07/03/2013 4:19PM

Hollywood Park: Lewis sending Clubhouse Ride as potential Gold Cup upsetter

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Clubhouse Ride will start in Saturday’s Gold Cup following a sharp win in the Californian Stakes.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – It has been 25 years since trainer Craig Lewis won the 1988 Hollywood Gold Cup with Cutlass Reality.

The 1988 Hollywood Gold Cup was rightfully billed as a matchup between two Kentucky Derby winners – 1986 winner Ferdinand and 1987 winner Alysheba. Ferdinand held off Alysheba in an epic running of the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the fall of 1987, but Alysheba beat Ferdinand in the Santa Anita Handicap and San Bernardino Handicap in early 1988.

Cutlass Reality, who did not face those horses in early 1988, was a 9-2 shot in the Gold Cup. He slipped clear in early stretch and won by 6 1/2 lengths. Alysheba and Ferdinand were second and third.

“We spoiled the party,” Lewis recalled on Wednesday.

Saturday, Lewis can play spoiler again with Clubhouse Ride, a rugged 5-year-old who has outstanding form this year.

The 2013 Gold Cup is led by defending champion Game On Dude, who will carry 127 pounds and go favored. Clubhouse Ride will carry 119 pounds. The race drew a field of five on Wednesday, including Kettle Corn, Oilisblackgold, and Sky Kingdom.

[HOLLYWOOD GOLD CUP: Get PPs, watch Saturday's card live]

Batti Man and Liaison were candidates early in the week, but were not entered. Trainer Dan Hendricks said on Wednesday that running Batti Man “was a stretch.”

“We would have been running for third, fourth, or fifth,” he said.

Liaison will start in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar on July 27, trainer Bob Baffert said.

Similar to Cutlass Reality in 1988, Clubhouse Ride will start in Saturday’s Gold Cup following a sharp win in the Californian Stakes. Cutlass Reality won the Californian as a stalker in 1988. Clubhouse Ride did the same on June 1, racing in third for the first six furlongs before taking the lead in early stretch and beating Liaison by 2 1/4 lengths.

The Californian was Clubhouse Ride’s first graded stakes win in his 28 starts. Owned by Six-S Racing Stable and Nikolas Petralia, Clubhouse Ride has four wins and career earnings of $959,620. A top-three finish in the Gold Cup would put him past $1 million in earnings.

“He cost $22,000,” Lewis said. “In today’s game, you see them bring $200,000 to $300,000 and then they’re running for $20,000.”

Clubhouse Ride will have a new rider on Saturday. Joe Talamo replaces Garrett Gomez, who has been off his mounts since June 13, citing personal reasons. Gomez, through his Twitter feed, said earlier this week that he is preparing for a comeback on the weekend of July 13-14.

Talamo rode Clubhouse Ride three times in 2012, with one second and two third-place finishers.

“I think Joe is an excellent rider,” Lewis said. “If the horse is good enough, he’ll get him there. Garrett fits the horse in a tremendous way. It’s disappointing not to have a rider that has been successful on the horse. I don’t like change when things are going right.”

The Gold Cup will be Clubhouse Ride’s sixth start this year, with the Californian his only win. Earlier in the year, Clubhouse Ride was second to Game On Dude in three consecutive stakes – the Grade 2 San Antonio in February, the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap in March, and the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic in West Virginia in April.

Clubhouse Ride had 12 starts last year at 4. He ran only once as a 3-year-old, finishing second to Tapizar in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes in January 2011.

“He didn’t really have much of a 3-year-old season because of injury,” Lewis said. “He had a crack in an ankle, which sent him to the sidelines after the Sham.

“When we tried to bring him back, he hurt his shoulder. We were disappointed because we thought he was a Derby horse. We’ll never know, but it may have been to his benefit. He had a good chance to grow up.”

This year, Clubhouse Ride has improved with each start, getting within a half-length of Game On Dude in West Virginia and winning the Californian.

Saturday’s Gold Cup is the next test, 25 years after Lewis showed that his stable is capable of a win on the biggest day.