09/18/2014 8:14PM

Game On Dude retired from racing

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Benoit & Associates
Game On Dude, winner of three runnings of the Santa Anita Handicap including the 2014 edition (above), has been retired from racing.

CYPRESS, Calif. – Game On Dude, a top older horse in recent years and the only horse to win three runnings of the Santa Anita Handicap, was retired Thursday after three consecutive losses, trainer Bob Baffert said.

Game On Dude won 16 of 34 starts and earned $6,498,893, including eight Grade 1 races from 2011 to earlier this year.

Game On Dude finished second in the Charles Town Classic in West Virginia in April, fourth in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita in June, and fourth in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 24, losses that led to the retirement of the 7-year-old gelding. Game On Dude raced for Bernie Schiappa, Debbie Lanni, Joe Torre, and Ernie Moody.

“After his last race, we were letting everything settle,” Baffert said at Los Alamitos. “It’s getting too hard on him. He’s getting up there, and it’s tough on those old geldings.”

Game On Dude was beaten 5 1/4 lengths by Shared Belief in the Pacific Classic after racing on the lead through a fast pace and yielding the lead in early stretch. Prior to Thursday’s announcement, Game On Dude was considered a candidate for the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 1.

“If we couldn’t make the Breeders’ Cup, we didn’t want to do it,” Baffert said. “It was a tough call to retire him. It took us two weeks.”

Game On Dude is the best horse in recent memory not to win an Eclipse Award, although he was positioned at the end of 2012 and 2013 to claim the Horse of the Year title approaching the BC Classic.

Game On Dude rose to prominence in 2011, winning the Santa Anita Handicap for the first time and finishing second in the BC Classic at Churchill Downs.

In 2012, Game On Dude won four stakes, including the Hollywood Gold Cup, but finished seventh in the BC Classic at Santa Anita as the 6-5 favorite. Game On Dude won his next six starts, from December 2012 through August 2013 and was the 8-5 favorite in the BC Classic at Santa Anita last November. He finished ninth, 11 lengths behind Mucho Macho Man.

Earlier this year, Game On Dude led throughout the Santa Anita Handicap to win the track’s signature annual race for older horses for a record third time. During the Santa Anita Handicap, Baffert feared that pace pressure from rivals would doom Game On Dude’s chances.

“In the Big Cap, at the three-eighths pole, I thought that was it,” Baffert said. “I thought he’d cave in, but he came back on.”

Game On Dude did not win again, leading to Thursday’s decision.

“He’s gotten beat three races in a row and it’s not fun for the horse,” Baffert said. “He’s been too good for us. When he was great, he was great.”