Named in honor of the all-time leading stakes winning trainer at Betfair Hollywood Park – he finished his legendary career with 222 – the Whittingham is the most significant of three turf stakes that will be offered Saturday, June 9.
A California bred son of Unusual Heat owned by breeders Bud and Judy Johnston and Peter and Mary Hilvers and trained by Don Warren, Acclamation is scheduled to make his much anticipated 6-year-old debut in the 1 ¼ mile Whittingham.
The race has been kind to Acclamation, who missed the Inglewood Handicap April 27 due to a minor setback.
The bay has won the Whittingham in gate-to-wire fashion the last two years. If successful June 9, Acclamation would join John Henry as the lone three time winner of a race that was formerly called the Hollywood Invitational Turf Handicap. John Henry won in 1980, 1981 and as a 9-year-old in 1984.
During his championship season, Acclamation won his final five starts, completing 2011 with a victory in the Grade II Clement L. Hirsch last Oct. 2 at Santa Anita. Overall, he’s won nine of 28 and earned $1,628,048.
Prepping for a return to a course on which he has won five of eight starts, Acclamation breezed a mile in 1:41 1/5 this morning at Betfair Hollywood Park. Clocker and morning line maker Russ Hudak said Acclamation, who worked with stablemate and Whittingham nominee Norvsky, completed the final six furlongs in 1:11 4/5. Norvsky’s time for the grassy mile was 1:41 4/5.
Other nominees include Bourbon Bay, Slim Shadey and Inglewood winner Utopian.
A last-to-first winner of the Grade II San Juan Capistrano – his second victory in the 1 ¾ mile marathon – April 22, Bourbon Bay will be seeking his initial score over the Betfair Hollywood Park grass. He’s been second or third in five of six local turf starts for owners David and Jill Heerensperger and Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale.
The upset winner of the Grade II San Marcos Feb. 11, Slim Shadey comes off a second place finish in the Grade I Turf Classic May 5 at Churchill Downs. Simon Callaghan trains the 4-year-old Val Royal gelding for owner Phil Cunningham.
The remaining nominees to the Whittingham are Barney Rebel, Juniper Pass, Make Music for Me and the Drysdale-trained duo of Omayad and Smug.
Among the eight nominees to the Grade II, $150,000 Honeymoon Handicap for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles are Lady of Shamrock, who won three grass stakes – the Blue Norther, China Doll and Providencia – during Santa Anita’s Winter/Spring meet, Hollywood Starlet heroine Killer Graces and recent Railbird upsetter Via Villaggio.
Entries for the Whittingham, Honeymoon, Manhattan Beach and the rest of the June 9 card will be taken Wednesday, June 6.