09/11/2013 3:21PM

Dick Jerardi: Game On Dude hard to knock, but not invincible

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Game On Dude, winning last month's Pacific Classic, projects to run about a 115 Beyer Figure in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

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It was about this time last year when I wrote something about Game On Dude looking like a pretty solid single in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Let’s forget that ever happened.

I was not really sure that was a terrible idea until Game On Dude missed the break in the Classic and was out of the race immediately. The question is: Was that just an unlucky day or was Game On Dude, as good as he has been and as consistent as he has been, just in against too many good horses in the 2012 Classic?

That answer isn’t obvious to me, especially since Game On Dude ran so heroically in the 2011 Classic when second to Drosselmeyer. It is, however, more than fair to say the 2012 Classic (117 Beyer) was a far stronger race than the 2011 Classic (104 Beyer).

So I am making no pronouncements about singles this year. I will just lay out a few facts and see where that takes us.

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Does anybody remember that Game On Dude’s third career race, just two months after his 2010 debut, was in the Florida Derby, his fourth in the Derby Trial, and sixth in the Belmont Stakes? That the horse was able to run a strong fourth in the Belmont at 14-1 (behind Drosselmeyer again) with so little experience was a suggestion.

Game On Dude did not race again until January 2011. The horse was good enough to win the Santa Anita Handicap at 14-1 and the Goodwood at even money. He ran strongly in other stakes. The Classic runner-up was a suggestion for 2012.

Game On Dude was brilliant all of last year, with the exception of a no show in the Dubai World Cup and the Classic fiasco.

This was a horse who showed promise as a 3-year-old, but with no Beyer higher than 91. He got better as a 4-year-old, getting four triple-digit Beyers in eight races. He blew up as a 5-year-old. After overcoming that Dubai trip, Game On Dude ripped off consecutive Beyer figures of 116, 108, 110, and 109 before the Classic meltdown.

That turned out to be the appetizer for 2013. After winning the Native Diver last December with a 109 Beyer, Game On Dude has won all five of his starts this year with figures of 116, 117, 106 (Charles Town Classic), 114, and 113.

The 113 is from the Pacific Classic. If you are unsure about the accuracy of the figure because there was some question about the time, don’t be. The figure is correct.

The posted time of 2:00.69 for 1 1/4 miles is wrong no matter what Del Mar management says about standing by its time. The surface that day was about 4.3 seconds faster than normal at 1 1/4 miles, about 1.6 seconds faster than normal at four furlongs.

Do you really think there is any way Game On Dude was going to lead in fractions of just 24.19 and 47.96 seconds on a track that fast? Neither do I. It is pretty clear that the timer started about a second too soon.

If the posted time was taken as accurate, Kettle Corn, You Know I Know, Richard’s Kid, and Holding Glory, the four horses in that photo for second, all would have run 10 Beyer points slower than their previous start. That makes zero sense.

Game On Dude won by 8 1/2 lengths, the largest margin of his career. He was running fast the whole way. And he finished fast. The 113 is about what he should have earned and it is what he did earn.

So, I think it is fair to suggest that Game On Dude, if he breaks reasonably well in the Classic and is in the top two or three by the first turn should duplicate his best races of 2013. If you average out his four figures this year from races at Santa Anita, Betfair Hollywood Park and Del Mar, Game On Dude should run somewhere around a 115 Beyer in the Classic.

This is a horse who has gotten faster each year he has raced. He has never been better. The horse has won his other seven races at Santa Anita.

Still, there is lingering uneasiness because of that eighth race at Santa Anita, the 2012 Classic.

I remember Bob Baffert saying how big all those other horses looked in the paddock that day. This was not going to be a short field of horses during the Southern California season. This was going to be 12 mostly serious horses going after America’s biggest purse. And Game On Dude had nothing after the start.

Surrounding that Classic, Game On Dude has reeled off 13 triple-digit Beyer figures, seven before and six since. That race really looks like the aberration.

Still, I am not ready to pronounce a single. Who is going to show at Santa Anita on Nov. 2? What kind of form are the better horses going to be in? How much speed is there?

Those are questions for then. All I can tell you is that today, seven weeks out from the Breeders’ Cup, Game On Dude is the best horse in America and the most likely winner of the race that will get him 2013 Horse of the Year.