Updated on 07/10/2013 7:36AM

Hollywood Gold Cup: Game On Dude successfully defends title under 127 pounds

Benoit & Associates
Game On Dude, now 5 for 5 when ridden by Mike Smith, surpasses $5 million in earnings by winning the Hollywood Gold Cup.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Game On Dude was good even before jockey Mike Smith got on him, but he seems to have gotten even better since. They ran their record to 5 for 5 on Saturday at Betfair Hollywood Park with a front-running victory in the Grade 1, $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup, a win that push Game On Dude past the $5-million mark in career earnings.

As is his custom, Game On Dude ($2.60) secured the early lead, and none of his four rivals was willing to pressure him early. Kettle Corn, last early in the 1 1/4-mile race, made a bold bid to challenge as the field turned into the stretch, but Game On Dude – who was giving Kettle Corn 11 pounds (127-116) – held on under a confident hand ride by Smith to win by a measured length.

Sky Kingdom, like Game On Dude trained by Bob Baffert, finished another 6 3/4 lengths back in third. Clubhouse Ride and Oilisblackgold completed the finish, in that order.

Game On Dude set fractions of 25 seconds, 49.31, 1:12.60, and 1:36.39 en route to a final time of 2:01.88 on a synthetic Cushion Track surface that plays like dirt. Now age 6, Game On Dude has won 14 of 26 starts – he was 9 for 21 before Smith took over -- and the $300,000 winner’s share brought his bankroll to $5,002,158.

Game On Dude also won the Gold Cup last year. The 127 pounds he carried Saturday was the highest impost of his career. He has now won six Grade 1 races.

A gelding, Game On Dude is owned by a partnership that includes Bernie Schiappa, Joe Torre, Debbie Lanni, and Ernie Moody.

“He’s a fighter. If you’re going to beat him, you’ve got to flat run right by him,” said Smith, who said he was cognizant of not wanting to win by more than he required.

“I tried not to win by too far,” he said. “I was really happy with the outcome. He got himself together really quick after the race. He wasn’t gutted. He was well within himself.”

Smith chooses quality over quantity these days, and is making the most of his opportunities. He is 11th in the national standings in purse earnings this year. Everyone above him has ridden at least twice as many horses as Smith, and in some cases as many as four times. But they aren’t riding horses like Game On Dude, or Palace Malice, on whom Smith won the Belmont Stakes last month.

“I really feel good out there. I’m making good decisions. And I’m riding the kind of horses who make good decisions for you,” Smith said.

“Game On Dude, when these horses get to be 6 or 7, and they stay sound, they get really strong. He doesn’t have a soft spot on him. Me, I’ve got a soft spot here and there. I tuck that stuff in.”

Game On Dude will head to Del Mar, where he is expected to make his next start Aug. 25 in the Pacific Classic, a Grade 1, $1 million weight-for-age race in which he finished second last year.