07/10/2011 7:39PM

Hollywood Gold Cup stablemates First Dude, Game On Dude may tangle again in Pacific Classic

Shigeki Kikkawa
First Dude and Martin Garcia edge stablemate Game On Dude under Chantal Sutherland to win the Hollywood Gold Cup.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Bob Baffert was walking from the Hollywood Park director’s room to the paddock before Saturday’s $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup when he summarized his stable’s results nationwide in the preceding hours.

“I’m getting beat up,” he said.

Baffert sent three horses to Calder for the Summit of Speed, but could do no better than second-place finishes with Smash and Irrefutable. Early on Saturday at Hollywood Park, Sinai lost an optional claimer as the 7-5 favorite and the Baffert-trained Coil, the 1-2 favorite, and Uncle Sam were second and third behind Dreamy Kid in the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes.

Then, the Gold Cup was run, and those aggravations were briefly forgotten.

Baffert swept the top two spots in the most prestigious race for older horses of the spring-summer meeting when First Dude edged Game On Dude by a nose. It was Baffert’s third Gold Cup victory. He won with Real Quiet in 1999 and Congaree in 2003.

First Dude, who placed in six consecutive graded stakes at 3 in 2010 for owner-breeder Don Dizney, won his first Grade 1 race in the Gold Cup and earned a fees-paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in November through the Breeders’ Cup Challenge program.

BREEDERS’ CUP CHALLENGE: Racing schedule, replays, and past winners >>

Sunday, Baffert said that First Dude and Game On Dude will be sent to Del Mar this summer, with the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic on Aug. 28 a possibility for both. Like the Gold Cup, the Pacific Classic is run over 1 1/4 miles.

Baffert said he wants to see how they perform in the mornings on Del Mar’s Polytrack surface before making a commitment to the Pacific Classic.
“I’m going to get them down there and I won’t make that call until they’ve been down there and had a couple of weeks of training,” Baffert said. “When I work them I’ll have an idea of how they handle it.”

Baffert did not rule out a start on another circuit for either colt. At Saratoga, for example, there are two Grade 1 stakes worth $750,000 over 1 1/8 miles – the Whitney on Aug. 6 and the Woodward Stakes on Sept. 3.

“Anything is possible,” he said. “I change my mind a lot. We can make money with these horses right now.”

Twirling Candy was the 122-pound topweight in the Gold Cup and finished third as the even-money favorite. First Dude carried 116 pounds and Game On Dude 118 pounds in the handicap conditions of the Gold Cup.

The Pacific Classic is a weight-for-age race with all runners 4-year-old and older carrying 124 pounds. A 3-year-old starter would carry 118 pounds.
The seven weeks between races would suit Twirling Candy, said Marty Wygod, who owns Twirling Candy with breeder Jenny Craig and William S. Farish. Wygod said the Pacific Classic is the tentative goal for Twirling Candy, who has won five stakes in his career. Twirling Candy was favored in the Gold Cup on the basis of his win in the Grade 2 Californian Stakes on June 4.

Twirling Candy, who is trained by John Sadler, stalked pacesetter Game On Dude in the Gold Cup, led briefly in the stretch, but could not hold off First Dude and Game On Dude. Twirling Candy has run near the pace throughout his 10-race career. He has not won beyond 1 1/8 miles, but is perfect in three races at that distance.

“I’d like to try him at a mile and a quarter again and have him be farther back than chasing the speed,” Wygod said. “He only got beat a neck, but he had no excuse.”