06/11/2011 3:06PM

Hollywood Park: Acclamation makes Whittingham repeat look easy

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Benoit & Associates
Acclamation, under Joel Rosario, takes the Charles Whittingham Handicap for the second year in a row.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – For the second consecutive year, Acclamation has swept two of Hollywood Park’s leading turf stakes, successfully defending his title in Saturday’s Grade 1 Charles Whittingham Handicap.

Last month, Acclamation won the Grade 2 Jim Murray Handicap by seven lengths, a race he won in 2010, too.

Saturday, Acclamation ($3.40) won the $250,000 Whittingham by 3 1/2 lengths, taking his customary position at the front of the field and never facing a major threat. He ran 1 1/4 miles on turf in 2:00.18 under jockey Joe Talamo, improving his career record to 6 wins in 25 starts and earnings of $758,048.

The Whittingham unfolded to suit Acclamation. After a slow opening quarter-mile in 25.07 seconds, co-owner Bud Johnston said he thought Acclamation would be the winner.

“When I didn’t see anyone challenging him, I thought, we’ll be tough,” Johnston said. “He’s getting so much better and he’s so much more mature. I think he’s got a really big future.”

Acclamation led by a length for the first five furlongs and by a half-length over eventual runner-up Celtic New Year after six furlongs. Celtic New Year never got closer, but held second, finishing a head in front of Bourbon Bay, the multiple stakes winner who was making his first start since an 11th-place finish in the $5 million Sheema Classic in Dubai in March.

Jockey Victor Espinoza said he was reluctant to send Celtic New Year in pursuit of Acclamation in fear of running out of horse in the stretch.

“I didn’t want to do anything that wouldn’t benefit my horse,” Espinoza said. “At least I ran second.”

Red Alert Day finished fourth, followed by Haimish Hy and Falcon Rock.

Johnston said that Acclamation will be considered for the $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on the synthetic main track on July 9, pending how the 5-year-old performs in workouts on the surface in late June. Don Warren trains Acclamation, a California-bred horse by Unusual Heat.

Maiden filly takes Cinderella

Killer Graces closed from sixth in a field of eight to win for the first time in her career in the $77,530 Cinderella Stakes for 2-year-old fillies.

Ridden by Talamo, Killer Graces ($3.60) ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.48, finishing 1 1/4 lengths in front of 22-1 Chloe W, a first-time starter. Willa B Awesome, the sharp winner of a maiden race in her debut on April 21, finished third in the field of eight.

Killer Graces was fifth on the backstretch and sixth on the turn, and closed well on the outside through the stretch to take the lead in the final sixteenth.

“The last two times we worked her five-eighths and she worked quite nicely behind horses,” trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said.

Hollendorfer admitted that he was concerned when Willa Be Awesome passed Killer Graces on the turn, but that the worry dissipated through the stretch.

“I was quite nervous when Joe let that horse run by, but he seemed very confident,” Hollendorfer said.

Killer Graces, by Congaree, finished second by a nose in her debut for trainer Rafael DeLeon on May 1, and was acquired privately a few days after that race by Hollendorfer, who co-owns the filly with Gillian Campbell of London and Steve Melen of Tiburon, Calif. Killer Graces represented the first horse and first winner for Campbell and Melen.