08/20/2012 3:33PM

Del Mar: Game On Dude gears up for Pacific Classic

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Game On Dude will make his next start in Sunday's Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Bob Baffert must feel like the whole world is ganging up on him these days.

First, he had Richard’s Kid sold out from under him over the weekend, and then on Monday morning at Del Mar, while his top Pacific Classic contender Game On Dude was in the midst of his final work, another Pacific Classic contender, the Florida invader Where’s Sterling, jumped in and tried to go with Game On Dude.

Game On Dude flicked off Where’s Sterling, much like Baffert is now flicking off the Richard’s Kid sale. He was peeved over the weekend at the way the sale unfolded, but by Monday had turned the page.

“Like Bob Lewis used to tell me, ‘Robert, it’s water under the bridge,’ ” Baffert said. “You’ve got to look forward.”

Game On Dude is giving him plenty to look forward to in the Pacific Classic, which will be run Sunday. Game On Dude turned in a sharp drill Monday morning, going seven furlongs in 1:24.60 while in company with stablemate Midnight Interlude, who was officially credited with a five-furlong time of 1:00. Where’s Sterling, who jumped into the work after the Baffert team had gone about a quarter-mile, was clocked in 59.60 seconds.

“He was cruising,” Baffert said as Game On Dude galloped out. “He went great. He sat off my other horse really nice.”

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Game On Dude was fourth in last year’s Pacific Classic, giving rise to the notion that he is not as effective on Polytrack. And while he may in fact be better on dirt, Baffert said the 2012 model of Game On Dude is superior to last year’s version.

“He’s just a different horse, a totally different horse,” Baffert said.

The Grade 1, $1 million Pacific Classic, at 1 1/4 miles on Polytrack, is expected to lure a field of 10 when entries are taken and post positions drawn at a party at a local restaurant Wednesday night following that day’s races. In addition to Game On Dude, Richard’s Kid, and Where’s Sterling, the field is expected to include Akkadian, the filly Amani, Dullahan, Jaycito, Rail Trip, Riveting Reason, and Suggestive Boy.

Joe Ferrer, the agent for jockey Rafael Bejarano, was still steaming Monday morning over developments Sunday that found him retaining and then bounced from Richard’s Kid. Bejarano was scheduled to ride Richard’s Kid for Baffert before his sale and transfer to Leandro Mora, in whose name horses trained by Doug O’Neill are running while O’Neill serves a 40-day suspension.

“Leandro Mora at 8 o’clock in the morning on Sunday told me and my rider I was riding the horse,” Ferrer said Monday morning. Later in the day, Victor Espinoza was announced as the rider for Richard’s Kid.

Baffert said he was holding a spot open for Bejarano on Jaycito. Ferrer said he was going to see Del Mar’s stewards about the situation on Wednesday morning, although the most likely outcome is that Bejarano will end up on Jaycito.

Ferrer had on his cell phone a text message from O’Neill sent Sunday – the first day of his suspension – saying that on Sunday morning Mora did not know the wishes of the new owners of Richard’s Kid regarding the rider situation and asking Ferrer to please not make trouble for Mora.

It has been widely assumed that O’Neill was not allowed to have contact with the management of his barn during his suspension. But the July 10 stipulated settlement he struck with the California Horse Racing Board in fact contains no such language.