Front-running Acclamation ran away from the field in the Hollywood Park stretch to register a repeat victory as the odds-on favorite in the $250,000 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap (gr. IT) June 11 (VIDEO).
Acclamation once again showed his fondness for Hollywood Park's turf course, where he won the 12-furlong Jim Murray Handicap (gr. IIT) for the second straight time May 14. The 5-year-old California-bed son of Unusual Heat has won five of eight races over the layout in his career.
Bred by Old English Rancho and co-owned by Bud and Judy Johnston and Peter and Mary Hilvers, Acclamation is trained by Donald Warren.
Jockey Joe Talamo dictated a soft pace aboard Acclamation, who spurted away from Celtic New Year in upper stretch and won by 3 1/2 lengths. Celtic New Year, ridden by Victor Espinoza, edged Bourbon Bay and Rafael Bejarano by a head for second. The winning time for the 1 1/4-mile distance over firm turf was 2:00.18.
Acclamation went to the front from the rail and carved soft fractions of :25.07, :49.38, and 1:13.68 for the opening six furlongs. He maintained a comfortable edge over Celtic New Year, who was tracked by Red Alert Day and Bourbon Bay on the far outside.
“We didn’t want him to slow it down too much because then you get the pack too close," Warren said. "You have to set a reasonable amount of pace to keep them strung out a little. If you let him go :48 4/5 or :49 he’s tough to catch."
Celtic New Year drew close to Acclamation approaching the final bend but was working hard to keep up as the two came out of the turn. Acclamation edged away impressively to lead by three lengths at mid-stretch, holding sway under strong handling to win impressively.
“Man, we had a great trip," Talamo exclaimed. "He’s always a little slow out of the gate so I had to send him a little bit but once he got to the lead he just cruised around there. Every time that outside horse (Celtic New Year) would get close to him I’d kind of let him open up a little bit and boy, he just kept on striding out."
Warren said the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) on Hollywood's Cushion Track July 9 and the United Nations Handicap (gr. IT) at Monmouth Park July 2 would be under consideration for Acclamation's next start. Acclamation faded to ninth in last year's UN.
"Both times I’ve shipped him out of town he hasn’t run well," Warren said. "I can’t understand why. He’s not a nervous horse and he acts like he takes to the shipping and the flight and everything just fine. I’m not convinced he won’t ship and run well."
Second-choice Bourbon Bay rallied belatedly after angling out in the lane but just missed the place spot to Celtic New Year. The latter, who held on stubbornly, was third in the marathon San Juan Capistrano Handicap (gr. IIT) in his most recent race April 17 at Santa Anita.
"He should move forward off this race," trainer Neil Drysdale noted after Bourbon Bay's first race since being unplaced in the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I) in March.
Acclamation captured last year's Whittingham in similar front-running fashion by 1 1/2 lengths over Hyades. Returning to his favorite track last month, the good-looking bay rolled by seven lengths in the Murray.
A winner just once away from Hollywood Park, Acclamation owns a 6-2-6 record in 25 starts overall with earnings of $758,048. He is out of the Silveyville mare Winning in Style.
The co-high weight carrying 121 pounds, Acclamation paid $3.40, $2.40 and $2.10 and keyed an $18.60 exacta. Celtic New Year, trained by John Sadler, returned $5. and $2.80. Multiple grade II winner Bourbon Bay, now winless in five starts on the Hollywood lawn, was $2.20 to show.
Red Alert Day, Haimish Hy and Falcon Rock followed.