EDDIE READ STAKES | PURSE: $300,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 1 | 1 1/8 MILES
Reigning champion older male Acclamation cruised to a 2 3/4-length repeat victory in Saturday's Grade 1, $300,000 Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar, extending his current winning streak to seven. Hammered down to 1-2 favoritism, the California-bred star took his customary spot on the front end, easily shrugged off a brief move by Slim Shadey, and stamped his authority down the stretch.
Jockey Patrick Valenzuela paid Acclamation the ultimate tribute in the postrace interview, comparing him favorably with such past champion mounts as Sunday Silence, Arazi and Best Pal.
Acclamation, who was coming off an historic three-peat in the Grade 1 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap, now joins the list of back-to-back Eddie Read winners -- Wickerr (1981-82), Fastness (1995-96) and Special Ring (2003-04). The son of Unusual Heat is likely to use the Eddie Read once again as a springboard to the Grade 1 Pacific Classic over Del Mar's Polytrack on August 26, which he won last year in a thrilling stretch drive.
Owned by Peter and Mary Hilvers and Bud and Judy Johnston, and trained by Donald Warren, Acclamation glided to the early lead through an opening quarter in :24 4/5 on the firm turf. Slim Shadey, runner-up in the Whittingham two back and the 5-2 second choice, kept watch in second. After Acclamation strolled through a half in :49, Slim Shadey drew closer and tried to apply pressure.
Valenzuela simply let out a notch, and Acclamation drew away from him. The champion was striding well within himself as he reached six furlongs in 1:12 2/5, and rounding the far turn, he bid the field adieu. Despite drifting out toward the center of the course in the stretch, Acclamation opened up, reiterating that he was much the best in a final time of 1:46 4/5 for 1 1/8 grassy miles.
The straightforward score provided his supporters with $3, $2.60 and $2.10, and improved his resume to 30-11-2-6, $1,958,048.
Interaction, a former Argentinean Horse of the Year, rallied for second by 2 1/4 lengths. Casino Host, who was a detached last for much of the way, got up for third in a fine prep for the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap on August 25. Hog's Hollow checked in fourth, trailed by Slim Shadey.
Acclamation was recording his ninth career stakes triumph. Aside from the 2011 Pacific Classic and his collection of Whittinghams and Eddie Reads, he also owns consecutive wins in the Grade 2 Jim Murray Handicap (2010-11) and a victory in last fall's Grade 2 Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship. He ended 2011 riding a five-race winning streak, which garnered him an Eclipse Award as champion older male.
The striking bay had compiled five stakes placings earlier in his career, most notably in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby, Grade 2 Strub Stakes, Grade 2 San Gabriel Handicap and Grade 2 Del Mar Derby, but has been a different animal for the past year.
Bred by Johnston's Old English Rancho, Acclamation is out of the unraced Silveyville mare Winning in Style, who is also responsible for the stakes-placed pair of Strut Your Stuff and Always in Style. Another of Acclamation's half-sisters, the winning Flying in Style, is the dam of stakes victor Flying First Class.
This is the family of such multiple stakes queens as Fleet Treat and Generous Portion, who are each honored with stakes races named after them at Del Mar. Others descending from this female line are Grade 2 scorers Morning Bob and Special Warmth, herself an influential matron.