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Game On Dude dodged a bullet Saturday night in the Charles Town Classic. Whether it was because he really was slipping all over the track as jockey Mike Smith claimed after the race, or he didn’t like the tight turns, the lights, or maybe West Virginia’s clean air, Game On Dude clearly did not run his race. Clubhouse Ride, who was beaten 6 1-2 and 7 3-4 lengths when second to Game On Dude in the San Antonio and Santa Anita Handicap, respectively, in their last two starts, was beaten only a half length when second Saturday night. Still, there must be something to be said for Game On Dude when he can win a race worth $1 million to the winner without his “A” game.
The pace in the Charles Town Classic was slow. That’s another reason why Game On Dude didn’t run great. As is his custom, he was right with the pace. But that slow pace, and the short stretch at Charles Town, is why it can be said that Ron the Greek did run well. Ron the Greek had to rally from last, and had little more than the blink of the eye that is the Charles Town stretch run to get there, which are difficult things to overcome. Yet, Ron the Greek was beaten just a nose for second.
While on the subject of the handicap division, a word about Successful Dan’s successful comeback in Sunday’s Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland. With the way Successful Dan was all alone on the lead of the Ben Ali through harness horse-type fractions, I admit I expected him to run off and score by a big margin. It didn’t happen. Boisterous, a solid Grade 2 level turf horse who never previously ran on a synthetic track, made the Ben Ali something of a contest, although it must be noted that Successful Dan was never asked for his best. But when you think about it, how much could you really have asked from a horse in Successful Dan who was making his first start in 10 months. And you also have to feel a little bit for Successful Dan because he is constantly, and perhaps unfairly, compared to his stable mate, and reigning Horse of the Year, Wise Dan.
Departing was much the best winning the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne and is a very nice colt. And his performance Saturday has to be encouraging to those who like Revolutionary’s chances in the Kentucky Derby because Departing had no excuse when a soundly beaten third to that one in the Louisiana Derby.
I will admit I was against Winning Cause going into Keeneland’s Lexington. And his victory Saturday doesn’t change my mind about him for the simple fact that he is now 3 for 3 on Keeneland’s Polytrack and 0 for 4 on anything else.
In a perfect world, if my horses have to rally in the stretch, I much prefer they rally outside in the clear than inside of opponents, where even the littlest thing can cause a total loss of momentum. That said, I don’t think there is any question that Lady of Shamrock, who was rallying up inside of Viva Carina in the stretch of the Santa Barbara at Santa Anita, was going to win if Viva Carina didn’t come in and cause Lady of Shamrock to be taken up. Viva Carina’s disqualification was an easy call.
Yes, Obviously lost as the even money favorite in the San Simeon, also run Saturday at Santa Anita. But this is a case where it’s best to be forgiving. In his first start since the Breeders’ Cup, Obviously rushed up after a slow start and became run away early speed. He was almost rank early, which can happen with fresh speed horses. But Obviously, who still held to finish second, should improve a lot off this comeback. If nothing else, the San Simeon should put his feet back on the ground.
Kauai Katie is a very special sprint filly. But you really couldn’t tell from Sunday’s Road Princess Stakes at Aqueduct because the race was barely anything more than a public workout. As evidence of how she towered over her opposition, Kauai Katie was 1-9 on the morning line, and there she stayed on the board through every click. Kauai Katie went right to the front, walked through the first of seven furlongs, but finished with a solid three-eighths in 35.56, which I note because, after all, this was just a work.
Next month’s Acorn Stakes at Belmont, one of the truly big prizes in the 3-year-old filly division, is at a mile. But the Acorn is a one turn mile, and there is absolutely no reason to think Kauai Katie won’t successfully stretch out at least that far. In fact, considering the fillies pointing to the Kentucky Oaks, and who might be left for other engagements, it could be there won’t be anyone capable of making Kauai Katie even break a sweat in the Acorn.
Condolences to the family of trainer Tommy “T. J.” Kelly, who passed away Friday. I had the pleasure to know T. J. on a professional basis when I first covered New York racing more years ago than I care to reveal, and let me echo what many others have said: T. J. was just the nicest guy.
Mike, I'm curious if you have altered your opinion of Game On Dude's race now that the time has been adjusted. You infer that he won in spite of not bringing his A game. You blame that in part of stalking a slow pace. A 6f slow pace of 1:13 and change has been adjusted to 1:11 and change, and the final time of 1:52 and change adjusted to 1:49 and change. So did he still win in spite of not running his best race? This is the problem when we put certain horses on a pedestal. Assuming something wasn't right with him as the time wasn't fast enough. Now that it's two seconds faster than thought, still feel the same? Or, is Dude just a better horse when in his backyard running against the home town boys on a firm fast surface that suits him.
The Kelly boys had a great role model to follow. TJ Kelly was the consumate gentleman and a heck of a trainer.
Dude was about 10 lengths better than RTG in the Big Cap this year (RTG won it last year so we know he liked the track). Mike Smith said that it was an easier win from the Dude's back than it looked from the ground. And I do think putting Mike Smith on this horse has been the key to his improvement.
Mike, thanks for the great analysis, we will make you a Revolutionary "convert", before too much longer.
very well stated Mr. Watchmaker--The Dude was fortunate "The Greek" didn't run his race--because if he does--he blows the Dude away--hats off to MIke Smith--he doesn't make mistakes and was the reason th Dude hung on
Not one little mention on the San Juan Capristano.....sad.
Regarding Game on Dude the pros are he won a million for his owners and finally won a race outside California. The cons if anything had happened to him at that for want of a better word "dump" of a track Baffert would never have heard the end of it. Agree with you 100% on KK - that is one sweet sprinter. Yes I was one of the "jumpers" in the Place Pool, but felt comfortable two jumps after the break a wonderful horse with a Grade A rider in JJ.
Albert my good man, I don't necessarily agree with you regarding your Ron the Greek being a faster horse than Game on Dude because of one very important reason. These two haven't raced each other enough times for us to get a "proper sampling" of your assertion. Race dynamics (IE: internal fractions, racing luck, track conditions etc etc ) are way too fluid to confidently put for such a bold assessment. I'm looking for ways to agree but logic dictates that I don't dare,... sir!
Two notes Mike. Ron the Greek is a faster horse, overall, than Game on Dude. Proved it in the BC Classic. But he came back too sharp from that and then bounced. On an up cycle again and showed it in WVa by closing into the zero pace scenario. Departing didn't just flatter Revolutionary. He flattered Mylute too. Revolutionary has had Calvin put in the saddle, which is exactly the wrong move. He is best when he is outside of trouble, circling horses. Watch him get buried in Louisville. On the other hand, Mylute has got to be on your verticals at a very large price.
Somebody forgot to edit. Reread paragraph 2.