Club Aspen upsets favored Tap Back in closing day King Glorious

Making his first start around two turns on dirt, Club Aspen drew off late to post an 8-1 upset in the $100,000 King Glorious Stakes Sunday at Los Alamitos, the final day of the Winter Thoroughbred meet.

Trained by Craig Lewis for his brother Larry and ridden by apprentice Jorge I. Velez, the 2-year-old Clubhouse Ride colt out of the Talkin Man mare Aspen Gal tracked pacesetter and 3-5 favorite Tap Back for most of the trip, then kicked away in the final eighth of a mile to win by 2 ½ lengths.

The victory was the second in seven starts for Club Aspen, who completed the mile in 1:36.28 in a race restricted to juveniles bred or sired in California. He paid $19.40 and $4.80 while increasing his bankroll to $118,211. There was no show wagering.

Dominant at 14-1 in the Golden State Juvenile Nov. 1, Tap Back returned $2.40 to place in his first venture beyond seven furlongs. He finished 3 ½ lengths clear of 5-2 second choice Papster. Dapper and Govenor Cinch completed the order of finish. Rookie Mistake was scratched after becoming extremely fractious in the starting gate.

“He looked like the winner to me every jump of the way,’’ said Lewis. “I never had a doubt he would handle the two turns.

“He’s had some excuses. In his turf race (sixth in the Zuma Beach Oct. 6) he never had a chance to run. He was in trouble from start to finish, and in the (Golden State Juvenile) he was compromised by drawing the inside post in a huge field.

“I think both of those races were better than they appeared on paper and I think he showed it today.’’

Club Aspen’s success completed a Sunday hat trick for Velez and gave him his third riding title of the year at Los Alamitos. He finished the Winter meet with nine wins, the same number he had in leading the Summer Thoroughbred Festival (June 29-July 14) and he led the Los Angeles County Fair season (Sept. 7-22) with 14.

“There’s a long stretch here, but I like it,’’ said Velez. “You have to be patient. I’m grateful to all the owners and trainers for the success I’ve had. I love riding here.

“(Tap Back) was the horse to beat, so I wanted to follow him around the track and see if I could beat him. I liked this colt’s maiden win (Aug. 2) at Del Mar.’’

Cholula Lips scores 8-1 surprise in Soviet Problem Stakes

Making her first start over the track where she is stabled, Cholula Lips, an 8-1 shot, scored a decisive victory in the $101,053 Soviet Problem Stakes Saturday at Los Alamitos.

After tracking the early pace set by 187-1 outsider Phoenix Tears, the daughter of Empire Way took over with a little over a quarter of a mile to run and went on to win by three lengths under jockey Tyler Baze.

Owned by Amanda Navarro and breeder Terry Lovingier and trained by Mike Harrington, Cholula Lips completed the mile in 1:37.85 in a race restricted to 2-year-old fillies bred or sired in California.

Out of the Rio Verde mare Sweet Lips Pooh, Cholula Lips paid $18.40, $6.80 and $5.60 while winning for the second time in seven starts. The $57,000 payday pushed her bankroll to $159,250.

“(Baze) rode a heckuva race,’’ said Harrington. “He said he could have gone to the lead sooner with her than he did. It came out just like we drew it up and how often does that happen?

“I thought she would run well, but (Been Studying Her, who finished fourth as the 2-5 favorite) had beaten her twice, so you have to think about that, but this filly trains super over this track.’’

Smiling Shirlee, the 5-1 second choice in a field reduced to nine after the scratch of Warren’s Showtime, returned $4.60 and $4.60 while the show price on 19-1 shot Warrior’s Moon, who was a nose back of the runner-up, was $10.80.

Racing resumes Sunday at Los Alamitos. Post time for closing day of the Winter Meet is 12:30 p.m.

The main event on the nine-race program is the $100,000 King Glorious Stakes. The one-mile contest attracted six 2-year-olds bred or sired in California.

The 7-5 favorite on Russ Hudak’s morning line is Tap Back. Owned by co-breeder Richard Barton and trained by Jeff Bonde, the son of Einstein is 2-for-4 with earnings of $163,100 and comes off a blowout victory in the Golden State Juvenile Nov. 1 at Santa Anita. Drayden Van Dyke will ride.

Heading into the final day, apprentice Jorge I. Velez and Abel Cedillo are tied atop the jockey standings with six victories apiece.

Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who had a five-win day here Dec. 7, tops the trainers with seven.

Velez is trying to make it a clean sweep of the riding titles at Los Alamitos this year. He topped the standings during the Summer Thoroughbred Festival (June 29-July 14) and the Los Angeles County Fair meet (Sept. 7-22).

This article was released by Los Alamitos Race Course.