05/06/2011 5:03PM

Alysheba: First Dude noses out Regal Ransom

Barbara D. Livingston
First Dude (third from right) wins a tight finish in the Alysheba.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – When First Dude and Regal Ransom hit the wire as a team at the end of the $300,000 Alysheba, trainer Bob Baffert turned to the group watching the race along with him in the trainers’ lounge and said “I’ll split it with him.” Fortunately for Baffert, none of the connections of Regal Ransom were present to take him up on the offer because when the photo sign came down it was First Dude’s number that was posted as the winner.

First Dude beat a game but hard-luck Regal Ransom by a nose in a competitive edition of the Grade 3 Alysheba. Only a length separated the first five finishers, with Equestrio in third, a head behind Regal Ransom, followed closely by the late-striding Awesome Gem and Giant Oak. Mission Impazible, the tepid 5-2 favorite in a scratch-reduced field of nine, finished a tiring seventh.

“I thought I got beat,” said Baffert. “But he’s got a head on him like a dinosaur and that head came through today.”

First Dude was turned over to Baffert earlier this winter following his fourth-place finish in the Sunshine Millions Classic. After First Dude was part of a crowded pace and finished a tiring sixth in the Santa Anita Handicap, Baffert dropped him back into allowance company to boost his confidence and give him the opportunity to change his running style. First Dude came from off the pace to win by 2 1/2 lengths.

“After he was on the lead in the Santa Anita Handicap I said I don’t think he wants to run like that and thought, why not school him in the allowance race,” said Baffert. “So we let him sit back there and now we have a totally different horse.”

In the Alysheba, First Dude rated about five lengths off the early pace of Wise Dan under jockey Martin Garcia, angled five wide commencing his bid into the stretch, then finished willingly from out in the middle of the track to nip Regal Ransom on the wire. The latter forced the pace, forged to a short lead in early stretch, and fended off several bids before succumbing grudgingly.

First Dude, a homebred son of Stephen Got Even owned by Donald Dizney, completed a mile and one-sixteenth in 1:42.56 seconds and paid $9.20

“The plan is to just get him back to the Breeders’ Cup,” said Baffert.

First Dude finished eighth behind Blame and Zenyatta after setting the pace in the 2010 Classic.