03/15/2003 12:00AM

Champion Lodge wet winner

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Champion Lodge, a minor handicap winner in England last year, won his graded stakes debut in Saturday's $250,000, Grade 2 San Luis Rey Handicap at Santa Anita.

For Champion Lodge, the conditions must have felt more like England than Southern California. The race was run on a cool rainy day over a yielding turf course. Champion Lodge ($16.20) ran the 1 1/2 miles in 2:33.48.

Owned by Ron Charles and Clear Valley Stables and trained by Sandy Shulman, Champion Lodge has won 6 of 24 starts and $301,804.

Ridden by Alex Solis, Champion Lodge stalked the pace of Special Matter for much of the San Luis Rey Handicap. Special Matter, who won the Carleton Burke Handicap over this course last fall, was allowed to set his own pace - a half-mile in 50.32 seconds and six furlongs in 1:15.86.

With a half-mile remaining, Special Matter led by a length, but the trailers were within five lengths.

Special Matter led turning for home, but Champion Lodge closed quickly on his outside and pulled away to win by six lengths. Special Matter held second, a length in front of Adminniestrator. Bonaguil finished fourth, followed by Sumitas, Delta Form and Tenaja Trail. Blue Steller, Night Patrol, and Requete were scratched.