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Grade I Hat Trick for Acclamation with Pacific Classic Victory (Video)

Entering off three straight graded stakes wins on turf including a pair of Grade I’s, 4-to-1 third choice Acclamation successfully transferred his front-running game to the main track for the first time, holding off 2-to-1 favorite Twirling Candy by a head in the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar to become the first three-time Grade I winner of 2011.

“It’s quite a thrill. It went just according to plan. We said we would take the lead and Game On Dude would probably go with us but we didn’t think he could,” said owner Bud Johnston, whose five-year-old California-bred son of Unusual Heat stopped the clock in a mile and a quarter track record time of 2:00.61 while pushing his career earnings over $1.5 million. “I thought he (Game On Dude) would be closer to us at the finish than he was, but Twirling Candy gave us a real run for our money.”


After tracking a couple lengths behind Acclamation early, Santa Anita Handicap (Grade I) winner and Hollywood Gold Cup (Grade I) runner-up Game On Dude settled for fourth, beaten nearly five lengths, as the 5-to-2 second choice.


A career that has been mired by numerous substance-abuse related suspensions came full circle for jockey Patrick Valenzuela, who won the inaugural running of the Pacific Classic aboard Best Pal in 1991.


“I’m grateful for the California Horse Racing Board giving me back my license last year,” said Valenzuela after guiding Acclamation through tepid fractions of 48.3 and 1:12.4. “I knew at the half mile pole they were in trouble. If Twirling Candy was going to get by me it would have been at the 1/16 pole because when he got right to me my horse stuck his neck out and wanted to beat him.”


With Acclamation’s regular rider Joel Rosario already committed to Twirling Candy, it figured that Valenzuela, known as one of the best speed riders in the game, would fit Acclamation like a glove.


“He’s a great rider. You know he’s not going to choke. He rode him very, very well,” said Johnston of the 48-year-old Valenzuela, who was aboard Acclamation for the first time.  “He rode him just according to how we talked about it in the paddock. Let the horses come up to your flank and when you ask him to run at the head of the stretch he’ll run for you, but don’t hit him with the whip. He doesn’t like the whip. I lost three races before I figured that out.”


Despite Valenzuela’s belief that Acclamation could run well on dirt too, Johnston indicated that he would likely make a return to the grass and point towards the Breeders’ Cup Turf (Grade I).


Although Twirling Candy is now winless in all four of his Grade I tries over a route of ground, going off favored each time, he silenced the critics that said he couldn’t get the mile and a quarter. After all, he too broke the track record with his runner-up effort and is likely still on track for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade I).


Last year’s Toyota Blue Grass (Grade I) winner Stately Victor closed from last to finish third as the second longest shot in the field at 15-to-1.


Make sure to follow me on Twitter @mdoche for much more and visit www.pick4blog.com for daily selections and analysis!


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What the Nation is saying about Grade I Hat Trick for Acclamation with Pacific Classic Victory (Video)...

there is a question as to whether acclamation can transfer his successes from turf and poly to dirt.
DAMN this horse is soooooooooooooooooooo sooooooooooooooooooo GREAT i think he is going to win the CLASSIC!!

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