08/26/2013 1:59PM

Del Mar: Pacific Classic score puts Game On Dude in familiar position

Benoit & Associates
Game On Dude and Martin Garcia romp in the Pacific Classic on Sunday. He will run in the Breeders' Cup Classic next.

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DEL MAR, Calif. – With six straight wins, five this year, including three in Grade 1 company, Game On Dude has put himself in position to be named Horse of the Year at year’s end, a feat he could have pulled off in both 2011 and 2012 had he won the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

He failed those two times, but now will get a third chance to end a campaign the way he has started it. A victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic would mirror his ascension in the Pacific Classic.

Game On Dude finally broke through the Pacific Classic wall Sunday at Del Mar, winning that race for the first time in his third try. He came into the Pacific Classic off a seven-week layoff, and because he has done so well with time between starts, his trainer, Bob Baffert, said Monday that Game On Dude would make his next start in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita, bypassing a prep in the Awesome Again – a race he won last year – at Santa Anita on Sept. 28.

[DEL MAR 2013: Complete meet coverage, schedule, race replays]

“That’s the plan,” Baffert said Monday morning.

Game On Dude received a Beyer Speed Figure of 109 for his 8 1/2-length romp, his 15th victory in 27 starts.

“He made a statement yesterday,” Baffert said.

Game On Dude trained strongly coming into the race, seeming to thrive with more time between starts. Game On Dude began the year with a runaway win in the Feb. 3 San Antonio Stakes, his first start in two months, and when he won the Hollywood Gold Cup on July 6, he had been off again for more than two months. He will now have more than two months off coming into the BC Classic, for which Game On Dude earned a fees-paid berth Sunday through the Breeders’ Cup’s Win and You’re In program.

Game On Dude, who started in post 10, just outside Delegation, took the lead shortly after the start of the Pacific Classic, with jockey Martin Garcia aggressively diving to the rail when jockey Luis Contreras oddly elected to maintain a straight path on Delegation for the first quarter-mile, which kept Delegation in the middle of the track.

“Dude, we knew he’d run good, but we didn’t know what would happen the first 100 yards,” Baffert said. “That was very bizarre. We capitalized. Martin made the right move. He went down there.”

Garcia regularly works Game On Dude. He picked up the mount for the Pacific Classic because Joel Rosario, originally named on the horse, broke his left foot at Saratoga on Friday. Rosario was to replace Mike Smith, who had ridden Game On Dude in his five previous races, but opted to be at Saratoga on Sunday to ride Royal Delta in the Personal Ensign, which she won.

“Martin has learned from watching Mike on how to get this horse to slow down and relax in his races,” Baffert said. “Mike always lets him catch his breath before the quarter pole. He said you can feel Dude take a deep breath. Martin did the same thing.”

John Sadler, whose runners Kettle Corn and You Know I Know finished second and third, said he was “very, very happy” with the way his horses performed in the Pacific Classic.

“We were kind of promised some pace, but it didn’t happen,” Sadler said. “When a really good horse like that gets his own pace, he’s tough to beat.”

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Both Kettle Corn and You Know I Know have done well on synthetic surfaces, but with Game On Dude passing the Awesome Again, that dirt race will loom a tempting target for many who futilely chased him Sunday.

Dullahan, who won the Pacific Classic in 2012 but was eighth Sunday, “came out of the race good,” according to his trainer, Dale Romans, who said Dullahan would return to Churchill Downs this week.

“He just didn’t seem to fire,” Romans said.