Ridden for the second straight time by a chilly Rafael Bejarano, Rail Trip collared pacesetter One Track Mind rounding the final turn of the 1 1/8-mile event and took command in the lane.
The 1-5 pick Rail Trip won under a firm hand ride while striding away by 2 3/4 lengths over Sangaree, the distant 11-1 second choice in the field of eight. The winning 5-year-old Jump Start gelding won with plenty left for his next expected start in the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) July 10, a race he won last year by three lengths.
“I had so much horse at the end," said Bejarano, who also won the Californian in 2008 with Heatseeker. "It was nice to be able to save something for next time. He’s been training so good and he was really fit today. I felt a little pressure at the half-mile but he kept on running. He’s getting better and better and you can do anything you want with him.”
The final time in the Californian was a moderate 1:48.49 over the Cushion Track.
Rail Trip avenged a second-place finish to Informed in last year's Californian as the favorite. He has now won five of seven starts at Hollywood.
Trained by Ron Ellis for Jay Em Ess Stable, Rail Trip has won both of his starts this year in impressive style. He captured the Mervy LeRoy Handicap (gr. II) at Hollywood in a similar fashion to the Californian by 3 1/4 lengths May 8. He became the first horse to win the Mervyn LeRoy and the Californian in the same year since Even the Score in 2004.
"It's a relief to get this one done," co-owner Samantha Siegel told TVG after the race.
As the leaders made their way around the final turn, Rail Trip was the first to challenge One Track Mind, taking the lead leaving the bend. Sangaree, rallying on the outside for Martin Garcia, and Slew's Tiznow, angled off the rail by David Flores, tried to make a race of it.
But Rail Trip, with long loping strides, was in control and won easily while carrying a light 118 pounds, which was two more than each of his seven rivals. Sangaree edged Slew's Tiznow by a half-length for second.
"The nice thing about him is that he’s almost turned into a mile-and-one-quarter horse," Ellis said. "He knows where the running starts and he’s really strong down the lane."
Ellis said the development of Rail Trip since he won last year's Gold Cup has been great to watch.
"As the year went on he got better and better with things," Ellis said. "This year, he’s bigger and stronger and heavier. He’s matured a lot. He’s a real versatile horse and that’s going to come in handy at some point. When he won the Gold Cup (in 2009) he was at the end of a lot of races. This year, by purpose, we wanted to bring him in and point for the Breeders’ Cup and have him ready for the second half of the year.”
Rail Trip improved his career mark to 8-2-1 in 11 races, all on synthetic tracks. He boosted his earnings to $967,790 with the winner's share of $90,000.
Bred in Kentucky by Donarra Thoroughbreds, the good-looking bay is out of Sweet Trip, by Carson City.
Rail Trip paid $2.40, $2.20 and $2.10 and topped a $10 exacta. Sangaree, who was also second to Rail Trip in the Mervyn LeRoy, returned $5.20 and $3.40. Slew's Tiznow, Hollywood's Cushion Track record holder at 1 1/16 miles, was $6.20 to show.