12/01/2012 6:18PM

Hollywood Park: Smith's clutch decision helps Game On Dude win the Native Diver

Benoit Photo
After breaking a bit slowly and being gunned to the lead, Game On Dude, right, turned back a strong challenge from Nonios in the upper stretch to win the Native Diver.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Mike Smith paid attention. Whether it was stated or inferred, there was no doubt that the reason he had received the mount on Game On Dude for the Grade 3, $242,500 Native Diver Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park on Saturday was because of dissatisfaction with the way Game On Dude was ridden in recent starts.

So when Game On Dude broke a half-step slowly, from the rail, Smith knew what he had to do. He gunned Game On Dude to the lead, despite the aggressive early tactics from Nonios and his jockey, Martin Pedroza.

Game On Dude never looked back. Even though Nonios tested him anew in the stretch, Game On Dude ($2.60) continued resolutely to the wire to score by 1 1/4 lengths over Nonios, with Kettle Corn another 4 1/4 lengths back in third. Richard’s Kid and Make Music for Me rounded out the field.

“He had a little hiccup coming out of the gate,” Smith said. “He was squatting a little.”

But Smith made up for lost time.

“You have to be aggressive. Sometimes, you have to go for broke,” said winning trainer Bob Baffert. “I thought Nonios was the horse to beat, and I figured Pedroza would get aggressive with him, try to get in Dude’s psyche.”

Game On Dude is prone to occasionally breaking slowly. The key for Baffert is what happens next.

“After about 50 yards, he picks up steam,” Baffert said. “He’s like a bus without brakes.”

Smith didn’t apply the brakes. Over a deep, tiring surface playing several seconds slower than par, Game On Dude clicked off quarter-mile fractions of 24.52 seconds, 49.81, 1:14.97, and 1:39.90 en route to a final time of 1:52.27 for 1 1/8 miles, one lap around the main Cushion Track surface at Hollywood Park.

“It’s a pretty demanding track, the way it is,” Baffert said.

The win was the 10th in 22 starts for Game On Dude, and his fourth in his last six starts. He most recently had finished seventh of 12 as the 6-5 favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 3.

“It was a shame that after running such great races all year, he had a bad race in the Breeders’ Cup,” Baffert said.

Game On Dude is owned by a partnership that includes Bernie Schiappa, Ernie Moody, Joe Torre, and Debbie Lanni. The Native Diver purse was increased this year owing to a supplement from the Oak Tree Racing Association. Game On Dude received a first prize of $137,500 to go over the $3 million mark for career earnings.

Skillful Joy: Reneesgotzip just gets up

Earlier in the day, favored Reneesgotzip ($2.60) just got up in the final strides to catch pacesetting Nechez Dawn by a neck and win the $70,440 Skillful Joy Stakes for 3-year-old filly sprinters going six furlongs. Curvy Cat was third.

The race was rained off the turf. Reneesgotzip was timed in 1:13.05 over the laboring surface.

Garrett Gomez rode Reneesgotzip for Peter Miller, who trains Reneesgotzip for Lanni. She was third in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint in her previous start. She has now won five times in nine starts.