01/13/2011 12:36PM

Clean trip may be all Clubhouse Ride needs in Sham


With 10 starts at age 2, and plenty of money already in his bank account, Clubhouse Ride has a leg up on his rival 3-year-olds in the Grade 3, $100,000 Sham Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita. What he needs now, though, is a clean trip.

In each of his last three starts, trouble has seemed to find Clubhouse Ride. In his last start, the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park on Dec. 18, he was clobbered on the first turn, fell back to last in the 10-horse field, then rallied courageously to finish third, behind Comma to the Top and J P’s Gusto, to this point the most proven Kentucky Derby prospects on this circuit going two turns.

“He lost contact with the field,” Craig Lewis, who trains Clubhouse Ride, said Thursday morning. “He was forced to drop back, and then he made a nice run in a competitive field. He’s a tough, durable horse, and he runs.”

The Sham, at 1 1/16 miles, drew just four other runners, all of whom are coming off maiden wins. Clubhouse Ride has a distinct advantage in terms of experience. Most notable among his rivals appear to be Tapizar, an impressive winner at Churchill Downs for trainer Steve Asmussen, and Uncle Sam, who won his debut going two turns at Santa Anita on Dec. 27 for Bob Baffert.

“It’s very difficult to assess the field,” Lewis said. “They are emerging 3-year-olds who appear to have a lot of promise, especially Baffert’s horse and Asmussen’s horse, though it’s hard to say what was behind them.”

Tapizar won by 10 1/2 lengths going 1 1/16 miles on Nov. 27. This will be his first start on this circuit. Uncle Sam won by 2 3/4 lengths at a flat mile in a race that was rained off the turf.

Anthony’s Cross defeated Tapizar at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4 in his first start going two turns on dirt; he had raced once previously going two turns, on a synthetic track at Keeneland. He was entered in an allowance race earlier in the meet at Santa Anita, but was scratched by trainer Eoin Harty, who was concerned about the speed of the track that day following a rainstorm.

The Sham “is a move forward,” Harty said Thursday.

“He’s shown improvement every time,” Harty said. “I just don’t know if he has enough speed to win at Santa Anita right now, because it seems as though you just need to be put on the lead and then hold on.”

Pride of Silver graduated Dec. 17 at Hollywood Park in his third start, but first going two turns.