Ending a streak of five consecutive runner-up finishes – three behind Game On Dude in two different states – Clubhouse Ride won the $150,500, Grade II Californian Saturday at Betfair Hollywood Park.
Positioned closest to an early duel between Batti Man and Blueskiesnrainbows by jockey Garrett Gomez, Clubhouse Ride took over midway around the turn, drew clear and wasn't seriously challenged by favored Liaison in the final eighth of a mile. The margin of victory was 2 ¼ lengths.
Owned by Six-S Racing Stable and Nikolas Petralia and trained by Craig Lewis, the 5-year-old son of Candy Ride and the Seeking the Gold mare Seeking Results won for the fourth time in 28 starts. He increased his bankroll to $959,620 with his first graded success.
Beaten only a half-length by 2012 Californian and Hollywood Gold Cup winner Game On Dude in the Grade II Charles Town Classic April 20 in West Virginia after chasing that one previously in the San Antonio Stakes and Santa Anita Handicap, Clubhouse Ride completed the 1 1/8 miles over Cushion Track in 1:51.02.
In providing Gomez with his first Californian win since Skimming in 2001, Clubhouse Ride, who was bred in Kentucky by Sid and Jenny Craig, paid $8, $3.40 and $2.80 as the 3-1 second choice in the field of seven.
Several lengths off the lead Saturday after consecutive pace-pressing victories in his first two starts of 2013, Liaison rallied to finish 2 ¼ lengths clear of 19-1 shot Oilisblackgold.
The even-money favorite and winner of the Grade II Mervyn LeRoy Handicap May 4, Liaison returned $2.80 and $2.20. Oilisblackgold paid $5.40 to show.
Completing the order of finish were Kettle Corn, the 7-2 third choice, Batti Man, Holladay Road and Blueskiesnrainbows.
“I was hoping lightning would strike twice,'' said Lewis after his first stakes win at Hollywood Park since Valentine Dancer won the 2005 Fran's Valentine. “I won this race with Cutlass Reality (in 1988).
“This horse has a lot of similarities to him. We're looking forward to the rematch (with Game On Dude) in the ($500,000, Grade I Hollywood) Gold Cup (July 6).''
Gomez, who rode Clubhouse Ride for the first time in the Charles Town Classic, thinks a trip to the winner's circle – the first for the chestnut since an optional claiming win on the Santa Anita turf last Oct. 25 – could be beneficial.
“He's been running against a real quality horse, so it's nice to get a win with him,'' said Gomez. “This might even help his confidence level a bit and make him a better horse.''
Aiming for his fourth win over Cushion Track, Liaison wasn't comfortable for most of the journey, according to jockey Martin Garcia.
“This horse is way better than that,'' he said. “The first sixteenth he was really good, but at the six furlongs he really started struggling. He just didn't want to go. This is a very good horse, but today he didn't even try.''
The day began with Et Tu Walker becoming the Spring/Summer meet's first three time winner.
Owned by Jeff Ho, Gary Margolis and trainer Doug O'Neill, the 4-year-old son of Shakespeare won the optional claimer on turf by 1 ¼ lengths under jockey Mario Gutierrez.
All three of Et Tu Walker's victories in the first 24 days of the meet have come at six furlongs on grass. Before Saturday, his other wins had come against $25,000 claimers April 25 and $40,000 claimers May 17. Gutierrez was also aboard for those wins as well as the ridgling's maiden victory over Cushion Track last July 12.
See the full chart here.
GARRETT GOMEZ, CLUBHOUSE RIDE, Winner: “I was real happy on the first turn. The track's a little dead, but he did everything perfect. 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. ”
MARTIN GARCIA, LIAISON, Second: “He wasn't handling the track at all. This horse is way better than that. The first sixteenth he was really good, but at the six furlongs he really started struggling. He just didn't want to go. This is a very good horse, but today he didn't even try.”
EDWIN MALDONADO, OILISBLACKGOLD, Third: “I like the way he ran. We thought he might get tired today because he lost some time training. Last time he hit himself on his foot and it abscessed.”
CRAIG LEWIS, CLUBHOUSE RIDE, Winner: “I was hoping lightning would strike twice. I won this race with Cutlass Reality (in 1988). This horse has a lot of similarities to him. We're
looking forward to a rematch with (Game On Dude) in the (Grade I, $500,000 Hollywood) Gold Cup (July 6).''
MIKE MARLOW (Assistant trainer, Bob Baffert), LIAISON, Second: “From what (Garcia) said, he wasn't handling the track very well. He was in good position, but he just kept falling back.”
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