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Acclamation Scares Away Competition

One of the smallest fields in the race’s 39-year history will line up for Saturday’s $300,000, Eddie Read Stakes, the first Grade I event of the Del Mar season.

Only four rivals – Hog’s Hollow, Interaction, Casino Host and Slim Shadey – signed up to take on defending champion Acclamation. Obviously, the prospect of battling Acclamation, Del Mar’s Horse of the Meeting for 2011 and Eclipse Award winner in the Older Male category, was too daunting for many potential foes.

And on Saturday it will be up to Acclamation to handle those who show up for the 1 1/8-mile run over the Jimmy Durante Turf Course as the 6-year-old California-bred seeks a seventh straight graded stakes victory. Four of the previous six have been at the Grade I level.

The largest number of challengers dispatched by Acclamation in the winning streak was eight, in last year’s $1 million Pacific Classic here. The fewest was five in the 2011 Jim Murray and 2012 Charlie Whittingham at Hollywood Park.

 “He scared a bunch of ‘em off. Small field? It is what it is, I can’t do anything about that,” Acclamation’s trainer Donald Warren said earlier this week.

“Sometimes races with small fields can get messed up. There can be an unrealistic pace or somebody does something crazy to make you have to change your plan. It always looks easier when there only four or five horses in a race, but it isn’t. I’d just as soon run against an eight or nine horse field.”

Races with small fields can often turn out to fit the term ” jockey’s race,” meaning the pilots have a more-than-usual effect on the outcome. Acclamation’s rider, Patrick Valenzuela, has been in a few of them and won his share. Valenzuela retired briefly last fall after undergoing gall bladder surgery but is still competing, at age 49, partly because of the lure of being aboard Acclamation and standouts like him.

Acclamation has never been worse than second at any interval in any of the last six races and another wire-to-wire effort, like last year’s Read and Pacific Classic, is a strong possibility. That is, unless one of the rivals tries to get the early lead and dictate the pace.

“It wouldn’t bother us,” Warren said. “We’ve been waiting for somebody to try that. We know he’ll rate and we’d just as soon lay second.”

The Read will go as the third on a 10-race program.

 

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