Any of the sheltered-from-the-weather patrons that witnessed the running of the million-dollar, Grade III Charles Town Classic last year would never have foretold that one of that race’s also-rans would win all of his next seven races.
Acclamation evidently had a fervant dislike for the slop that the 10 thoroughbreds faced in the 2011 Charles Town Classic, won by Duke of Mischief.
Acclamation ran last. He slowly left the track area with his head and frontside covered with a thin layer of mud.
Where do the owners (Bud and Judy Johnston) and trainer (Don Warren) go when their horse has run last at Chares Town?
They returned to California where they had been together as owners and trainer for 35 years.
And they started winning races on the turf courses of California.
Since being thoroughly beaten in the mud at Charles Town, Acclamation has reeled off seven straight stakes win, with five of the successes coming in Grade I races.
The patrons at Charles Town weren’t the only people to see Acclamation lose races. The six-year-old had such an ordinary record following his first 17 races that serious consideration was given to giving him retirement from all the beatings he saw.
He won only two of his first 17 races.
Once he was given chances on the grass, his performances were a complete turnaround from what had gone before.
In his last 13 races, Acclamation has won nine of them.
And he has not tasted the grime of defeat since faltering at Charles Town back last year.
Back when he being tried on dirt and synthetic surfaces, there were only two wins to count. Out of 17 races. Successes finally came for Johnston and trainer Warren. He won the Jim Murray Handicap in California. Another win came close on the heels of the Murray and that was the Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap at Hollywood Park just before the nasty night in the mud at Charles Town.
Those two wins appeared to be mirages when Acclamation had four straight clunkers where he finished out of the money. All the disappointments were culminated in the sloppy mess at Charles Town.
Why did the sudden winning turn of events take place?
“One day we got the idea we should take the stick away,” Warren mentioned. “When we ran him in the Jim Murray the first time, we told the rider to send him from the start and open a big lead.
“He did just that, opening an eight-length lead at odds of 14-1 and won by himself by seven lengths. The horse had been giving his all but was apparently resenting the whip. Once he was allowed to do everything on his own he turned into a different horse.
“He just needed time to mature, and now he almost seems unbeatable on the turf out in California.
“We’ve all waited and waited for a horse like this to come along. Bud Johnston always thought one day he’d have an Eclipse Award-winning horse and I’ve stuck right by him. We’ve always gotten along like brothers.”
Acclamation has been given an Eclipse Award in the Older Turf Horse category.
Here in 2012, his fifth year of racing has been marred by an ankle injury that was termed a “mild strain” of a ligament near his left front pastern.
After a typical-for-him, front-running win in the Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar in July, Acclamation has not returned to the races.
He had jumped out to a lead in that last race in late July, and bustled along to a 2 3/4-length win where the competition couldn’t reach him.
But he wasn’t able to defend his 2011 win in the Grade I Pacific Classic at Del Mar. That race was run on Aug. 26.
Owner Bud Johnston said: “I’m sorry for Del Mar. He’s a very popular horse and he would have brought interest to the race and some people to the grandstand.
“We have to keep a close watch, and he’ll tell us when he’s ready. We can’t say one way or the other, but he’s not lame or anything; he’s been acting fine recently, and I think he’ll be back.”
With Acclamation and his human friends now playing a waiting game, his statistics have been inactive as well.
He’s had 30 career starts with 11 wins, two seconds, six thirds. His earnings have reached $1,958,048.
For his owners and trainer to find his niche on the grass was not an easy trick. He doesn’t have all that many all-time luminaries affixed to his family tree. Nureyev is one grandfather. Northern Dancer is back another generation. No other wonders of nature can be found dangling from his family tree.
Johnston’s mostly red silks with the white sash streaming across the chest are usually seen in front of his races.
If his leg heals, Acclamation will likely be tried in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Classic or the Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile. Those races are on Saturday, Nov. 3, but he needs another preparation race in the interim. If he doesn’t get that needed race, Acclamation will possibly be retired to stud at age six.