Acclamation leads all the way to take the Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap.<br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

Acclamation leads all the way to take the Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap.
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Acclamation Hardly Challenged in Whittingham

Front-running colt opens big lead and holds on willingly for first grade I win.

Acclamation rode a lone front-running trip to his first grade I victory when he captured the $250,000 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap (gr. IT) (VIDEO) on the Hollywood Park turf June 5.

Under strong right-handed urging from jockey Christian Santiago Reyes, Acclamation held off the outsider Hyades for a 1 1/2-length victory in spite of drifting out in upper stretch. He completed the 1 1/4-mile test in 1:59.45 on firm ground. Brushburn, another longshot, finished third, while 8-5 choice Loup Breton, the 119-pound high weight, checked in a non-threatening fourth.

Acclamation, a 4-year-old California-bred son of Unusual Heat, won the Jim Murray Handicap (gr. IIT) in similar fashion May 15, opening a big lead on the backstretch, getting a breather going into the turn and finishing up willingly.

“I rode him the same way I did last time," Santigo Reyes said through an interpreter. "The way the race came up, there wasn’t much speed so I hustled him out of the gate. He’s just a good horse and he’s real sharp right now. He was very strong the entire race.”

Donald Warren trains the winning Old English Rancho homebred for E.W. and Judy Johnston. Warren noted that the race's picture changed with the overnight scratch of Red Sun, who was expected to vie for the early lead.

“We’ve gotten lucky the last couple of races where the speed has scratched and there wasn’t a lot of speed to go with him," Warren said after his first grade I victory.

Riders for his nine rivals in the Whittingham surely knew Santiago Reyes would be gunning for the lead with Acclamation but were willing to allow it to happen as the bay colt, breaking from the rail, quickly established command. In spite of a :49 opening half, Acclamation was in front by about four lengths early on the backstretch, a lead Santiago Reyes nursed into the far turn while giving his mount a much-needed breather.

Carry Gulch, who would be pulled up after a mile, Scintillo, and Hyades were among those tracking from a safe distance. After six furlongs in 1:12.57 and a mile of 1:35.78, Santaigo Reyes went to scrubbing on Acclamation rounding the turn as Hyades and Battle of Hastings drew closer. Acclamation, after drifting out in upper stretch, held gamely through the drive.

"I told (Santiago Reyes) that he runs so well on the turn that when you get to the middle of that (far turn) kick and go on wherever you are," Warren said. "Kick and go. Make a run for it right there. He loves this course."

Santiago Reyes, who scored his first grade I win as well, stayed busy with his right-handed stick all the way to the wire. Hyades secured second by three-quarters of a length with Victor Espinoza aboard. Battle of Hastings did not have his usual kick, allowing Brushburn, with Brice Blanc riding, to edge Loup Breton and Rafael Bejarano by a half-length for the show spot.

Battle of Hastings finished fifth, followed by Unusual Suspect, Rendezvous, Scintillo, and Porfido, who trailed throughout. Carry Gulch stopped in distress on the far turn and was removed from the course by ambulance. Stewards said the 5-year-old had an undetermined injury to his left foreleg.

Acclamation earned $150,000 for his fourth win in 19 lifetime starts to boost his bankroll to $497,048. The winner is out of the Silveyville mare Winning in Style.

Sent off as the co-second choice, Acclamation carried 116 pounds and paid $8.20, $5, and $4 while topping a $91.20 exacta.

Hyades, in his American stakes debut for trainer Ben Cecil after beginning his career in Great Britain, returned $11.40 and $8. Cecil, who acquired the horse from his uncle, Sir Henry Cecil, was pleased with the 4-year-old Aldebaran colt's development in his fifth U.S. start.

“He got a chance to do what he wanted to do," Ben Cecil said. "We’ve been running him a mile and this is what he wants. He’s got a bright future, I hope."

Brushburn, winner of the one-mile March Madness Handicap at Santa Anita in March, paid $8.60 to show after breaking a step slowly. "I found myself farther back than I would have liked," Blanc said. "He tried hard and finished up pretty strong."

Loup Breton, after also breaking slowly, didn't respond well, Bejarano said.

"I tried to get him up into position to make a run from the five-eighths, but he was just one-paced," Bejarano said. "I could see the leader was real comfortable on the lead and when I asked my horse at the half-mile, he didn’t move. He was just running at the same pace.”