07/04/2013 2:38PM

Hollywood Park: Game On Dude, Smith tough team in Gold Cup

Shigeki Kikkawa
Game On Dude is unbeaten in four stakes under Mike Smith, and he will be heavily favored to make it five in the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup on Saturday.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Since the partnership began last December, Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith and Game On Dude are unbeaten in four stakes.

The win streak includes such prestigious races as the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap in March and such lucrative races as the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic in West Virginia in April. Game On Dude won the Charles Town Classic by a half-length over California rival Clubhouse Ride.

The circumstances of that victory have left Smith confident that the win streak will be extended in Saturday’s $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup at Betfair Hollywood Park.

[HOLLYWOOD GOLD CUP: Get PPs, watch Saturday's card live]

“His last race was probably his worst race since I’ve been on him,” Smith said in regard to the Charles Town Classic. “He wasn’t getting a hold of the track as well as he normally does. I could feel it right away, and he still won.

“He’s such a war horse. He doesn’t quit until he gets back to the barn. He’s a neat horse. Hopefully, he can get this one and go on to bigger things.”

One bigger thing is the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita in November. Game On Dude has been second and seventh in the last two runnings of that race, losses that have prevented him from being Horse of the Year.

Trained by Bob Baffert for Bernie Schiappa, the Lanni Family Trust, Mercedes Stables, and Joe Torre, Game On Dude is the defending champion of the Gold Cup, which is run over 1 1/4 miles. If he wins Saturday, Game On Dude will be the first repeat winner since Lava Man won the last of his three Gold Cups in 2007.

Game On Dude will be heavily favored against four rivals, including Clubhouse Ride, also second to Game On Dude in the San Antonio Stakes and Big Cap earlier this year. The winner of the Grade 2 Californian Stakes here June 1, Clubhouse Ride has drawn the rail.

Oilisblackgold and Kettle Corn, third and fourth in the Californian, and the Baffert-trained Sky Kingdom, who won the Grade 3 Tokyo City Cup over 1 1/2 miles at Santa Anita on March 23, are the other runners.

Game On Dude is best when racing on or near the lead and is unlikely to face early pressure in the Gold Cup’s small field. That is fine with Smith.

“You want to do what he does best, get him in a comfortable rhythm,” Smith said. “He’s got such a high cruising speed. It’s getting on the lead and setting decent fractions.”

A winner of 13 of 25 starts and $4,702,158, Game On Dude carries high weight of 127 pounds in the Gold Cup. Last year, he carried 124 pounds and won by 1 1/2 lengths over stablemate Richard’s Kid. A sweep of the exacta by Baffert-trained runners is possible again Saturday.

Baffert is confident that Sky Kingdom will run well. A 4-year-old colt by Empire Maker, Sky Kingdom followed his win in the Tokyo City with a dull sixth as the 6-5 favorite in the San Juan Capistrano Handicap over about 1 3/4 miles on turf at Santa Anita on April 21, his most recent start.

“Sky Kingdom is back,” Baffert said. “I ran him back too soon after he won. He’s training like he did before the [Tokyo City]. I expect a big race from him.”

Sky Kingdom, who will be ridden by Martin Garcia, will carry 116 pounds.

Clubhouse Ride, who won his first graded stakes in his 28th career start in the Californian, will carry 119 pounds. Joe Talamo has the mount on Clubhouse Ride, replacing Garrett Gomez, who has not ridden in recent weeks because of personal issues.

Talamo has been aboard Clubhouse Ride three times, but has yet to win on the 5-year-old. The key for Clubhouse Ride on Saturday is to stalk Game On Dude and attempt to wear down the favorite in the stretch, trainer Craig Lewis said.

“I think in the Californian he was pretty keen,” Lewis said of Clubhouse Ride. “Garrett did a masterful job of getting him to settle.”

Even if Clubhouse Ride is patient under Talamo, Lewis knows who his runner is facing Saturday.

“Game On Dude is a tremendous animal,” Lewis said.

Mr. Ed More than 1 year ago
To Meydan Rocks, Thank you for such a compliment that in your lauding of CA for their economy, I would say not a good example because they're broke, that you would address me in a seperate post. No idea that I would recieve such high praise. And you still tout CA for what their economy will be. They are still still as of now.....broke.
Meydan Rocks More than 1 year ago
Mr. Ed. Of course I would single you out. I'm sure you're an upstanding Person. And even though my fellow DRF compatriots would advise me against engaging on a losing cause, I feel strongly about one of the finest places on this planet... Bar none. That being said one man's broke is another man,'s riches. You should visit California sometime. I do! It's nothing short of amazing!! I bid you adieu and great luck and fortune in your future endeavors! Cheers! ;-))
Meydan Rocks More than 1 year ago
LOL!!!! I love this. CALIFORNIA THOROUGHBRED RACING sure attracts attention. To Mr Ed, California may be broke but her economy IS STILL ranks #12 AMONG COUNTRIES in the world. What will she be when her economy is back on track. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_California To Scott (of the “unnamed” coast of Washington State), These are the “east coast” states so I guess California must be 1000 go-rilla seeing as it takes a village to compete with the “west coast” of one state: Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Coast_of_the_United_States California flattery indeed! ☺ LOL
Stephanie Hart More than 1 year ago
Blinkers and new rider Bejarano. Kettlecorn upset???
Jim Qaukey More than 1 year ago
Sorry but don't think so blinkers yes ,Bejarano as a new rider no this is same joke that cost the Dude and Animal Kingdom there breeders cups , so very grateful they took him off , now we have Mr Breeder Cup in the icon Mike Smith he'll teach Bejarano how to put a horse on the front end !!!
Mike Rozier More than 1 year ago
Kettle is a 6 year old closer that has only raced 1 1/4 miles once in his career. And that was a well beaten 3rd in this race just last year. With a very likely slow pace, Kettle is a solid candidate to finish off the board and quite possibly dead last. Sky Kingdom is the shot in this race. You can easily cross off his last race, and he has been training lights out. A lightly raced horse that could be a late bloomer in his 4 year old season ready to pop another big one like his race 2 back in which he parked Oil and Richard's Kid. Hoping to get him at 10/1 or 12/1. 8/1 or less, I just don't see it as being worth the risk. Every other horse in this race is unbettable at the odds you'll get.
Lawrence Macselwiney More than 1 year ago
I think you are spot on with Sky Kingdom Mike. He may be worth a bet if you get his morning line or better. I had him in the Tokyo City and he looked super. If the dude doesn't bring his a game his stablemate could do him in.
Mike Rozier More than 1 year ago
Sky Kingdom has the most upside. The rest of the field has proven that they can't beat Game On Dude on their best day. And many times they have come up well short of Game On Dude. At least Sky parked Oil 2 back while also being lightly raced. There is a very legit possibility that we haven't seen his best just yet. We have seen the best of the rest of this field, and it doesn't stack up against GOD. Maybe Clubhouse can finally turn the trick on GOD, but he'll be a ridiculous underlay at 2/1 or 3/1 for a 4 time career winner in 28 tries.
Scott More than 1 year ago
Game On Dude may be a tremedous animal, but he is still a notch below the elite. He's had a brilliant earning career when you consider that. Looks like he will again be lucky in the HGC. The only horse that has a chance in the field is possibly Sky Kingdom and he'd be a surprise. This Grade 1 is a joke of a field and I think GOD's connections will be laughing all the way to the bank.
Billy Spathanas More than 1 year ago
Define The Elite Scott, please....
Scott More than 1 year ago
The reason I say Game On Dude is a notch below is that he seems to find a way to lose when faced with true competition. He had one of the weaker fields in the BCC in years two years ago and still couldn't hold off plodder Drosselmeyer. Last year on his home track in the BCC he couldn't even hit the board. Elite horses don't lose on their home tracks. I doubt anybody would consider Blame a truly elite horse, but he never lost on his home track, not even to the great Zenyatta. Make a case for Game On Dude being elite though. Convince me. Who of note has he beaten?
ENAMMELD More than 1 year ago
He couldn't hit the board because the internal fractions put up by Fort Larned, specifically 1:10.0 is a second faster than he can run and be competitive. This was shown clearly on the form before the race. As for the elite that he can't beat. At the present time that would be exactly one horse at 10f, Fort Larned. He should have gotten horse of the year, instead they give it to a turf miler. That's not even mentioning Little Mike either. If you don't understand "pace" and what horses fit best in a particular race you, will be crying many tears.
Mike Rozier More than 1 year ago
Tough to see so many G1 races that are simply unbettable.
Scott More than 1 year ago
So true. California racing is still the highest quality horses on the West Coast, but their fields have been pitifully small over the last few years. I used to blame the switch to the synthetics (or sins as I liked to call them), but they've been back to dirt for a couple years now and still no love.
Larry Goren More than 1 year ago
Scott _ only one track in CA has switched back to dirt, not all of them. and if you are saying that CA racing is higher quality than OR & WA, yes it is.
Scott More than 1 year ago
Of course you're right Larry, but it's worth noting that Santa Anita is truly the king of West Coast tracks. Without Santa Anita, then California is right there with WA & OR for quality. However, with SA it's not even close in my mind. Worth noting though - Local horses did win 7 straight Longacre's Miles prior to Awesome Gem breaking that streak. It was a very nice run for the local boys, but it's also worth noting that the best from California weren't necessarily entered. Awesome Gem was one of the horses who lost during that stretch, but won his next year back. He was solid, but probably about the 3rd best horse in training in California the year he won. All that said, California is well behind the East Coast for quality. The West Coast had a big chance to represent last year with the BCC entrant of Game On Dude on his home track, but he couldn't even hit the board when faced with the top dogs.
Rafael Acosta More than 1 year ago
West Coast speed kills.
Jim Qaukey More than 1 year ago
Hand down GOD is the clearly the best horse in training right now , there no horse in training that can run a 1 1/4 on the front end with fast fraction like him , Mike Smith is very right , he has a very high cruising speed , the only horse that can really run up with him at that distance would be Fort Larned , but with Mr BCC Mike Smith riding , the Dude will be very hard to beat , Game On
Mark More than 1 year ago
Scott More than 1 year ago
I will go on record and say that Game On Dude will not win the BCC even with it being on his home track again this year. You saw his best chance pass when Drosselmeyer (ironically, ridden by Mike Smith) pass him in the stretch in 2011. This is not to say that he's not a nice horse. It's more a commentary to how bad his competition is. Baffert has done a masterful job of making money with this guy. He's a solid horse, but he looks like a lock to clear $5 million earned and that is just a brilliant job of finding the right races over the years. Sure they've tried the top competition a few times and even finished 2nd in the BCC, but this is a horse who is just shy of the elite level for the most part. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's something you should keep in mind when it comes time to bet him when he's again facing the top competition. Fort Larned will again finish in front of him in the BCC and likely wear him out enough to have him miss the board just like last year. The real question is whether one of the closers will be able to catch FL in the stretch after GOD has faded. I'm not sure on that one yet. We'll have to see how the track plays leading up to the big race.
Nelson Jaramillo More than 1 year ago
Send The Dude, Mr. Mike E. Smith! Long live *Game On Dude*! Peace and good luck all, NVJ
Meydan Rocks More than 1 year ago
Nicola C - California isn't exactly the "west coast". It's ONE state. Even though it's economy ranks top 10 AMONG COUNTRIES in the world. Give California a break!
Mr. Ed More than 1 year ago
Not sure that is the best example as California is broke.
Scott More than 1 year ago
Meydan, I live in Washington State and love our local track Emerald Downs, but no matter how much Kool Aid I drink, I know that our horses aren't in the same class as California. And with Portland Meadows the only other West Coast Track of note not being able to compete with our horses, it's safe to say that California IS West Coast Racing. Note: Technically, Sunland Park doesn't count as a true West Coast Track, but even if you did count them, it doesn't hold a candle to the California.
Larry Goren More than 1 year ago
Grade l rating for having four rivals with one from the same barn. extremely well paid workout. And they wonder why the sport is losing fans.
scott More than 1 year ago
Who are "they" and what fans are we losing?
Larry Goren More than 1 year ago
you ever go to a race track and see how many people show up ? santa anita gets 3,000. use to get 15,00- 20,000 on a mid week race day, and 30,000 on a weekend.
James Madden More than 1 year ago
Make that over 50;000 on Saturdays...That was before Sunday racing!!!
Larry Goren More than 1 year ago
yes. the further you go back the larger the crowds. one of the last overflow crowds i remember was a Big Cap with Lord of War & Grienton. (not sure about the spelling) it was intriguing because they were both Wittingham horses at the top of their game and a jockey controversy between their riders about the mounts. i believe it was Pincay & Shoemaker. i think they broke 100,000. probably mid to late '80's. '80's were a great decade for racing.
scott More than 1 year ago
Larry.... how long ago was that 15-20 thou each day? Online wagering / simulcasting and their convenience hurts attendance numbers. And tho I bet from home all year, I do love to go to Saratoga. I hear ya tho, the meets that go longer than a month or two struggle for some attendance. The money is still coming in though. All we can do is rally a group of friends when we go and promote the game to the fullest. Cheers pal
Larry Goren More than 1 year ago
i think attendance stared to drop off late '90's. not certain. i also bet from home but rarely do for multiple reasons. triple crown races are my favorite. false favorites, big fields that offer fair odds, and easier to judge why a horse is entered in that race versus another race. always have my best success with them. hate the breeders cup for many reasons. i think it has hurt the sport.