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Owner Chose Pacific Classic for Acclamation

E. W. “Bud” Johnston made one major decision last Monday. Based on what he saw in a workout, the owner of Acclamation chose Sunday’s $1 million TVG Pacific Classic over the $200,000 Del Mar Handicap on the same day for the five-year-old California-bred son of Unusual Heat.

And should Acclamation, the 5-1 morning line third choice behind Twirling Candy (5-2) and Game On Dude (3-1), win the Classic, Johnston will have another decision to make regarding a Breeders’ Cup assignment on November 5 at Churchill Downs.

Should Acclamation win the Pacific Classic, he would not only earn the $600,000 first-place purse, but also have his entry fees ($150,000) paid for the $5-million Breeders’ Cup Classic, as well as be eligible for a $10,000 “shipping” fee should his connections choose to enter him in North America’s richest race.

And, according to Breeders’ Cup rules, a  Pacific Classic  victory would accord Johnston the option to apply the “Win and You’re In” entry monies earned toward another Breeders’ Cup race – the $3 million Turf. Since his Classic entry money is well above that required for the Turf, his entry fee for the turf would be fully covered.

However, before Acclamation can enter either of the Breeders’ Cup races, he’ll have to be supplementally  made eligible for the late-season championship events by paying a $100,000 nomination fee, which would make him eligible for any Breeders’ Cup race this year or for the rest of his racing career. It would have to be paid by October 24.

But let’s take first decisions first. Acclamation convinced Johnston and trainer Don Warren that the Grade 1 ¼-mile Pacific Classic, on Del Mar’s Polytrack main course, was a viable choice working six furlongs in 1:12 3/5 Monday under Patrick Valenzuela.

“I was very pleased with the work and the way he handled the course and so was Patrick,” Johnston said earlier this week.

It eased concerns over Acclamation’s affinity for a track he had tackled only once in competition, that being a second place in a low level event in  2009. The work tipped the scales away from the Handicap, at 1 3/8 miles on the grass, even though Acclamation won the 1 1/8-mile Grade I Eddie Read Handicap on the grass last month.

The Pacific Classic commitment having been made,  Johnston said he is  comfortable with the No. 5 post position and with Valenzuela making the in-race judgments.

“I don’t think (post position) makes a lot of difference. I was hoping to get somewhere in the middle and five is fine with us,” Johnston said. ““Our horse is a speed horse but he can lay first, second or third depending on what the rider wants to do, and we’ll just adjust accordingly.”

He’ll make the Breeders’ Cup decisions if and when necessary. 

“I would not declare right now that I would go, but if he earns a berth in there (by winning) I would certainly consider it,” Johnston said. “ If he’s a close second, we would still consider it.

“We would probably go in the grass race, even if we won this,  because I’m not too keen on running on the dirt course at Churchill Downs right now.”


--Three-time Pacific Classic-winning trainer Bob Baffert was away at Saratoga when Richard’s Kid produced the second of consecutive victories in 2010, expects to be on site to saddle Game On Dude on Sunday.

Baffert, contacted by phone from Saratoga, where he will give Martin Garcia a leg up on Coil in today’s $1 million Travers Stakes, said he’s booked on an early flight to be back in time for Sunday’s card. In addition to Game On Dude, Baffert also has The Factor in Sunday’s $250,000, 7-furlong Pat O’Brien Stakes.

--Trainer A.C. Avila, never overly enthusiastic about Great Warrior, 50-1 on the morning line in the Classic, said Saturday morning he will consult further with the 3-year-old colt’s owners, Coudelaria Jessica, who were here earlier in the meeting but have now returned to Brazil, and may scratch from the race.

--Mike Maker, trainer of Stately Victor,  journeyed from Kentucky on Friday and was out Saturday morning for his first look at Del Mar and how the 4-year-old Ghostzapper colt was handling the surroundings.

“I watched him this morning and he looks good,” Maker said. Stately Victor, winner of the 2010 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, went five furlongs in  :59 4/5 on Saturday, August 20, and has been undergoing maintenance exercises since.  “He just walks on race day,” Maker said of the plan for early Sunday.



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