09/19/2014 12:11PM

Owner sensed Game On Dude's racing days were done


After watching Game On Dude finish fourth in both the Gold Cup at Santa Anita in June and the Pacific Classic at Del Mar in August, co-owner Bernie Schiappa said on Friday that the time had come to end the 7-year-old gelding’s illustrious racing career.

Thursday, trainer Bob Baffert announced Game On Dude would be retired after a career of 16 wins in 34 starts, earnings of $6,498,893, and eight Grade 1 wins from 2011 to earlier this year.

“There is no sense doing something you don’t feel comfortable doing,” Schiappa said. “He could have run if we wanted to. We had a wonderful run and had a wonderful horse. We were honored to have a horse like that.”

Retirement plans for Game On Dude are under discussion, Schiappa said. Schiappa said it is likely that Game On Dude will be sent to a horse retirement farm. Schiappa co-owns Game On Dude with Debbie Lanni, Joe Torre, and Ernie Moody.

“I’d like people to be able to go and see him,” Schiappa said. “He won’t be a riding horse or a jumping horse.”

Southern California racing fans are likely to have at least one more opportunity to see Game On Dude. There have been discussions about a public appearance for Game On Dude during the Sept. 27 program at Santa Anita, Schiappa said.

Santa Anita was Game On Dude’s favorite track. He is the only horse to win three runnings of the Santa Anita Handicap, the track’s signature race for older horses, doing so in 2011, 2013, and earlier this year. The Santa Anita Handicap in March was Game On Dude’s final victory.

Game On Dude was beaten 5 1/4 lengths by Shared Belief in the Pacific Classic after racing on the lead through a fast pace and yielding the lead in early stretch. Prior to Thursday’s announcement, Game On Dude was considered a candidate for the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 1.

“If we couldn’t make the Breeders’ Cup, we didn’t want to do it,” Baffert said. “It was a tough call to retire him.”

Game On Dude is the best horse in recent memory not to win an Eclipse Award although he was positioned at the end of 2012 and 2013 to claim the Horse of the Year title approaching the BC Classic.

Game On Dude rose to prominence in 2011, winning the Santa Anita Handicap for the first time and finishing second in the BC Classic at Churchill Downs.

In 2012, Game On Dude won four stakes, including the Hollywood Gold Cup, but finished seventh in the BC Classic at Santa Anita as the 6-5 favorite. Game On Dude won his next six starts, from December 2012 through August 2013, and was the 8-5 favorite in the BC Classic at Santa Anita last November. He finished ninth, 11 lengths behind winner Mucho Macho Man.

Baffert said on Thursday that the recent losses convinced him that Game On Dude should be retired.

“He’s gotten beat three races in a row and it’s not fun for the horse,” Baffert said. “He’s been too good for us. When he was great, he was great.”