ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 22, 2009) – Spring House split horses in deep stretch and held off hard-charging Church Service by one-half length Sunday to become only the second back-to-back winner of Santa Anita’s Grade II, $150,000 San Luis Obispo Handicap while negotiating the 1 ½-mile distance on turf in 2:27.26, just five one-hundredths of a second slower than in the previous year’s 52nd running.

Alex Solis, who had ridden the 7-year-old gelding in his last two starts, was aboard as Spring House went off at odds of 7-1 after being dispatched as the 17-10 favorite in 2008 with Garrett Gomez in the saddle.

“He was on the bit the whole way,” said Solis, “and when that hole opened up in the stretch, he went though it like a bullet.”

Church Service, last year’s San Luis Obispo runner-up ridden by Rafael Bejarano, stormed home from tenth and last on the extreme outside to finish fastest of all with Attempted Humor another half-length back in third with Mike Smith up.

Zambezi Sun, the highly-regarded French import saddled by Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel who was bet down 9-10 favoritism with Gomez in the irons, never seemed comfortable in his United States debut. He faded to sixth after pressing the early pace set by 36-1 shot Kris Silver.

In joining Great Communicator, who won in 1988 and the following year, Spring House paid $15.20, $7.20 and $5.20. Church Service returned $6.60 and $4 while Attempted Humor paid $6.60 to show.

Trained by Julio Canani for co-breeder R. D. Hubbard, Spring House had registered a single victory in seven starts, the Grade II Del Mar Handicap, since taking last year’s San Luis Obispo by 2 ¼ lengths over Church Service.

“I learned quite a bit about him the last two times I rode him,” Solis said, “but Julio has been working with him, and, in his last two works, he’s figured out what he needed. He’s always had a lot of class.”

“I put a figure-eight (noseband) on him,” Canani explained. “He had trouble breathing (when fourth in the Jan. 19 San Marcos Stakes), and I was thinking of giving him an operation, but I changed my mind. I checked with three different veterinarians, and I decided just to put a figure-eight on him, and it worked out.”

The son of Chester House’s repeat in the marathon was worth $90,000, which elevated his lifetime earnings to $838,284 from an 8-5-11 in 38 starts.

Gomez said odds-on choice Zambezi Sun was a handful the entire journey. “He was getting out the whole way with me,” said Gomez. “I was having trouble keeping him on the racetrack. Going around there the first time, he was okay. But by the time he got to the first turn, I had two hands on one rein, and he was wanting to get out and just get rank all at the same time.”

Canani said the Grade II, $150,000 San Luis Rey Handicap on March 21, also at 1 ½ miles on turf, is the projected next start for Spring House.

Following dark days on Monday and Tuesday, Santa Anita resumes racing on Wednesday with an eight-race program that begins at 1 p.m.