“When the Dude’s away, the other older males in California will play.” ~Unknown Poet
Fresh off a rich win in the Charles Town Classic, the defending champion of the Californian, Game On Dude, is taking this one off in hopes of being at his fresh and ready best for next month’s Hollywood Gold Cup. This leaves tomorrow’s grade 2 feature at Betfair Hollywood Park wide open for one of the Dude’s disciples to fulfill their own Dream of Californication. From the same powerful stable as the Duder, Liaison is the colt to beat in the nine panel test. A four-year-old son of Indian Charlie, trained by Bob Baffert, Liaison has already met with big success at the soon-to-be former oval. Back in 2011, he captured his most important victory here in the Grade I CashCall Futurity. Despite going 0-for-8 in 2012, while running against the best of his generation, the Arnold Zetcher charge comes in on a California Roll. He won his seasonal debut with a hard fought victory in the Santana Mile, March 31 at Santa Anita, before coming back with a sharp 1 ½ length score in the grade 2 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap over this same strip four weeks ago. Perhaps no horse will appreciate the lack of His Dudeness more than Clubhouse Ride. The five-year-old Candy Ride horse enters tomorrow's eighth race on career best form, even though he has failed to win in more than seven months. Blame it on the Dude who has defeated Clubhouse Ride in three consecutive graded stakes. While he was a not so close runner-up in the San Antonio, and the prestigious Big Cap, earlier in the year, he gave the King of California everything he wanted in the more recent Charles Town Classic. That half-length defeat could easily be called Clubhouse Ride’s best race of his life, and a similar performance in the Californian could be enough to claim the big prize. Two of Liaison’s main rivals in the Mervyn LeRoy, Kettle Corn and Blueskiesnrainbows will be back to take another shot at the morning line favorite tomorrow. The former made a strong rally to finish second that day, and may appreciate the extra sixteenth of the Californian. Kettle Corn also fell victim to Duder, when a well beaten second to him in this same race last year. Meanwhile, Blueskiesnrainbows was the LeRoy favorite for red-hot trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, but could not carry his speed to better than a fourth place finish. Still, as the speed of the race, and as the winner of the Grade 2 Swaps over this same trip last year, he must be respected.
Batti Man, Holladay Road, Oilisblackgold round out the field of seven battling it out for their own Dream of Californication.