05/28/2011 12:17PM

Lone Star Park: Game On Dude much improved since last visit to Texas

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GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas – Game On Dude was just a maiden winner a year ago when he shipped to Texas and won the Lone Star Derby. Monday, he returns to town as one of the nation’s top older horses.

Game On Dude has shipped in from Southern California for the Grade 3, $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap. The 1 1/16-mile race is both the richest offering of the meet and the annual anchor of the Lone Star Million Day card of six stakes worth a collective $1 million.

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The Lone Star Handicap has drawn five older horses, and if 123-pound highweight Game On Dude can defeat such rivals as fellow Grade 1 winner Awesome Gem and the emerging Thiskyhasnolimit, he will become a millionaire in just the 10th start of his career.

“He’s improved a lot,” said Bob Baffert, who trains Game On Dude for Lanni Family Trust, Mercedes Stable, and Bernard Schiappa.

Game On Dude won the Lone Star Derby in his fifth start. He then became a Grade 1 winner in March, in the Santa Anita Handicap. Game On Dude has run once since, and finished second in the Grade 3, $1 million Charles Town Classic, a three-turn race won by Duke of Mischief.

“I thought he ran well,” Baffert said. “He got beat by a pretty nice horse. He’s been training really well for this, and I expect a nice race out of him.”

The Charles Town Classic produced last year’s Lone Star Handicap winner, as Redding Colliery finished third in the West Virginia race before finding success in Texas. Game On Dude, meanwhile, has drawn post 4 for this year’s Handicap. He will be ridden by Martin Garcia.

Justin Shepherd has the mount on Thiskyhasnolimit, who turned in a career performance in last month’s Grade 3, $200,000 Texas Mile. He stalked the pace, then edged Grade 2 winner Gladding by a half-length, for a Beyer Speed Figure of 103. Steve Asmussen, who trains Thiskyhasnolimit, would like to see him reproduce the effort Monday.

“We’re hoping for the same thing,” he said. “I thought he ran extremely game. I thought Justin gave him a very good trip, and I’m hoping for something the same.”

With a win, Thiskyhasnolimit would become the second horse to sweep the two richest races for older horses at Lone Star. Dixie Dot Com won the Texas Mile and Lone Star Handicap in 2001.

Awesome Gem, who was second in this race a year ago before winning the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup, enters off a fast-closing fourth in the Grade 3 Alysheba at Churchill on May 6.

“He just needed a few more jumps, and I think he would have gotten there,” said Craig Dollase, who trains Awesome Gem. “He ran a real nice race, and bounced out of it well.”

Robby Albarado has the mount.