Craig Lewis doesn’t put Clubhouse Ride in the same class as former stars he trained like Larry the Legend and Cutlass Reality, but if the 5-year-old Candy Ride horse wins the rich and prestigious Santa Anita Handicap on March 2, the trainer might have to reevaluate his thinking.

Larry the Legend was a rags-to-riches stakes winner that capped his career with a victory in the 1995 Santa Anita Derby. Cutlass Reality won four stakes at Hollywood Park in 1988, highlighted by the Hollywood Gold Cup.

Clubhouse Ride has a ways to go to reach that status for the 65-year-old Lewis, a native Los Angelino who resides in Arcadia and is a major fan of the San Francisco 49ers.

Clubhouse Ride finished 6 ½ lengths behind Game On Dude in the Grade II San Antonio Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 3. Only four horses started in that otherwise paceless race, giving Game On Dude yet another advantage, as if he needed it, being the favorite at five cents on the dollar.

“We’re hoping to get a more favorable scenario for Clubhouse Ride in the Big ’Cap than we did when Game On Dude beat us in the San Antonio,” Lewis said, “but it might help a couple other good horses, too, like Ron the Greek.”

Ron the Greek won the Big ’Cap last year from well off the pace, and if he runs against Game On Dude, it would mark the first time in the race’s 76-year history that two Santa Anita Handicap winners ran in the same Big ’Cap.

Clubhouse Ride, owned by the Six-S Racing Stable headed by Murrey Seidner of Glendora and Nikolas Petralia, already has earned more than 20 times his purchase price of $22,000 at the 2010 Barretts January mixed sale, with $469,620 in the coffers, this despite winning only three of 25 starts.

“He’s a nice horse, a cool horse,” Lewis said. “He does everything well. He’s a fun horse to be around. He’s got a very good way about him; good temperament, good behavior, a nice horse in every way, and he makes money.”

Aaron Gryder, who has ridden Clubhouse Ride in his last seven starts, winning once, retains the mount in the Big ’Cap. “He rode him great in the San Antonio,” Lewis said. “Game On Dude was just too good and things went his way.

“With a bigger field, better horses and a longer distance in the Santa Anita Handicap, it’s either going to hurt us or help us. That’s what we’re going to find out. Clubhouse Ride isn’t in a league with Larry the Legend or Cutlass Reality yet, but we almost got the money in the 2001 Santa Anita Handicap with Quindici Man, (who finished third to Game On Dude, beaten a half-length at 69-1).” Probable for the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap at 1 ¼ miles presented by San Manuel Indi

an Bingo & Casino: Game On Dude, Ron the Greek, Called to Serve, Guilt Trip, Stephanoatsee, Handsome Mike, Clubhouse Ride, Richard’s Kid and Tritap.

Not only will Santa Anita present three Grade I races on Big ’Cap Day, fans on track will receive free an attractive Santa Anita tote bag with paid admission while supplies last.

Festivities also will include popular premium Food Trucks, a KROQ concert featuring Youngblood Hawk, a microbrew and craft beer presentation and a $400,000 guaranteed late Pick 4 presented by Daily Racing Form.

First post time on Big ’Cap is 12 noon. Gates open at 10 a.m.


Bob Baffert said Saturday morning a final decision on whether Game On Dude runs in the Santa Anita Handicap a week from today would not be made until the gelding works tomorrow and Baffert sees weight assignments due out today for the Big ’Cap, a race Game On Dude won in 2011.

“We’ll see how he works and what the weights are,” Baffert said. “Everything has to be really good. Otherwise, we’ll look at the Charles Town Classic ($1.5 million at 1 1/8 miles on April 20). It’s worth $1 million to the winner, and that’s like two Big ’Caps ($450,000 to the winner), and I know he likes that track.”

Game On Dude was second under 123 pounds to Duke of Mischief on a sloppy track in the Grade II Charles Town Classic on April 16, 2011.

In other Big ’Cap news, trainer Carla Gaines said Crystal Water winner John Scott would pass the race in favor of another race to be determined.


Retired Hall of Fame jockey Don Pierce, who won four Santa Anita Handicaps and is regarded as one of the best big-money riders of his era, has fond recollections of his first Big ’Cap win aboard Linmold, in 1960.

“It really meant a lot to my career,” said Pierce from his home in Encinitas, near Del Mar. “What helped too was that there was a lot of added publicity leading into the race because I had claimed foul against both Shoemaker (Bill, who rode Baghdad) and Arcaro (Eddie, who rode First Landing) in the race before, the Strub. (Arcaro won the race and Shoemaker was second, with Pierce third, aboard Linmold).

“Both of those horses should have been taken down but I remember right after the Strub, the guy who ran the place at that time, Carlton Burke, told Gil Stratton on television while I was still on the scale that ‘Don Pierce is trying to claim foul, but there won’t be any change.’

“There wasn’t, but there was a lot written about it and it helped bring attention to the Big ’Cap. I was still really a kid (23) and I had come down from Seattle in 1958. I was doing really good, but winning the Santa Anita Handicap put me on the map, that’s for sure.

“My horse broke good and we were lying in the middle of the pack and he came running when we turned for home. There were four horses on the wire and we beat Ralph Neves and Fleet Nasrullah by a head. The Santa Anita Handicap was the biggest race in the world at that time and there were so many people there you couldn’t see the cement.”

Trained by H.C. McBride, Linmold, off at 12-1, paid $26 to win. Baghdad, the 8-5 favorite with Shoemaker, finished fourth, beaten a head and two noses. First Landing and Arcaro, off as the second choice at 4-1, finished 11th in a field of 12.

Daily Racing Form’s chart footnote described Linmold’s win thusly: “Linmold was well placed from the start while staying in striking distance of the leaders, closed with a strong move between horses in the last furlong and responding to hard urging, got up in the last stride.”

Pierce would go on to win the 1962 Big ’Cap with Physician, again in ’65 with Hill Rise and yet again in 1972 with Triple Bend. He considers California-bred Hill Rise (with whom he also won the 1964 Santa Anita Derby) to be the best horse he ever rode in a career that spanned 31 years.


The California Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Foundation, which benefits some 5,000 backstretch workers and family members in Thoroughbred racing throughout the state, has announced that a donor who prefers to remain anonymous recently contributed $200,000.

Trainer John Sadler was integral in securing the donation from a Thoroughbred owner he worked with for many years. “It is one of the largest donations we have received,” said Kevin Bolling, the CTHF’s executive director. A ceremonial check presentation was held after Friday’s fourth race at Santa Anita.

The term backstretch refers to the stable area where horses are housed. At most racing facilities, it is located behind the backstretch part of the track. People who work and often live there include assistant trainers, foremen, grooms, hot walkers, and exercise riders.

The CTHF, a non-profit charitable program founded in 1983 by legendary trainer Noble Threewitt, who died in 2010 at the age of 99, provides medical, dental and vision care and numerous social services. It operates the Noble Threewitt Medical Clinic located on the grounds of Santa Anita, as well as clinics at Betfair Hollywood Park in Inglewood and two Northern California tracks, Golden Gate Field and Pleasanton.

The CTHF also has provides medical services at Del Mar in San Diego County and the racetracks on California’s thoroughbred county fair circuit. The main source of funds for the CTHF in the past has been a percentage of the money from unclaimed wagering tickets.

“But with Internet wagering becoming more prevalent and attendance at racetracks declining, we are now depending more on donations from individuals, the racetracks, and other foundations,” Bolling said. “It is very important that we are able to continue fulfilling our mission of bettering the quality of life for backstretch workers and their dependents."

For further information, go to or call 626 446-0169.

FINISH LINES: Santa Anita mourns the passing of former jockey and racing official Merlin Volzke, who died Thursday night at the age of 87 at his home in Sacramento. Mr. Volzke was a winner of the 1958 George Woolf Award and following his retirement in 1979, was a racing steward at Bay Meadows and Los Alamitos for 26 years . . . Santa Anita also mourns the recent death of former jockey and long-time mutuel clerk Carlos DeMello . . . Richard Mandella said 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies champion Beholder would have her final major breeze “probably Monday” for next Saturday’s rematch with Santa Ynez Stakes winner Renee’s Titan in the Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at one mile . . . Steve Asmussen assistant Scott Blasi said My Miss Aurelia is scheduled to work Monday, but named no next race for the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic runner-up . . . San Marcos winner Slim Shadey worked a half-mile on Santa Anita’s main track Saturday in 50.40, after which trainer Simon Callaghan said he is considering the Grade II, $400,000 Marvin Munoz Handicap at nine furlongs on turf at the Fair Grounds on March 30 or the Grade II, $150,000 San Luis Rey Stakes at 1 ½ miles on turf at Santa Anita on March 16 . . . El Cajon winner Fed Biz worked four furlongs on Santa Anita’s firm turf course for Bob Baffert in 48.40, while San Marcos runner-up Interaction went the same distance in 48.60 and Arcadia Stakes winner Suggestive Boy worked five furlongs in 1:01.40, both for Ron McAnally, who is sitting on 699 career wins at Santa Anita . . . Politics make strange bedfellows, not to mention slow horses: Clinton, a 5-year-old gelding, and Willie Brown, a 4-year-old gelding, finished last and next-to-last in Friday’s first race, a $16,000 claiming affair for older horses at 6 ½ furlongs.