06/09/2012 8:41PM

Hollywood Park: Acclamation wins Whittingham for third time

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Benoit & Associates
Acclamation, with Patrick Valenzuela riding, wins the Charles Whittingham.

INGLEWOOD, Calif.  -  It was as if they never left.

The 6-year-old Acclamation, the Eclipse Award winner as the champion older male of 2011 who had not raced since October, and jockey Patrick Valenzuela, riding his first race since May 19, teamed to win Saturday's $250,000 Charles Whittingham Handicap at Betfair Hollywood Park.

Acclamation took his customary position at the front of the field, repelled a brief challenge from Slim Shadey in early stretch and won by a length. Acclamation won his sixth consecutive race, all stakes, in the Grade 1 Whittingham. The streak began in May, 2011.

Valenzuela has been aboard for the last three of those races, a span that includes the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar last August and the Clement Hirsch Turf Championship last October. He has now won the last three runnings of the Whittingham.

Valenzuela, 49, had not ridden since May 19 after fighting weight problems. The mount on Acclamation was his only ride on Saturday.

Valenzuela rode Acclamation with confidence. Acclamation led by as many as 2 1/2 lengths on the backstretch, setting a slow pace of 24.89 and 49.68 seconds through the first half-mile.

"I had plenty of horse all the way around," Valenzuela said. "He picked it up nicely and he gave it all he had."

The win was a boost for trainer Don Warren. He was hospitalized last month after a heart attack.

"This was good medicine today, Acclamation running well," Warren said in the winner's circle.

Acclamation ($4) ran 1 1/4 miles on turf in 2:01.50. Slim Shadey, second in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on May 5, closed from third to race within 1 1/2 lengths of the leader in early stretch. He never got within a length.

"He's a good horse to peg back on the front," said Simon Callaghan, who trains Slim Shadey. "We ran a good race."

Utopian, the winner of the Grade 3 Inglewood Handicap on April 27, finished third, followed by Juniper Pass and Barney Rebel. Make Music for Me was scratched on Saturday morning.

Acclamation, a California-bred by Unusual Heat, was entered for the Inglewood, but did not start after Warren said he was unhappy with the horse's condition the day before the race. Subsequent tests revealed no abnormalities.

Owned by a partnership led by breeder Bud Johnston, Acclamation has won 10 of 29 starts and $1,778,048.

Bejarano rides pair of fillies to turf stakes wins

Jockey Rafael Bejarano won two turf stakes for 3-year-old fillies earlier on the program - the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap over 1 1/8 miles with My GiGi and the $72,100 Manhattan Beach Stakes over six furlongs with Byrama. Both fillies were winning stakes for the first time.

Byrama ($3.40) closed from fifth in a field of six to edge 4-1 Lemon Hero by a neck in 1:09.76. Pacesetter Dypsy, who led by as much as 4 1-2 lengths, held third.

Byrama, a British-bred filly by Byron, races for Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and trainer Simon Callaghan. The filly had finished second or third in three stakes at Santa Anita during the winter-spring and earlier at this meeting.

Jordan More than 1 year ago
Anytime a horse can win the same grade 1 race 3 years in a row it's a big accomplishment. And anytime a horse can win 6 straight graded stakes, among them 4 grade 1s, it's a big accomplishment. And anytime a horse wins its 5th career grade 1, it's a big accomplishment. So, congrats to Acclamation and his team. Well done again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Forget the Belmont. The best horse in the country won the Whittingham today, should have won HOTY last year, and if he stays healty will probably take the BC classic this year.
Melani Wheeler More than 1 year ago
I agree! Good job PVal!
Jerome Moynihan More than 1 year ago
the best horse in the country was scratched from the belmont too bad for us all and too bad for the erstwhile "sport of kings"