04/18/2013 2:25PM

Charles Town Classic: Game On Dude dangerous as potential lone speed

Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Bill Mott says he's confident a closer like his horse Ron the Greek will be able to launch his rally on a track with tight turns like Charles Town.

Bill Mott doesn’t go into Saturday night’s matchup between his late-running Ron the Greek and trainer Bob Baffert’s front-running Game On Dude in the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic believing his horse is at a disadvantage over the six-furlong oval.

“Horses can close on a bullring,” Mott said. “I don’t think you have to be a speed horse to win on a bullring, and it’s not a bullring anyway, it’s three-quarters of a mile. Most bullrings I know are a half-mile.”

Still, tactically it looks as though Game On Dude will have a significant edge over Ron the Greek in the Charles Town Classic, a three-turn, 1 1/8-mile race that drew a field of seven but was likely to scratch down to six.

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Trainer Todd Pletcher said Thursday he most likely will scratch Mordi’s Miracle from the race because he drew the rail and the horse has a history of wheeling when he breaks from that post.

If Pletcher doesn’t change his mind, Game On Dude looks to be the lone speed in the Charles Town Classic, just as he was in the Santa Anita Handicap when he got away with a soft early pace en route to a 7 3/4-length victory. Ron the Greek was fourth, beaten 9 1/4 lengths.

“There was nobody to chase the lead horse and he ran out of his skin,” Mott said, recalling the Santa Anita Handicap. “Take nothing away from the winner. Maybe we took our horse out of his game trying to stay a little closer.”

Prior to the Santa Anita Handicap, Ron the Greek raced within 4 1/2 lengths of a quick pace when he won the Sunshine Millions Classic by 11 1/4 lengths at Gulfstream. In his last 7 starts at 1 1/8 miles, Ron the Greek has 3 wins and 4 seconds.

Asked if he felt Ron the Greek was handier than people give him credit for, Mott said “it’s up to him and how he feels.”

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Jose Lezcano will ride Ron the Greek, who gets five pounds from Game On Dude.

For Game On Dude, the tactics are simple – make the lead and keep on going. Since a slow start cost him as the 6-5 favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last November, Game On Dude has come back with three front-running victories, all under Mike Smith.

“I don’t think you’ll see Mike taking him back,” trainer Bob Baffert said Thursday. “Those days are over.”

Baffert said Game On Dude has done well since the Santa Anita Handicap and “he’s very sharp.”

Two years ago, Game On Dude finished second in the Charles Town Classic, a race run over a muddy track. Given the forecast for Saturday, the track should be fast.

Last year, Caixa Eletronica won the Charles Town Classic by three lengths over 2011 winner Duke of Mischief. Caixa Eletronica missed some time due to a foot issue but came back with a solid overnight stakes victory going six furlongs over Aqueduct’s inner track March 14.

“We’re very pleased with the way he’s training, pleased with the race he had coming back,” Pletcher said. “He’s had some good breezes since then. Our original idea was to give him a little freshening and focus on that race. We accomplished that. We may have missed a little more time than we wanted to, He’s training as good as ever, but it’s a very, very difficult race.”

Making it more difficult is the likelihood that Game On Dude is the controlling pace.

“Mordi’s Miracle could possibly have enough speed to beat Game On Dude to the punch,” said Pletcher, who said there is a small chance the horse could start. “Game On Dude is very good in any scenario, maybe not quite as good when he doesn’t make the lead.”

Pletcher entered allowance winner Percussion in part because the race came up with a small field “and you don’t get too many opportunities to run for this kind of money in a six-horse field,” he said.

Clubhouse Ride has finished a distant second to Game On Dude in both the San Antonio and Santa Anita handicaps. He only has one win from his last 12 starts, and that came in a down-the-hill turf sprint at Santa Anita.

Isn’t He Perfect, who has finished second or third in eight of his last 10 stakes tries, completes the field.

The Charles Town Classic is race 12 on a 13-race program that begins at 5 p.m. Eastern. It is one of six stakes on the card and the last leg of a pick-four wager that has a guaranteed pool of $50,000.