Point-Counterpoint - Acclamation vs Cape Blanco

October 12, 2011 06:38am
Cape Blanco vs Acclamation for Champion Turf Male
Horse Racing Nation blogger Laura Pugh, queen of the Dead Heat Debates votes for Acclamation as top 2011 Turf male, while Managing Editor Zipse At The Track's Brian Zipse votes Caper Blanco - who would you pick?

Editor's Note - At the time of writing, Acclamation was still expected to participate in the Breeders' Cup. Yesterday we learned that he will be out for the rest of 2011 due to heat in his foot that currently limits his activity.


Cape Blanco
Dead Heat Debates
Dead Heat Debates

Laura Pugh:

One thing that anybody can say about Acclamation is that he has put a giant exclamation on his entire 2011 campaign. The son of Unusual Heat was a late bloomer, as a three-year-old he ran in primarily allowance races and in some graded stakes. He never won a stakes that year, but he did hit board in most. It wasn’t until 2010 that Acclamation won his first graded stakes and Grade 1. In fact, he collected those victories in consecutive fashion. However, after that he went on a losing streak that lasted four races.


It would be in the Grade 2, Jim Murray Handicap, the same race he earned his first graded stakes victory, that he would put it all together. He sat chilly before wresting the lead, just before the field turned for home. Down the stretch he only lengthened his advantage, winning in a sharp 2.25.63, for the 12 furlong contest.


Since then all Acclamation has done is win, win, win, and win again. Four more races, four grade stakes, four decisive victories. The handsome, dark bay stallion has proven his versatility in many different ways this year. He has won at distances as short as nine furlongs to as long as 12 furlongs and he has also won on two different surfaces this year, Turf, and Del Mar’s Polytrack. Also, take into note, that in his last five starts he has been ridden by three different riders. Not many top flight horses have riders on and off so often these days. 

In any other year, Acclamation would have a vice grip on the Championship Turf title, but not this year. Cape Blanco, the Irish invader poses a big threat, even after being retired before the Breeders Cup. If you ask me, Acclamation is still the division leader, even with Cape Blanco’s East Coast dominance.

I understand the weight of each one of Cape Blanco’s wins. It is an unbelievable feat to cross the Atlantic a total of six times, and still win three of the most prestigious turf races on the East Coast. Sweeping the Man O’ War, Arlington Million, and Joe Hirsch Classic will not be duplicated any time soon. However, Acclamation has done more.

I understand that many will say it is easy to stay in one state and just race right out of the barn, however, what people don’t mention is that the state he races in is California, and that pretty much takes up the whole West Coast. He has won on three different turf courses, two different surfaces, and with three different jockeys. He consistently races in the top tier turf races at each track and wins decisively. He is the consummate professional racehorse.

Acclamation has swept the California Turf Division and then some, when he won the Pacific Classic in track record fashion. While one can say Cape Blanco’s accomplishments will not soon be duplicated, one can say the exact same for Acclamation. It is sad that Cape Blanco was retired, but with that announcement meaning that his presence will be lacking at the Breeders Cup, one cannot hand him the crown let alone the division lead, not with the race so close. Up to this point Acclamation has done more, and should be your division leader, plain and simple.

While it is a shame both horses had their years cut short due to injury, Acclamation has done the most. His wins were in the most prestigious turf races in California and were against the best competition there was. His accomplishments will not likely be duplicated any time soon. He should not be punished for racing in a state that takes up nearly the entire West Coast, when he constantly runs in the top races, running competitive times and winning decisively every time. Based on win streaks and graded stakes wins, Acclamation has simply done more.

Brian Zipse:

Meanwhile Cape Blanco has always been a top class turf runner. The son of all-world sire Galileo was an undefeated and dual group stakes winner as a juvenile. Then last year, wins in the Irish Derby and Irish Champion pointed him out as one of the best three-year-olds in the world. This year he has been even better, after losing his first three races in Dubai, France and England against some of the best horses anywhere, he put things together in a big way by winning not once, not twice, but three times, in Grade 1 competition in America.

You are talking about the Jim Murray? That’s nice and all, but come on, how can you compare that to the likes of the Man O’ War, Arlington Million, or Turf Classic? Save the Breeders’ Cup Turf, those are the three biggest, most prestigious turf races America has to offer, and Cape Blanco won them all.

Don’t get me wrong, I think what Acclamation has been able to do in winning his last five races, is an excellent streak, but this debate is about who has been the best turf horse in America this year. Looking at his five race win streak, the one race that stands out is the Pacific Classic, which of course was run on Del Mar’s main track. That was the one race where he beat really good horses, but unfortunately, in this argument, it cannot be included, because it is not on turf. Therefore, his resume of wins in the Jim Murray, Whittingham Memorial, Eddie Read, and Clement L. Hirsch simply does not stack up to Cape Blanco’s terrific triple.

That’s exactly right, what Cape Blanco has done in 2011 is not normal. I do not believe there has ever been a horse to sweep the Man O’ War, Arlington Million, and Turf Classic to be denied the Eclipse Award as the Turf Champion, and I don’t think it should happen this year either.

The travel has been simply amazing. Dubai, France, England, and then back in forth to the U.S. three times, is the definition of a horse not afraid to go after the big races. Racing needs more horses like this, and it should be rewarded. Acclamation meanwhile, has only left California once, which turned out to be a debacle in the West Virginia slop.


Yes, he is the best turf horse in California, and has proved that without shadow of a doubt. That is no small feat, and some years it would be enough to win an Eclipse, but not this year. Not with what Cape Blanco has proven in three remarkable trips to America. Twice he handed our two-time Champion, Gio Ponti his hat. Those races were in essence the passing of the Turf Champion torch. Who has Acclamation beaten?


It is a shame that Cape Blanco was injured in the Turf Classic, [By the way, doesn’t he deserve some serious credit for winning that race despite the injury?] because it would have been great to see him in the Breeders’ Cup, and let’s be honest here … if a healthy Cape Blanco were facing Acclamation in the BC Turf, would you really be liking the Californian’s chances? I know I wouldn’t. And I’m not sure how you can say how Acclamation’s 4 of 5, 2011 record on turf, in less prestigious races no less, is greater than what Cape Blanco already accomplished this year. Acclamation still has a chance to add to it in the Breeders’ Cup, and frankly he will need to, because if he loses, this debate is all but over.



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Older Comments about Point-Counterpoint - Acclamation vs Cape Blanco...

I wouldn’t hold a dismal finish in the Charlestown race against any horse. The track is essentially a bull ring, much like Fairplex, with very sharp turns. The track was also sloppy and sealed. It’s easy to see that he didn’t like that race based on how dismal he ran and yet he bounced back and won his next five in a row. As for the Kilroe Mile, Acclamation isn’t a miler and is zero for two in that particular race. He’s a true router who likes to set a controlled pace and when he can do this is very tough to beat. In fact the only way to beat him in a route when they are planning on taking him to the front is to challenge right from the beginning.
Mary Z.- I'm not sure he likes soft turf, which might be why they really haven't run him outside of Cal much. If the turf was to his liking, I certainly think he could have taken the Sword Dancer. The fact that he won the Pacific Classic, though has opened up even more options for him in California, so they may opt for a turf and synthetic year.
footy,I have said that I think Acclamation could have taken the Sword Dancer over Winchester, but truth is he may not have even been nominated for any of those races outside of CA, after Charlestown and the 5th place in the Mile race, which came at the end of a losing streak. Hope he still has it this year. He has a different style than so many turf runners in that he wins mostly having been on the lead for the greater part of his races, and my favorite part--fast.
Hi Mary Z. I have no problem with Acclimation staying out West. He ran great races and showed a new versatility when he won going shorter than his usual preferred distance. My vote for Cape Blanco is swayed by his shipping across the Atlantic 3 times. It would have been nice if they met, but they didn't. My favoring of Cape Blanco is in no way a slight to Acclimation.
Acclimation stayed out of running versus the best at differing venues. Taking on all comers, whatever the result, is the mark of championship horses and connections.
Hi to footy. True about Gio. He was quite the champion turf horse. I learned from S.G. that it is not necessary to run down a great horse to attempt to make a case for another, meaning Acclamation. He needs to do that this year for himself. Hope his chance didn't pass him by with no one knowing how good he was until May. That would be a shame and a waste. Even with the BC Turf at Santa Anita this year, I think Acclamation needs to try traveling at least a couple of times to the big Eastern/Arlington turf races. and no I'm not that other Mary at bh.
nice post, Laz. I too thought he was still a viable adversary but just not winning. Thanks.
Gio Ponti not a 10F horse? Really? Horses that aren’t 10F horses don’t continuously run sub 24 second final quarters. Gio Ponti won 3 races at 10F in 10 attempts (8 grass and 2 synthetic), but with 4 seconds and 1 third. 9 of the 10 races were in G1’s including 3 Arlington Millions, 3 Manhattans and a BCC (synthetics) and a Dubai World Cup (synthetics). 4 of his second place finishes were by a length or less and in none of his 8 finishes in the money was he backing off. He was closing in all of them even when Zenyatta ran away from him in the BCC. This year he met really tough competition. When Cape Blanco beat him in the Million Gio closed three lengths in the stretch with his final quarter in 23.64 seconds. In the Manhattan when Mission Approved beat him he closed five lengths in the stretch and ran his final quarter in 22.93 seconds, but suffered because he had to run wide. In the Dubai world Cup he ran against a loaded field and finished in a crowd just over a length off the win. In the Man O’ War at 11F, he closed ran his final 3F in 34.32 seconds and gained two lengths on the winner, Cape Blanco. Gio is still a 10F horse. He’s just a .300 hitter running against the very best competition. This is another reason why Cape Blanco is so worthy of a HOY title.
I'm with footlick...give credit where credit is due and Cape Blanco deserve it.
Cape Balnoc hands down. When the connrections go after the best competition at the highest levels and triumoph rather than hide out, well the winner of this debate is a rather easy choice.
If a horse ships across the Atlantic 3 times and wins 3 gr1's, it is either something special or we have the worst turf horses in the world and none of them should get an award. Cape Blance won two of his races in dominant fashion. Dean's Kitten stepped up in the bog, and ran a big race so at least give him credit for that. But Cape Blanco won on a fractured leg, so even though it was close, give him credit for that too. Acclimation ran very well out West and is a favorite of mine. But the strongest field he ran against was on the DelMar poly. Either is fine with me. A little more impressed with a horse who crosses the Atlantic 3 times, but........
@DeadHeat, The horses that Cape Blanco faced in all 3 American G1 win's are good enough, but your missing the big picture that he had to ship all the way over from Ireland all 3 times to win these G1 races. I would defy Acclamation to ship from California to Ireland and try his hand at the Irish Champion Stakes, or the Irish Derby if was still a 3yr.old. Both, races Cape Blanco won in Ireland last season.
Cape Blanco's main claim to fame in two out of three of the grade ones was beating Gio Ponti, who has shown us both this year and last that anything over 9f is NOT his best distance. Yes, he won the Hirsch and it was a gritty win while injured, but Dean's Kitten? Really? Neither faced the most consistent horses or the best of competition. Again on Gio, you go on what he has done this year, and he had won not a single grade one when Cape beat him. His only one this year is at a mile. So competition wise, both faced relatively the same type of horses. Ok, but very inconsistent. Acclamation has more graded stakes wins and races in the top turf races on his side of the coast. Cape didn't travel west for the same reason Acclamation didn't go east, and extra 3000 miles. Cape came to America for softer competition and Lasix. I can't say what would have happened if him and Acclamation met, but yes I do think Acclamation would have had a very good chance, especially with his speed and class. Cape has speed and on the east not many other turf horses had the quality of speed he did. Acclamation does, which would allow him to keep in touch while also NOT folding. With three grade one wins, two grade twos that all came in a five race streak, he deserves to be champion Turf Horse.
I'm not so naive as to totally buy the bruised foot excuse. The rash of fevers and foot bruises lately should have these horses on a regimen of Tylenol and aquacizers. Just to be factual about Acclamation, the 10th. place finish was on that Charlestown slop, not turf. The 5th.place finish came after running a fast 7f. in the Kilroe Mile, after a 7 1/2 month layoff. Get real about Cape Blanco, too. What did he have in store for him if he hadn't been retired? Not racing in Europe after getting used to his improved form with the L, and Acclamation waiting at the end of the trail in sunny, fast, firm CA. Now, they both must rest on their laurels to await the voting. If the other major HOTY contenders totally disappoint in their BC races, of course Acclamation is still in the running for HOTY. I see the points about Cape Blanco's three races being more prestigious and better competition than Acclamation's 4 turf wins. Another example of the dissatisfaction of this contest not being settled on the track.
OK Wes...Rank them: #1. BREEDERS CUP TURF #2. ARLINGTON MILLION #3. TURF CLASSIC #4. Sword Dancer #5. Man O War. And like I said...just throwing out hypotheticals. A win in the Championship and a top notch grade 1 isn't enough to merit an eclipe? And we're not factoring in Cape Blancos frequent flyer miles. Just wondering how a win in the BC Turf combined with another grade 1 is not enought to possibly overtake Cape Blanco. And I'm not even talking about Acclamation, its sad his season got cut short because he could have racked up awards on eclipse night.
I see what you're saying Brian but I think we have a difference of opinions on the weight of the BC TURF. You may be right...the BC may not be that important. We've seen that in recent years so that trend could continue. I guess my whole argument is...if the Breeders Cup is supposed to be the "WORLD THOROUGHBRED CHAMPIONSHIPS" why aren't these races taken into the highest of consideration when deciding championships??? And while I don't think Winchester will win....I was just talking hypotheticals here and he was definitely a more logical choice than mission approved.
Will knows that there is no chance that Winchester could win an eclipse off of 2 wins if he were to win the turf, anyone that things that Acclamation has a shot at any awards with a 5th and last place finish while running in the watered down So Cal division of turf racing out there has no idea what running and winning the top 3 races turf wise in America.
Come on Will, Winchester has one win in 2011, and ran last in the Turf Classic ... the BC is important, but not that important.
Um...are we really just throwing out the BC TURF and making it irrelevant? I think that potential champions (like CAPE BLANCO) can be dethroned on CHAMPIONSHIP DAY if a horse like WINCHESTER would win the BC TURF. He already has one grade 1 win and a win in the CHAMPIONSHIP AND SIGNATURE RACE for the division should be enough to overtake Cape Blanco.....in my opinion. But if an outsider or Euro wins....its CAPE BLANCO all the way.
I have to go with Cape Blanco on this one, he didn't only win the most prestigous races, he beat the toughest competition.

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