09/20/2013 12:25PM

Barretts at Fairplex: Clubhouse Ride comes full circle for Ralph M. Hinds

Benoit & Associates
Once one of the top handicap horses in California, Clubhouse Ride has finished out of the money in his last three races.

POMONA, Calif. – It all started at Barretts for Clubhouse Ride. The question Sunday is whether his campaign will end at the same place.

Even his trainer is unsure. Purchased for $22,000 at Barretts and closing in on $1 million in earnings, Clubhouse Ride faces eight rivals in the $100,000 Ralph M. Hinds Handicap on closing day of the Los Angeles County Fair meet. His current form is dubious.

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“His last couple races obviously are not as good as his races early in the year,” trainer Craig Lewis said. “Obviously on his best day, he would make a very good showing. I am taking a wait-and-see approach.”

The guarded comment makes sense. Clubhouse Ride enters the Hinds with questions. After three runner-up finishes to Game On Dude followed by a decisive Grade 2 victory in June, Clubhouse Ride suddenly tailed off. He finished out of the money in his last three starts, with no visible alibi.

If Clubhouse Ride, the 120-pound highweight, misfires again, the Hinds will be ripe for horse-for-course Oilisblackgold.

“He likes that track,” trainer Craig Dollase said. “He is 2 for 2 [at Barretts], and we freshened him a little bit. It’s all positive.”

In fact, Oilisblackgold appears the most likely winner. Owned by Class Racing, Oilisblackgold has had two previous starts at Barretts, and they produced impressive wins in a maiden and an allowance race. He most recently flirted with graded stakes company at Hollywood and Del Mar. Edwin Maldonado rides Oilisblackgold.

The others in the field are Blueskiesnrainbows, El Commodore, Endorsement, Fire With Fire, Lucky Primo, and Shadow Runner. Most are in good form. And then, there is Clubhouse Ride.

Lewis was baffled by his dull recent efforts and sent the 5-year-old in for a battery of tests.

“They showed nothing – we did a complete body scan on him.” Lewis said. “He trains good, looks good, he acts good. Will he run? I don’t know. This will be the test.”

Recent subpar efforts might be attributed to not liking the Del Mar Polytrack. Another possibility is Clubhouse Ride needs a break from racing.

Either way, he ranks among the most profitable auction purchases in recent years. He was purchased as an unraced 2-year-old at a January 2010 mixed sale at Barretts.

“If he runs in the money, he’ll go over $1 million,” Lewis said. “What could be more fitting than a horse going over a million where you purchased him for $22,000?”

Clubhouse Ride is owned by Rick Seidner and Niko Petralia and enters the Hinds having won four races and $991,744 from 31 starts.

Aaron Gryder rides Clubhouse Ride, whose closing style should play well in a race likely to unfold at a brisk pace. The front-runners and pace-pressers include Endorsement, El Commodore, Blueskiesnrainbows, and Lucky Primo.

El Commodore finished fourth last out on turf in a Grade 2 at Del Mar that was won by Obviously. In that race, El Commodore surrendered his best asset when he was rated. New jockey Martin Garcia is expected to let him rip. Mike Machowsky, who won the 2012 Hinds with Worth Repeating, trains El Commodore.

Blueskiesnrainbows, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, seeks his first stakes win since the Grade 2 Swaps in 2012. Martin Pedroza is scheduled to ride Blueskiesnrainbows.