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Updated on 08/28/2013 8:29AM
Pacific Classic: Game On Dude wins sixth straight, scores by record 8 1/2 lengths
By Jay Privman
DEL MAR, Calif. – The track was considered his Kryptonite, he needed a last-second replacement rider for a replacement rider, and 11 others were signed up to get him, some seemingly with the speed to make it a challenge. But there was one thing Game On Dude had that the others in the Pacific Classic did not: He was the best horse – by far.
In an awesome display of his raw talent, Game On Dude ran his rivals into the ground Sunday at Del Mar with an 8 1/2-length romp under Martin Garcia that gave him an in-year sweep of Southern California’s major races for older horses, the Santa Anita Handicap, the Hollywood Gold Cup, and the Grade 1, $1 million Pacific Classic.
Twice previously, Game On Dude had come up short on Polytrack at Del Mar – he was fourth in 2011 in the Pacific Classic and second last year – but he had trained better this year than in the past two summers over a surface that is tighter than in years past. It added up to a record-setting win in the Pacific Classic. In the 22 prior runnings, the largest margin of victory was 5 1/2 lengths, set by Skimming in 2001.
“This was a very emotional win,” said Bob Baffert, who trains Game On Dude for the partnership of Bernie Schiappa, Joe Torre, Debbie Lanni, and Ernie Moody. “Getting beat last year was a tough loss.
“This,” Baffert said moments later, “was a great feeling, the way he did it.”
Game On Dude ($5.40) started from post 10 in the field of 12. When the field first came away from the gate, Delegation, starting just to the inside of Game On Dude, maintained a straight line instead of angling over, jockey Luis Contreras keeping him in the middle of the track.
Garcia immediately took the opportunity to dive to the rail with Game On Dude, and though Delegation eventually ended up on his flank by the first turn, they were going at a pace that was not going to compromise Game On Dude.
Game On Dude clicked off splits of 24.19 seconds, 47.96, and 1:12.61 for the first six furlongs, started to inch away from the field on the far turn with a 24-second fourth quarter for a mile split of 1:36.61, then poured it on down the lane to complete 1 1/4 miles in 2:00.69.
“I told Martin, ‘You have the fastest horse. Don’t be afraid to be bold,’ ” Baffert said. “I told Martin I didn’t want anyone running him down.”
In the eventual battle for second, Kettle Corn – trained by John Sadler – nosed out stablemate You Know I Know, with Richard’s Kid another nose back in fourth. Holding Glory was fifth and was followed by Delegation, Byrama, Dullahan, Jeranimo, Endorsement, Farraaj, and Blueskiesnrainbows.
The win was the 15th in 27 starts for Game On Dude, 6, a gelding by Awesome Again who has earned $5.6 million. He has won six straight races, including all five of his starts this year. Mike Smith had ridden Game On Dude to five straight wins, but he chose to be at Saratoga on Sunday to ride Royal Delta in the Personal Ensign, which she won.
Joel Rosario originally was named as the replacement for Smith, but he broke a bone in his left foot Friday at Saratoga and is out for six weeks. On Saturday morning, Baffert scratched his other Pacific Classic entrant, Liaison, whom Garcia was named to ride at entry time, thus freeing Garcia to ride Game On Dude.
Both Garcia and Smith share the same agent, Brad Pegram. And Garcia is very familiar with Game On Dude, having worked him regularly over the past few years.
“He finally got paid to work this horse,” Baffert said.
The Pacific Classic offers a fees-paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, which, like the Pacific Classic, has heretofore been a hill too big to climb for Game On Dude. He was second in 2011, then an uncharacteristically poor seventh last year. When he runs in the race Nov. 2, it is likely that Horse of the Year honors will hang in the balance.
Wow the last horse to ever sweep the three big Classic races in California. This will never happen again when Hollywood park closes and with it the Hollywood Gold Cup.
West Coast has the Main Attraction , Game on Dude. What a nice horse.
Hey Big Jeff, Just back home from Saratoga. (Tue) Here's to Game on Dude... Looks like HOY... Now, how do I get that beer to you?
I'm going to have to pay close attention to Cross Traffic. I didn't realize he was in the monster category.
At least Mike Smith wraps him up and lets him coast home when he is so far ahead. Martin kept after him to the wire. Why???
There's some people on this blog commenting how EAST coast horses don't pose a threat to Game on Dude come BC Classic. To that I say: good luck DUDE trying to cruise on the lead when monsters like Cross Traffic, Fort Larned, MMM, Moreno and Palace Malice are breathing down your neck. Then horses like Successful Dan, Ron the Greek, Orb and WTC coming like freight trains from off the pace. Now that's Scary!
GOD reigns superb, and he is a gelding, so much for steriods, and I'm not saying he didn't have some medicinal assistance, but he dominated a very good field. After being a step slow from the gate, Martin did a masterful job of pointing him to the finish line, in the shortest possible route. The Baffert club has a boatload of ammunition for the B cup. and how can you bet against them. I would venture to say, his is an 80% in the money program. When you have this many standout horses, all you have to do is enter them in the right races and name one of the top riders and make damn sure your crew plugs all the holes properly. Top trainers know that each individual horse has to be conditioned to fit his capabilities. They are not robotic machines.
Game on Dude is a gamer but his older brother Ghostzapper was on another plane. Brittle but definitely better than his kid brother.
Horses of course are better when they become a horse of course.
Game on Dude reminded me of Verrazano in the Haskell.
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