hopes to cap the meet with two more stakes victories this weekend. He entered the trio of Fund Raiser, American Story and Irish Gypsy in the $200,000 A Gleam Handicap Saturday and Night Bandit and Brigand in the $100,000 Hollywood Juvenile Championship Sunday.
Baffert was photoed out of the title last year by Doug O’Neill, 28-27, although O’Neill started nearly twice as many horses. Baffert had not run large numbers of his stable in previous years but this year his starter total of 106 is second only to John Sadler, third in the standings, with 108.
Trainer John Shirreffs is known to repeat a winning formula. When he sent out Harmonious to victory in the Grade I American Oaks last year, the filly had started previously three times and won twice.
When Shirreffs entered Star Billing and Nereid in the $250,000 stake for 3-year-old fillies at 1 ¼ miles on turf Saturday, both bring in records of three starts with two wins.
Star Billing is by Dynaformer, the same sire as Harmonious. The George Krikorian homebred won the Grade III Senorita Stakes and finished second in the Grade II Honeymoon Handicap.
Nereid, owned by E.N. Kronfeld, has won her last two starts on the turf here in maiden and allowance company, respectively.
Nereid leaves from post three in a field of six under regular rider Joe Talamo while Star Billing drew post five with Joel Rosario—her fourth different jockey in as many starts.
Both fillies have used stalking styles in most of their starts but in a lineup with no apparent pace-setter, Shirreffs was not sure what scenario was likely to unfold.
“Wherever they’re comfortable, that’s where they will be,” said Shirreffs.
Love Theway Youare, who has never raced on turf, worked three furlongs in 39.80 on grass Thursday for the American Oaks.
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