04/04/2013 6:35PM

New stud Acclamation might return to racing

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Acclamation, a six-time Grade 1 winner with $1,958,048 in earnings, might return to training after his first season at stud.

In recent years, Acclamation’s life has changed every few months.

When he was not based at the track with trainer Don Warren, amassing a career record of 11 wins in 30 starts, six Grade 1 victories, and earnings of $1,958,048, he was resting at owner Bud Johnston’s farm in Sanger, Calif.

Last fall, Acclamation, the Eclipse Award winner as the champion older male of 2011, was sent back to the farm with a different objective for 2013. He began a stud career earlier this year for a fee of $20,000, which equals the highest price in California.

That may not be Acclamation’s last career move. A 7-year-old, Acclamation could return to training this spring, with the goal of starting in major stakes in the second half of the year. A decision is likely to be made in the next month, Johnston said.

“I think we’ll look at it,” Johnston said in a recent interview. “It gives us an option to consider. Right now, we’re concentrating on the breeding season. We will know something by mid-April or the end of April.”

Acclamation is by far the most prominent new stallion in California for 2013. The decision to send him to stud was finalized last fall. He left the racetrack at the height of his career, having won his last seven starts, all stakes, including the Grade 1 Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar last July in his most recent race. He was taken out of training last summer when he strained a ligament in advance of the $1 million, Grade 1 TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar, a race he won in 2011.

If Acclamation returns to training this spring, there may be time to make the Pacific Classic on Aug. 25, although that has not been foremost on Johnston’s mind in recent weeks.

The goal for the breeding season is a book of approximately 40 mares. Johnston said his Old English Rancho farm will provide about 10 of those mares.

“He’s doing very well,” Johnston said. “We think it will be 35 to 40 mares. We did get a good response. It’s difficult to stand a new horse in California. People thought he would be sold out of state. I think we’ll do better next year.”

Prominent California breeder John Harris has supported Acclamation this year. He has sent mares such as Henlopen, the dam of stakes winners John Scott and Distant Victory; Super High, the California-bred champion 3-year-old filly of 2002; Hotlantic, a stakes winner at Louisiana Downs and Lone Star Park in 2009; and Lucky C. H., the dam of the graded stakes winner and Harris Farms stallion Lucky J. H.

Unusual Heat, the sire of Acclamation, stands at Harris Farms in Coalinga, Calif., for $20,000. He has been California’s leading stallion by progeny earnings the past five years.

“John Harris sent over some beautiful mares,” Johnston said. “I think that’s the important part. I’d rather get quality than quantity to find out how good he will be. We’re happy with the quality of mares. I wanted to get a good start. Of the ones we bred, almost all of those are in foal. He’s very fertile, like his father.”

Regarding a potential comeback to racing, Acclamation’s physical condition will be assessed in the coming weeks. He has been in light exercise at the farm.

“He’s on a lunge line,” Johnston said. “We have a covered round pen, and we jog him.”

In his championship year of 2011, Acclamation was a contender for the Horse of the Year title before being sidelined with a bruised foot in the weeks before the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs. Johnston and Warren had hoped to start Acclamation in the Breeders’ Cup Turf that year.

The 2013 Breeders’ Cup is at Santa Anita in November, and trying to make it there would be the goal of a potential comeback, Johnston said.

“I think he deserves it and deserves a shot at Horse of the Year, if we could get him ready in time to do something like that,” Johnston said. “That’s in the back of our minds.”