Off since a disappointing try in the Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I) in March, Bourbon Bay returns to Southern California action in the $250,000 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap (gr. IT) June 11, the highlight of a busy stakes afternoon at Hollywood Park on Belmont Stakes day.
Bourbon Bay will attempt to thwart a repeat victory by Acclamation in the Whittingham, a 1 1/4-mile turf event set for 12:30 p.m. PDT as the fourth race.
There are 11 races on Hollywood's program, which kicks off at 11 a.m. PDT. The other stakes on the card are the $150,000 Honeymoon Handicap (gr. IIT) for 3-year-old fillies on turf, the $100,000 Affirmed Handicap (gr. III) for 3-year-olds on the main track, and the $100,000 Cinderella Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, also on the Cushion Track.
Trained by Neil Drysdale, Bourbon Bay's chances in the $5 million Sheema Classic March 26 came to an end early in the 12-furlong race.
“He got run into going into the first turn,” Drysdale said of the performance. Bourbon Bay would not recover and came home 11th of 14.
Drysdale has captured the Whittingham six times previously. Were Bourbon Bay to win this time the Hall of Fame trainer would tie his mentor Whittingham and Bobby Frankel for most victories in the race, which was previously known as the Hollywood Invitational Turf Handicap before being re-named in 1999. Drysdale's last win in the Whittingham came in 2008 with Artiste Royal, who was owned by David and Jill Heerensperger, the owners of Bourbon Bay.
A four-time grade II winner on the turf at Santa Anita over the past two years, Bourbon Bay has not enjoyed the same level of success at Hollywood, where the 5-year-old son of Sligo Bay is winless in four tries on the grass. He ran third, one length behind Champ Pegasus, in Oak Tree's Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (gr. IT) at Hollywood last October. A repeat of that effort would make him extremely tough in the Whittingham.
Bourbon Bay has worked six times since returning from Dubai, most recently drilling seven furlongs in 1:26 4/5 on the Hollywood turf course June 5. Rafael Bejarano has the call on Bourbon Bay, who drew the far outside in a field of six.
“He went well,’’ said Drysdale of the most recent work. “He will probably be stalking the pace. There is speed in the race.’’
Most of that speed is expected to come from Acclamation, who wired last year's Whittingham field by 1 1/2 lengths. Trained by Donald Warren, the 5-year-old California-bred son of Unusual Heat will try to become only the second multiple winner of the race. The other was the superstar John Henry, who won it three times—1980, '81 and '84.
Owned by breeders Bud and Judy Johnston and Peter and Mary Hilvers, Acclamation registered a repeat win in the Jim Murray Memorial Handicap (gr. IIT) when favored in his most recent start May 14. Acclamation came from off the pace behind a run-off early leader, but after taking over on the final turn of the 1 1/2-mile test he was ridden out by seven lengths over Whittingham foes Falcon Rock and Haimish Hy. Joe Talamo will replace Joel Rosario, who is riding in New York, aboard Acclamation.
Acclamation has recorded four of his five lifetime victories on the Hollywood turf, which he has raced over seven times. His overall mark is 5-2-6 in 24 races with earnings of $608,048.
Also likely to be forwardly placed is Michael Jawl's Celtic New Year, who tries the Hollywood turf for the first time for trainer John Sadler. Celtic New Year comes into the race off a close third-place finishing the San Juan Capistrano Handicap (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita April 17, losing by a half-length to the victorious Juniper Pass. This is the first start in a grade I for the 4-year-old son of Irish sire North Light .
Sadler, who ended a drought of 24 consecutive losses in stakes races when Twirling Candy captured the Californian (gr. II) June 4, also entered Red Alert Day. The 6-year-old Great Britain-bred gelding makes his first start for Sadler since being claimed for $32,000 by Gary and Cecil Barber at Hollywood May 15. Red Alert Day was fifth in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (gr. IT) at Santa Anita in March 2010.
Falcon Rock, from the Simon Callaghan stable for owner Michael Tabor, was the runner-up in the Jim Murray for a second year in a row May 14. The 6-year-old Hawk Wing gelding will add blinkers while seeking his first win since an allowance victory in his initial United States start in March 2010. He has lost 10 straight since.
Haimish Hy, third in the Murray, is winless in five starts for trainer Art Sherman since his upset at nearly 12-1 in the Hollywood Derby (gr. IT) last Nov. 28.
$250,000 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap (gr. IT, Race 4, 12:30 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/4 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Acclamation (CA), J Talamo, 121, D Warren
2. Red Alert Day (GB), C Santiago Reyes, 110, J W Sadler
3. Celtic New Year (KY), V Espinoza, 114, J W Sadler
4. Falcon Rock (IRE), B Blanc, 114, S Callaghan
5. Haimish Hy (KY), T Baze, 116, A Sherman
6. Bourbon Bay (KY), R Bejarano, 121, N D Drysdale
Blinkers On: Falcon Rock