Clubhouse Ride, freed from the presence of Game On Dude for the first time in five months, finally had his day when he captured the $150,000 Californian Stakes (gr. II) for his first graded stakes win June 1 at Betfair Hollywood Park (VIDEO).
With Garrett Gomez aboard, the stalking Clubhouse Ride seized the lead from tiring pacesetters Batti Man and Blueskiesnrainbows near the quarter pole. Able to clear off in the stretch, the 5-year-old son of Candy Ride repelled the advance of even-money choice Liaison in the lane to score by 2 1/4 lengths.
Final time for the 1 1/8-mile Californian, a key prep for next month's Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I), was a slow 1:51.02 over the Cushion Track. Liaison, the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap (gr. II) winner ridden by Martin Garcia, was second by 2 1/4 lengths over outsider Oilisblackgold and Edwin Maldonado.
Clubhouse Ride, trained by Craig Lewis for owners Six-S Racing and Nikolas Petralia, has often been close in his 28-race career but seldom wins, coming home first for just the fourth time. The victory was the first in seven tries over Hollywood's all-weather track for the former sprinter.
The hard-trying chestnut has finished second eight times, including his past three starts behind Game On Dude in the San Antonio Stakes (gr. II), the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I), and most recently, the Charles Town Classic (gr. II) April 20. He also has eight third-place finishes. The victory boosted his career earnings to $959,620.
"The track's a little dead, but he did everything perfect," said Gomez, who rode Clubhouse Ride for the first time in the Charles Town Classic. "He's been running against a real quality horse (Game On Dude) so it was nice to get a win with him. This might even help his confidence level a bit and make him a better horse."
Bred in Kentucky by Sid and Jenny Craig, Clubhouse Ride is out of the Seeking the Gold mare Seeking Results.
Lewis, best known as the trainer of 1995 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner Larry the Legend, won the Californian in 1988 with Cutlass Reality, who went on to win the Gold Cup that year.
Clubhouse Ride will next attempt to stretch his ability to 1 1/4 miles in the July 6 Gold Cup, where he will likely face his old nemesis.
"I was hoping lightning would strike twice," Lewis said. "I won this race with Cutlass Reality. This horse has a lot of similarities to him. We're looking forward to a rematch with Game On Dude in the Gold Cup.''
Breaking from the rail in the seven-horse field, Clubhouse Ride settled in third or fourth along the inside as the Argentina-bred Batti Man and Blueskiesnrainbows engaged in a spirited duel for the lead. Fractions were not that quick (:24.43, :48.08, 1:12.53), though the front-runners were pulling hard all the way. Gomez edged Clubhouse Ride off the inside well into the sweeping final turn and he soon engaged for the lead while making a three-wide bid.
Clubhouse Ride had control coming into the stretch as the early leaders backed up quickly and Liaison and Oilisblackgold took up the chase. Liaison was going the better of the two challengers through the lane but he made little impression on Clubhouse Ride, who had angled back to the inside and kicked clear to lead by 1 1/2 lengths at the eighth pole. He was lengthening his advantage in deep stretch under a stiff drive from Gomez.
Carrying 116 pounds, five fewer than the top-weighted Liaison, Clubhouse Ride paid $8, $3.40, and $2.80 as the second choice. Arnold Zetcher's Liaison, whose two-race win streak for trainer Bob Baffert came to an end, returned $2.80 and $2.20 while part of a $20.40 exacta. Oilisblackgold was worth $5.40 to show as a 19-1 shot.
Kettle Corn was a non-threatening fourth, followed by Batti Man, Holladay Road, and Blueskiesnrainbows.