Jockey Alex Solis, perhaps inspired by a visit from an old friend, rode Leesider to a thrilling win over gritty pacesetter C.T. Zee in Sunday’s $250,000 Cal National Snow Chief Stakes at Hollywood Park.
Solis watched the return of a champion when the California-bred Snow Chief joined the post parade for the race named in his honor. Now 24, Snow Chief and Solis combined to win seven races for trainer Mel Stute in 1986 including the Florida Derby, Santa Anita Derby, Preakness and Jersey Derby en route to champion 3-year-old honors.
Leesider and C.T. Zee gave a worthy performance in the Snow Chief -- feature event on the Gold Rush VIII program for Cal-breds -- each battling gamely through the stretch with the former prevailing by a nose in 1:52.31 for 1 1/8 miles on Cushion Track.
"It was awesome seeing Snow Chief out here today,” Solis said. “It's amazing to think about all the great things I did with him. He was the horse that practically started my career. It's even better now that I got to win the race named after him. I was very confident Leesider was going to run a big race. Every race that he runs, he keeps getting better and better. He was very game today."
Leesider, a son of Bertrando, stalked C.T. Zee from the start, finally taking a run at the leader as the field of 3-year-olds approached the quarter pole. C.T. Zee had a length-and-a-half advantage when he straightened for home, but Leesider pulled even nearing mid-stretch.
Leesider, saddled by assistant Jamie Lloyd in the absence of trainer Paddy Gallagher, returned $16.80, $8.20 and $4.40 as the fourth choice in the field of seven 3-year-olds. C.T. Zee paid $15.40 and $7.20. The show price on Tap It Light, moved up to third with the disqualification of Zoning In, was $3.40.
The victory, worth $150,000, boosted Leesider’s earnings to $200,200. Owned by Patrick Sheehy of Newport Beach, he has two wins and two seconds in six starts.
In other Gold Rush races:
Garrett Gomez returned to Hollywood Park to ride Nashoba’s Key ($3.60) in the $150,000 Fran’s Valentine Stakes. Defending champion Memorette finished third.
Victor Espinoza, the leading Gold Rush jockey, notched his 14th and 15th wins in the eighth year of the event with SomethinaboutLaura ($5.20) in the $150,000 B. Thoughtful Stakes and Tiz Elemental ($6) in the $200,000 Melair Stakes. The first came when the stewards disqualified Getback Time and moved Somethinaboutlaura to first. The win by Tiz Elemental completed a double for owner Warren B. Williamson and trainer Carla Gaines, who also clicked with Nashoba’s Key.
Favorite Greg’s Gold ($3.60), third two years ago, scored a half-length victory in the $150,000 Tiznow under jockey David Flores, who is now 11 wins shy of the 3,000 mark.
Corey Nakatani, the jockey aboard the DQ'd Getback Time, came back to connect on 7-1 shot Epic Power ($16.80) in the $150,000 TVG Khaled Stakes.