Acclimate and jockey Ricardo Gonzalez following the San Luis Rey
A California-bred joy to behold, 8-year-old gelding Acclimate made his 31st career start and he had his running shoes on Saturday at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif., as he led a half dozen rivals on a merry chase for a mile and one half on turf, winning the Grade 3, $125,000 San Luis Rey Stakes by a half length under regular rider Ricky Gonzalez. Trained by Phil D’Amato, the bay son of 2011 Eclipse champion older male Acclamation got the trip in 2:25.40 on firm turf.
With a hillside start, Acclimate, the even-money favorite, went to the lead as expected and enjoyed a 1 3/4-length cushion over Current and jockey Chris Emigh as he led the field under the wire the first time around the oval. With Gonzalez sitting still and Emigh asking his mount, Acclimate had a three-length advantage heading into the far turn and they then held off a determined charge from Dicey Mo Chara the final three sixteenths of a mile.
“I sound like a broken record, but that’s what he likes to do,” said Gonzalez, who won last year’s Grade 3 San Juan Capistrano Stakes with Acclimate and has now ridden him in eight consecutive starts. “He likes to go out there and be happy on the lead. I just let him do what he likes to do. He was just playing around the whole time and as soon as he felt (Dicey Mo Chara) on his hip, he dug in and showed his heart, how big it is.”
Most recently fifth going a mile and one quarter on turf in the Grade 2 San Marcos Stakes Jan. 30, Acclimate paid $4.20, $2.80 and $2.40.
Owned by The Ellwood Johnston Trust, Timmy Time Racing, LLC, Brooke and Ryan Bartlett, Michael Goritz and Ken Tevelde, Acclimate, who is out of the Boundary mare Knows No Bounds, was also bred in part by the Johnston Family’s Old English Rancho.
In garnering his fourth graded stakes victory, Acclimate improved his overall mark to 31-8-6-5. With the San Luis Rey winner’s share of $75,000, he increased his earnings to $763,372.
“He’s just a cool horse,” said D’Amato, who rang up his eighth stakes win of the meet and his meet-leading 26th win overall. “He deserved the opportunity to put in this kind of a performance today. You know, he’s been knocking on the door. Today, he made a pretty sensible pace, the other horse came to him and he fought him off, so the win was well deserved.”
When asked if Acclimate, a two-time winner of the San Juan Capistrano would be pointed to the 2022 edition of the 1 3/4-mile marathon on June 19, D’Amato responded, “I would say (it’s) the most logical next step.”
Trained by Leonard Powell, English-bred Dicey Mo Chara, fresh off a victory in a second condition allowance going 1 1/8 miles on turf Feb. 4, rallied three-deep turning for home and fought gallantly through the stretch drive but was second best under Drayden Van Dyke.
Off at 6-1, he paid $5.60 and $3.80 while finishing 3 ½ lengths in front of Current.
Off at 9-1, Current dropped back approaching the quarter pole but held on for third money, finishing one length better than Offlee Naughty while paying $4.20 to show.
Fractions on the race were 25.08, 48.26, 1:12.32, 1:36.87 and 2:01.38.
There were two key scratches earlier in the day, as D’Amato’s 5-2 morning line favorite Say the Word and the David Hofmans-trained Award Winner (5-1) were both declared.
First post time for an eight-race card on Sunday is at 12:30 p.m. with admission gates opening at 10:30 a.m.