07/07/2013 2:16PM

Hollywood Park: Game On Dude likely to start next in Pacific Classic

Benoit & Associates
Game On Dude stretched his winning streak to five races by capturing the Hollywood Gold Cup for the second straight year Saturday.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Game On Dude will have a clear goal in the second half of 2013 after extending his winning streak to five races in Saturday’s $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup at Betfair Hollywood Park.

“We need to win the Breeders’ Cup,” trainer Bob Baffert said Sunday.

In the last two years, Game On Dude has entered the BC Classic as a leading contender, needing a victory to clinch the Horse of the Year title. On each occasion, he was beaten, finishing a game second to Drosselmeyer at Churchill Downs in 2011 and a poor seventh as the 6-5 favorite behind Fort Larned at Santa Anita last November.

“We had high hopes last November,” said co-owner Joe Torre, the former manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. “It didn’t pan out, but you have to move on.”

This year, the BC Classic is back at Santa Anita in November, and it’s firmly in Baffert’s plans for Game On Dude.

Since his loss in the 2012 running, Game On Dude is unbeaten, a streak that includes the Grade 3 Native Diver Stakes last December; the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes and the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap at Santa Anita’s winter-spring meeting; and the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic in West Virginia in April. The 6-year-old Game On Dude has earned $1,870,000 for his four wins this year.

“Bob says that he’s better than he’s ever been,” co-owner Bernie Schiappa said in the winner’s circle Saturday.

Baffert said after the Hollywood Gold Cup that Game On Dude would be pointed for the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic at 1 1/4 miles on the Polytrack synthetic surface at Del Mar on Aug. 25.

“We’ll get him down there and see how he trains,” Baffert said. “It’s not his best track.”

A trip to Saratoga for a race such as the $750,000 Whitney Handicap had limited appeal, Baffert said.

“To ship to the Whitney, it’s a tough ship,” he said Saturday.

Similar to the BC Classic, the Pacific Classic has led to disappointment for Game On Dude in recent years. He was fourth behind Acclamation in the 2011 Pacific Classic, the year Acclamation was named champion older male. Last year, Game On Dude was the 6-5 favorite but was caught in the final furlong by Dullahan and lost by a half-length.

In Saturday’s Hollywood Gold Cup, Game On Dude ($2.60) led throughout as the 127-pound highweight, holding off Kettle Corn to win by a length as the heavy favorite.

“He was in cruise control,” Schiappa said. “He could have gone around five times. He’s something special.”

Mike Smith rode Game On Dude, a partnership that coincides with the current five-race winning streak.

“Mike didn’t ask him too much,” Baffert said in the winner’s circle. “It wasn’t a tough race. I’m glad I was able to win. The Dude showed up.”

In defeat, trainer John Sadler said he was content with Kettle Corn’s performance.

“That looked like one of his best races,” Sadler said Sunday.

Kettle Corn was ridden by Rafael Bejarano and carried 116 pounds. Sadler said Kettle Corn will be pointed for the Pacific Classic, a weight-for-age race in which older horses each carry 124 pounds.

“If everything is right, we want to be in the big one,” Sadler said of the Pacific Classic.

Game On Dude’s weight assignment in the Hollywood Gold Cup equaled the weight carried by Perrault, the 1982 winner. Nine winners have carried more than 127 pounds, including Seabiscuit (133 pounds in the first running in 1938), Challedon (133 in 1940), Ack Ack (134 in 1971), and Affirmed (132 in 1979).

Game On Dude is only the third horse to win Hollywood’s premier race for older horses at least twice. Native Diver (1965-67) and Lava Man (2005-07) were three-time winners. Game On Dude finished a nose behind stablemate First Dude in 2011.

“That’s what’s neat about this race, all the winners,” Baffert said. “He came within a nose of winning three times in a row.”