01/05/2012 2:04PM

2011 Eclipse Awards: Game On Dude

Benoit & Associates

Things would’ve been so much simpler had the Breeders’ Cup Classic ended at the stretch call.

At that moment in space and time, Game On Dude was winning the richest race in North America by one length. His jockey, Chantal Sutherland, had guided her mount to the lead and gotten Game On Dude a nice breather down the backstretch and around the far turn, and a few hundred yards from the finish line, Game On Dude had something left. Sutherland was on the way to becoming the first woman to win the Classic, and Game On Dude would win an Eclipse Award.

Enter Drosselmeyer.

When Drosselmeyer whizzed past Game On Dude to win the Classic by one and one-half lengths, it begged this question: Would second-best be good enough?

[MORE: Complete list of 2011 Eclipse Awards finalists | Vote for Horse of the Year and win]

Game On Dude had finished second in the season’s biggest race, beating Eclipse contender Flat Out, while other candidates like Tizway and Acclamation failed to make it to Louisville, site of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. Nonetheless, his defeat turned the race for an older-male Eclipse into a photo finish.

Game On Dude, a gelding by Awesome Again and the Devil His Due mare Worldy Pleasure, was bred by Adena Springs and is owned in partnership by Diamond Pride LLC and the Lanni Family Trust. Racing as a 4-year-old for trainer Bob Baffert, he won two important Grade 1 races in 2011, the first in the Santa Anita Handicap, the second in the Goodwood Handicap at Del Mar. Also on the positive side of his ledger was a nose loss in the Hollywood Gold Cup to First Dude. Had Game On Dude been a couple inches better that day, a third important Grade 1 might have sewn up a championship.

Aside from the close calls in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Hollywood Gold Cup, Game On Dude lost three other races in 2011, including a fourth behind fellow finalist Acclamation in the Pacific Classic and a second after spinning around a bullring oval in the $1 million Charles Town Classic, beating his other fellow finalist, Tizway, by a head. A trip to Texas produced a third-place finish as the 1-2 favorite behind Awesome Gem and Flat Out in the Lone Star Park Handicap.

Game On Dude’s signature victory in the Santa Anita Handicap came by a nose over Setsuko after a stretch run marked by a chain reaction of bumping among Game On Dude, Setsuko, and Twirling Candy. Sutherland was aboard, making her the first female jockey to win the historic race. In the Goodwood, he beat Awesome Gem and Coil.

In a season when the older-male resumes have some gaps, Game On Dude was durable and traveled more than his fellow finalists. His season started in January and lasted until November and included trips to the Southwest, the Mid-Atlantic, and the Midwest.

Game On Dude has begun workouts in preparation for his 5-year-old season, and Baffert said the gelding could make his first start in the San Antonio Stakes on Feb. 5 at Santa Anita.

Date Track Race Finish Chart Distance Time Beyers Video
11/5/11 CD Breeders Cup Classic 2nd 1 1/4 mile 2:04.27 102 Video
10/01/11 SA Goodwood 1st 1 1/8 mile 1:47.36 102 Video
8/28/11 DMR Pacific Classic 4th 1 1/4 mile 2:00.60 98 Video
7/09/11 HOL Hollywood Gold Cup 2nd 1 1/4 mile 2:01.40 106 Video
5/30/11 LS Lone Star Handicap 3rd 1 1/16 mile 1:43.40 97 Video
4/16/11 CT Charles Town Classic 2nd 1 1/8 mile 1:51.00 99 Video
3/05/11 SA Santa Anita Handicap 1st 1 1/4 mile 1:59.00 100 Video

Game On Dude

Breeder: Adena Springs 
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Owner: Diamond Pride LLC, Lanni Family Trust, Mercedes Stable LLC and Schiappa, Berna
Record: 12-4-3-1
Best Beyer: 106