INGLEWOOD, Calif. (June 11, 2011)—Acclamation became only the second multiple winner of the $250,000 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap when he wired five opponents in the Grade I Saturday at Hollywood Park.
Repeating his victory of a year earlier, the 5-year-old California bred quickly assumed control under jockey Joe Talamo and never looked like a loser, ultimately winning by 3 ½ lengths.
Owned by breeders Bud and Judy Johnston and Peter and Mary Hilvers and trained by Don Warren, the son of Unusual Heat and the Silveyville mare Winning in Style ran the 1 ¼ miles on turf in 2:00.18.
The 7-10 favorite, Acclamation returned $3.40, $2.40 and $2.10. Celtic New Year, who was the closest pursuer throughout the 10 furlongs, held the place and paid $5 and $2.80. He finished a head in front of Bourbon Bay, the 19-10 second choice making his first start since a poor performance in the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic March 26 at Meydan Race Course in the United Arab Emirates.
Failing in his attempt to give trainer Neil Drysdale a record-tying seventh Whittingham victory, Bourbon Bay paid $2.20 to show.
Completing the order of finish were Red Alert Day, Haimish Hy and Falcon Rock.
Now 5-for-8 on the grass at Hollywood Park, Acclamation won for the sixth time in 25 lifetime starts. His bankroll is $758,048. He carried 121 pounds Saturday – the same impost as Bourbon Bay – and it was the most weight the bay has carried to victory.
John Henry is the only other horse who has won the Whittingham more than once. John Henry won it three times (1980, 1981 and 1984) when the race was called the Hollywood Invitational Turf Handicap.
“Man, we had a great trip,’’ said Talamo, who, like Rafael Bejarano, won three times Saturday. “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.
“He’s really a pleasure to ride and I really appreciate the connections giving me an opportunity to ride.’’
Warren indicated Acclamation could try Cushion Track in the $500,000 Hollywood Cup July 9. In six races over synthetic surfaces, Acclamation is winless with a second and two thirds.
Another possibility is the $750,000 United Nations Stakes, a Grade I at 1 3/8 miles on turf July 2 at Monmouth Park. Acclamation ran in the race a year ago, finishing last in a field of nine.
“We didn’t want to slow it down too much because then you get the pack too close,’’ said Warren. “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 (the half mile fraction Saturday was 49.38 seconds) he’s tough to catch.
“That course (at Monmouth Park) would suit him. I don’t know why he didn’t run well there last year. Both times I’ve shipped him out of town he hasn’t run well. 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.’’
Later in the afternoon, Sarah’s Secret remained undefeated in four starts, handling the transition to two turns and graded stakes company with aplomb in the $150,000 Honeymoon Handicap.
With regular rider David Flores at Belmont Park Saturday – where he rode favored Turbulent Descent to a runner-up finish in the $300,000 TVG Acorn – Bejarano gained the mount on Sarah’s Secret and guided her to a virtual gate-to-wire victory in her initial try beyond 6 ½ furlongs.
Relaxing well under Bejarano through pedestrian fractions – including the first half mile in 50.19 and six furlongs in 1:15.04 – the 3-year-old daughter of Leroidesanimaux and the Luhuk mare Sarasota was able to outfinish the previously unbeaten Star Billing and win the Grade II by a half-length.
Trained by Kathy Walsh for Al and Sandee Kirkwood and breeder Joan Hadley Thoroughbreds, Sarah’s Secret completed the 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:50.04. She paid $9.80, $4.60 and $3.20 as the 7-2 third choice. The $90,000 payday pushed her earnings to $177,000.
Star Billing, who had won the Senorita Stakes May 7 in her graded debut for trainer John Shirreffs and owner-breeder George Krikorian, returned $3.80 and $2.60 as the 19-10 choice.
The runner-up held off the fast finishing Cambina, who was also third in the Senorita, by a head. The show price on Cambina, the 3-1 second choice, was $2.60.
“She was a little nervous in the paddock, so in the post parade I tried to keep her quiet…jogging and walking,’’ said Bejarano. “It was her first time going a distance, so I just let her break and when I saw (Star Billing) tried to slow the pace, I took the lead into the first turn. She showed me a big kick in the stretch. I wasn’t even whipping her.’’
The Kirkwoods bought a major interest in Sarah’s Secret two weeks ago, according to Walsh, who said Sarah’s Secret “just needed to grow up’’, explaing why the filly had been away for nearly seven months before making her 2011 debut May 1.
“We gave her the time,’’ said Walsh. “I think she’s quite good, I really do. In the morning when we train her, she gallops a mile and three-quarters and she’s stronger at the finish than she is at the start.’’
For the second time in six years, trainer Bob Baffert won the $100,000 Affirmed Handicap with a son of Point Given.
Following in the steps of 2006 winner Point Determined, Coil successfully stretched out Saturday, defeating Runflatout and four others in the Grade III.
Perfect in three starts since being privately purchased by Baffert for owners Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, the 3-year-old chestnut won by one length in 1:42.88 for the 1 1/16 miles over Cushion Track.
Out of the Theatrical mare Eversmile, Coil, the 9-10 favorite, moved inside of stablemate Awesome Patriot as that one coasted through slow opening fractions, gained the lead on the far turn, and went on to his first graded victory.
Third going 6 ½ furlongs in his debut last Oct. 9 when owned by breeder Glen Hill Farm and trained by Tom Proctor, Coil is now 3-for-4 and has earned $118,560.
Martin Garcia became the third different rider to win with Coil – joining Joel Rosario and Alonso Quinonez – as the Florida bred paid $3.80, $2.80 and $2.40. Runflatout, who finished four lengths clear of third place finisher Spud Spivens, paid $4.20 and $3.40. The show price on Spud Spivens was $3.60.
“I wished I could have reversed posts with (Awesome Patriot),’’ said Baffert. “He (Garcia) said he couldn’t hold him they were going so slow. He was still pretty green when he made the lead and coming down to the wire.
“I was hoping to get a good Point Given. He’s just getting better and better. I was pretty impressed today with him, what he did and the way he did it. He’s still learning how to run.’’
Baffert said the primary target for Coil is the $1 million Haskell Invitational July 31 at Monmouth Park. The Hall of Fame trainer mentioned two possible races prior to the Haskell – the $150,000 Dwyer Stakes July 2 at Belmont Park and the $150,000 Swaps Stakes July 9 at Hollywood Park.
Favored Killer Graces rallied in the final quarter of a mile to win the $77,530 Cinderella Stakes.
Beaten by a nose in her debut May 1, Killer Graces was purchased privately after the race by Gillian Campbell, Steve Melon and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.
A 2-year-old daughter of Congaree and the Old Trieste mare Heatherdoesntbluff, Killer Graces settled off the pace under Talamo, found an opening between horses early in the stretch, eventually getting the lead near the wire as the 4-5 favorite.
Increasing her bankroll to $53,530, Killer Graces paid $3.60, $3 and $2.40 while completing the 5 ½ furlongs over Cushion Track in 1:04.48. The margin of victory was 1 ¼ lengths.
Chloe W, a first time starter trained by Eric Kruljac, completed the exacta at 22-1. She pressed the pace outside eventual fourth place finisher Gogi, then could not contain the winner late. Ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, Chloe W. returned $10.40 and $5.20. Willa B Awesome, who was trying to give jockey Rafael Bejarano his third win in the last four renewals of the Cinderella, paid $2.80 to show. She finished three-quarters of a length behind Chloe W.
“The last two times we worked her five-eighths and she rated behind horses and was comfortable going around,’’ said Hollendorfer. “I’m glad that she rated. We bought her shortly after her first start.’’
Hollendorfer said Killer Graces will likely return in the $100,000 Landaluce Stakes July 16.
When racing resumes Wednesday at Belmont Park, a Pick 6 carryover of $1,130,718 awaits. The Pick 6 begins in the fourth race. Post time at Belmont Park is 10 a.m. PDT. The fourth race is scheduled for 11:31 a.m. PDT.
The Hollywood Park Casino will be open for simulcasts Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Admission is free.
Racing resumes Sunday at Hollywood Park. Post time is 1 p.m.
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