02/20/2013 4:48PM

Santa Anita: Clubhouse Ride targets Santa Anita Handicap

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Clubhouse Ride is being pointed to the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap on March 2.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Clubhouse Ride, second in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes on Feb. 3, will not run in Saturday’s $200,000 San Carlos Stakes for sprinters at Santa Anita, trainer Craig Lewis said Wednesday.

Lewis hopes to run Clubhouse Ride in the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap over 1 1/4 miles on March 2, pending the publication of the weights this weekend.

“I’m leaning toward the Big Cap,” Lewis said. “I discussed with the owner, and we decided we’d rather go there. The money is enticing.”

Clubhouse Ride was beaten 6 1/2 lengths by Game On Dude in the San Antonio Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 3. Trained by Bob Baffert, Game On Dude, who won the 2011 Santa Anita Handicap, will be the highweight in the Big Cap. He will not carry more than 126 pounds. The conditions of the race expressly state that no horse will carry more than that weight.

The last time that Game On Dude ran in a handicap, the Hollywood Gold Cup last July, he carried 124 pounds and won by 1 1/2 lengths.

For Clubhouse Ride, the Big Cap would be his first start in a Grade 1 since a third in the 2010 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park. A winner of 3 of 25 starts and $469,620, Clubhouse Ride won the 2010 Barretts Juvenile Stakes at Fairplex Park. The Big Cap will be his first start at 1 1/4 miles, a distance that does not concern Lewis.

“It’s shaping up as a pretty good heat,” Lewis said. “He doesn’t have a preferred distance. He’s a unique animal. He can run short, long, dirt, grass, synthetic, or on an off track.”

“If he can pick up a piece, that’s real money and it would put him over $500,000. Not bad for a horse that cost $22,000. I’d like to do that every time.”

Clubhouse Ride was purchased for $22,000 at the 2010 Barretts January mixed sale as a 2-year-old.

Ultimate Eagle plans to skip Big Cap

The Big Cap field will not include Ultimate Eagle, who was pulled up and vanned off after grabbing a quarter in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 9.

Monday, Ultimate Eagle worked seven furlongs in 1:25. Wednesday, trainer Mike Pender said that Ultimate Eagle will pass the Big Cap.

“I don’t think so, unless there were some huge defections,” Pender said of Ultimate Eagle’s Big Cap prospects. “He’s doing very well. We’re in a holding pattern for his next race.”

Pender described the improvement of Ultimate Eagle’s grabbed quarter as “major.”

The Big Cap field is expected to include the stakes winners Called to Serve, Guilt Trip, Handsome Mike, John Scott, Richard’s Kid, Ron the Greek, Stephanoatsee and the stakes-placed Tritap. Ron the Greek, who is trained by Bill Mott, is the defending champion and won the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 19.

Tuesday, Guilt Trip worked a half-mile in 47 seconds at Santa Anita, the fastest of 40 recorded works at the distance. Trained by Baffert, Guilt Trip won the Grade 2 Strub Stakes on Feb. 2. A start in the Big Cap would be his first at 1 1/4 miles.