06/07/2012 1:16PM

Hollywood Park: Acclamation returns in bid for Whittingham three-peat

Shigeki Kikkawa
Acclamation will make his first start since last fall in Saturday's Grade 1 Charles Whittingham Handicap.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Six weeks later than intended, Acclamation makes his 2012 debut in Saturday’s $250,000 Charles Whittingham Handicap at Betfair Hollywood Park.

The champion older male of 2011, Acclamation will be a strong favorite to extend his winning streak to six races in the Grade 1 turf race over 1 1/4 miles.

A 6-year-old, Acclamation won the Whittingham in 2010 and 2011, leading throughout both times. It is easy to envision him using the same tactics successfully in Saturday’s race.

Trainer Don Warren was confident Thursday that Acclamation is ready for his first start since October.

“It’s tough to get 100 percent ready off a layoff,” he said. “He’s about as close to being ready as you can get.”

Owned by a partnership led by breeder Bud Johnston, Acclamation has not raced since winning the Grade 2 Clement Hirsch Turf Championship at Santa Anita last October. A start in the Inglewood Handicap on April 27 was scrapped when Warren said he was unhappy with Acclamation’s condition. Subsequent tests showed no abnormalities.

To prepare for the Whittingham, Warren worked Acclamation over a mile on turf here May 25 and June 1 under jockey Patrick Valenzuela.

Valenzuela, 49, has not ridden since May 19. He took off his single mount the following day, citing issues with his weight. Valenzuela makes a comeback Saturday; Acclamation is his lone mount on an 11-race program.

Acclamation faces a stern test in the Whittingham. The field includes Utopian, winner of the Inglewood; Juniper Pass, who won the 2011 San Juan Capistrano; and Slim Shadey, second in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on May 5. Barney Rebel and Make Music for Me are the other starters.

Slim Shadey, trained by Simon Callaghan, won the Grade 2 San Marcos Stakes over 1 1/4 miles on turf at Santa Anita in January and was a game second to Bourbon Bay in the San Luis Rey Stakes in March. Bourbon Bay is not part of the Whittingham because of a recent training setback, trainer Neil Drysdale said last weekend.

Juniper Pass was fourth in an allowance race here May 19, his first start since July. Saturday’s race may be shorter than Juniper Pass’s best distance, trainer Ray Bell warns. He said getting a prep race was vital.

“Some [horses] benefit a lot from a race,” he said. “The race didn’t set up well for us. He was able to get a good race and not a hard race.”

Honeymoon: Lady of Shamrock scares off rivals

Lady of Shamrock is unbeaten on turf in Southern California, with three stakes wins at the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting.

Her presence in Saturday’s $150,000 Honeymoon Handicap has scared off several rivals. The Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap, run over 1 1/8 miles for 3-year-old fillies, has drawn five entrants, including the supplemental entry Trois Aureole. Lady of Shamrock and Trois Aureole are trained by John Sadler.

Lady of Shamrock won the Grade 3 Providencia Stakes at Santa Anita on April 7 and was held out of the Grade 3 Senorita Stakes here May 5.

“You have to pick a race to skip sometime,” Sadler said.

The Honeymoon distance will suit Lady of Shamrock, but the race lacks a confirmed front-runner. Long Face, a maiden race winner on turf at Santa Anita last October, may lead. My Gi Gi, second by a nose in the Senorita, and Stormy Lucy, winner of the Golden Poppy Stakes at Golden Gate Fields on May 6, are best as stalkers.

“It looks like it will be tactical,” Sadler said.

Alonso Quinonez rides Lady of Shamrock for the first time, replacing Mike Smith who is riding in New York.

“I’ve had luck with him when other riders are out of town,” Sadler said of Quinonez.

Manhattan Beach: Byrama seeks first stakes win

Byrama, second in the Providencia and third in the Senorita, can win her first stakes in the Manhattan Beach Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, Saturday’s sixth race.

Byrama was beaten a length by Bobina in the Senorita, closing well through the stretch, despite traffic in the final furlong.

The Manhattan Beach is run over six furlongs on turf and will be Byrama’s first start in a turf sprint since an optional claimer on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita in February.