09/23/2012 5:33PM

Santa Anita: Baffert has prime contenders in Grade 1 stakes opening weekend

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Game On Dude, second behind Dullahan in the Pacific Classic, is projected to be a heavy favorite in Saturday's Awesome Again at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif.-  Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert won 11 Grade 1 races in 2011. He could equal that mark as early as this weekend on the opening Saturday of the Santa Anita fall meeting.

Through Sunday, Baffert has nine Grade 1 wins this year. He will have runners in four of the five Grade 1 races at Santa Anita on Saturday, and will have favorites in two races.

Baffert’s best chances are with the older horse Game On Dude in the $250,000 Awesome Again Stakes, a race formerly known as the Goodwood Stakes, and the 2-year-old filly Executiveprivilege in the $250,000 Chandelier Stakes, formerly known as the Oak Leaf Stakes.

Both horses had their final workouts at Santa Anita on Sunday.

Game On Dude, working in company with 2011 Santa Anita Derby winner Midnight Interlude, worked six furlongs in 1:13.20. It was the third fastest of 18 recorded works over a surface that has not produced quick times in recent days.

“He was just cruising around there,” Baffert said. “The track is so deep in the stretch. It’s hard to get a handle on some horses.”

Later Sunday morning, Executiveprivilege, working in company, was timed in 1:13.80.

Game On Dude was second in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs and is being pointed to the same race at Santa Anita on Nov. 3.

Game On Dude won the Goodwood last October in his final prep. He will be a strong favorite in the Awesome Again where he will be ridden by the circuit’s leading jockey, Rafael Bejarano.

Game On Dude won the Hollywood Gold Cup in July and was second to Dullahan in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar in August. He was ridden by Chantal Sutherland in those races. Baffert announced earlier this month that Bejarano will have the mount starting in the Awesome Again.

In the Awesome Again Stakes over 1 1/8 miles, Game On Dude is part of a field expected to include Balladry, Groovin’ Solo, John Scott, Kettle Corn, Rail Trip, Suggestive Boy, and perhaps Winning Machine.

Rail Trip won the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar in July, but was fourth in the Pacific Classic.

All five of Santa Anita’s Grade 1 races on Saturday – including the FrontRunner Stakes for 2-year-olds, Rodeo Drive Stakes for turf females and Zenyatta Stakes for females on the main track – are part of the Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In program, offering automatic berths to Breeders’ Cup races for the winners, if nominated to the Breeders’ Cup.

Executiveprivilege is unbeaten in four starts, all with Bejarano aboard. The leading 2-year-old filly in California, she was fully extended to beat a speedy Beholder by a nose in the Del Mar Debutante over seven furlongs on Sept. 1.

The close finish in that race was caused by Bejarano’s confidence in his mount, Baffert said.

“He was waiting for that other horse to come back,” Baffert said.

Those two fillies lead the Chandelier, which is run over 1 1/16 miles and is a prep for the BC Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 2.

Sunday, Executiveprivilege worked in company, starting about four lengths behind a stablemate. She moved closer in early stretch and finished two lengths in front.

A three-time stakes winner, Executiveprivilege will start around two turns for the first time in the Chandelier.

Linda Shedden More than 1 year ago
Why do they change the name of the Stakes? Us old timers still like to tell the time of the year by Stakes Races names- like "Goodwood's" this weekend, must be fall"
Mooch J More than 1 year ago
Interesting they are saying the lighting fast Santa Anita dirt is deep. Wonder if it will change by opening day. Faixplex was sure deep the first part of the meet with a huge anti-speed bias
russell More than 1 year ago
Its all about the odds. I wouldnt touch "Dude" at less than 5/1 and I bet him last year at 14/1. Chantal is hot but I wouldnt have her on my horse.
Five More than 1 year ago
GoD would not be in the first 2, on Saturday. Bad karma. Balladry to win$.
Graz I. Greener More than 1 year ago
accepting an assignment to ride a horse like Game on Dude is a privilege, it has nothing to do with karma.
Susan Huart More than 1 year ago
How so?
Dan Cronin More than 1 year ago
Game on Dude will face nothing again , what has happened to all the west coast horses? This field is awful. I could ride Dude and he would beat this field. I weight 210lbs
stevejPS More than 1 year ago
There never were any West Coast horses! Baffert is the only West Coast trainer with big numbers and his horses are all done before the end of their 3 y-old season. So no Grade I older horses ever establish promimence They're all just carousel handicappers taking turns
Susan Huart More than 1 year ago
Seems sad but true !!
Susan Huart More than 1 year ago
LMFAO!! Thanx. My thoughts were similar!!
laura ban More than 1 year ago
Smart decision, who ever made it, Game On Dude needs a jockey and Bejarano will do very well. Chantal's mind isn't on racing, she's young, pretty and talented - I wish her all the best in her future career. I think Bejarano is a good fit for Dude.
adrian More than 1 year ago
you want a you heard it here first breeders cup double awesome feather/ ron the greek
Five More than 1 year ago
Oh, I would hold that db on Exchange Bet........no chance You're looking at the wrong Mott horse.........Ron is done. Go ........Flat Out. Mott will be hot in the BC.........multiple winners.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Five. With respect. Ron won The Santa Anita Handicap this spring. Mott didn't try him at Santa Anita just for fun. I'm sure he had Breeders cup in mind when he ran him there earlier in the year. Wuth all the speed aiming for The Classic, he has a greatchance to close.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
the dude is a dirt horse.although he can run on other surfaces dirt is where hes most effective.the debacle in dubai proved that and to blame chantal for his loss to dulahan on syth at del mar is just plain wrong she actually fits this horse better than anybody else.but berjerano will get the credit when this horse wins on his favorite surface and bafferts ego will get even more inflated for no good reson.
FESTUS ELROY More than 1 year ago
According to Jill er I mean Bob,Chantal moved way too soon on Dude at Del Mar costing all chance to hold off Dullahan
Graz I. Greener More than 1 year ago
Chantal just went along for the ride in the Pacific Classic. She did nothing at all. A jockey is supposed to get a horse to settle and relax, and signals to the horse when kick on. In the Pacific Classic, Game on Dude did it all on his own. He moved too early, and Chantal dropped the rain before Dullahan even came knocking. She just sat there, had zero awareness of who's coming just as she did in last year's Hollywood Gold Cup and BC Classic. This horse appears to have fights, and should respond well to the whip and a strong rider. Bejarano is a definite upgrade. This horse may not be the easiest horse to get along with, but he gets along fine with Bejarano, who has been working everything morning since early 2012.
FESTUS ELROY More than 1 year ago
Word is,Jill finally gave Bob the okay to replace Chantal on the Dude,Huge upgrade!
Graz I. Greener More than 1 year ago
Bob Baffert has a lot of respect for his current wife Jill. I know a lot of successful men who do, it shows that they have found the right women. Do not confuse that for weakness, cowardice or any feeling of fear towards the fairer sex. It is a symbol of domestic harmony and marital bliss. When it comes time to make the critical decision, the men always make the call and the women go along with it with complete confidence.
Susan Huart More than 1 year ago
Psychology is not your strong suit. Stick to the ponies. Lol.
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Pretty funny...some people don't know ajoke when they read it.
Guy More than 1 year ago
These new stake race names are pathetic...to say the very least.
Guy More than 1 year ago
With the exception of course of The Zenyatta Stakes...cannot argue with that one.
Coniah Boda More than 1 year ago
Amen to both
Graz I. Greener More than 1 year ago
Nothing wrong with Awesome Again either. Awesome Again has won!
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Stronach is a clown.