02/26/2012 8:19PM

Santa Anita: Baffert still debating between Big Cap and World Cup for Game On Dude

Shigeki Kikkawa
Game On Dude will be favored in the Santa Anita Handicap if trainer Bob Baffert elects to keep him in California.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Decision time has arrived for trainer Bob Baffert.

He has until Wednesday to choose whether to enter Game On Dude in Saturday’s $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap or wait for the $10 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse in the Middle East on March 31.

“I’ve got to make up my mind,” he said on Sunday afternoon. “It’s killing me. “My gut tells me to go to Dubai. He’s doing great.”

There are pros and cons for both races. Game On Dude is the defending champion in the Big Cap and has been assigned top weight of 123 pounds. If Game On Dude starts, he will spot his expected 11 rivals from 3 to 13 pounds in the 1 1/4-mile race.

Game On Dude has excelled at Santa Anita since joining Baffert’s stable in the spring of 2010, winning all four of his starts on Santa Anita’s main track.

Second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs last November, Game On Dude won his 2012 debut in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes here on Feb. 5.

Dubai presents a different set of circumstances. Owned by a partnership, Game On Dude would be after a first-place purse of $6 million, but would be racing over a Tapeta synthetic track. Game On Dude is winless in two career starts on synthetic tracks, a second-place finish by a nose in the Hollywood Gold Cup on Cushion Track last July and a disappointing fourth in the Pacific Classic on Polytrack at Del Mar last August.

Game On Dude will be favored if he starts in the Big Cap. The competition is led by Ultimate Eagle, winner of the Grade 2 Strub Stakes on Feb. 4, who is next on the list of weights, at 120 pounds.

Other assignments include Prayer for Relief and Uh Oh Bango, at 117; Gladding, Ron the Greek and Setsuko, at 116; Holladay Road, Thirtyfirststreet and Twice the Appeal, at 114; Boxeur dues Rues, at 112; and Fiddlers Afleet, at 110 pounds.

Junior Jimenez More than 1 year ago
Ultimate Eagle will destroy Game On Dude if he runs in the SA Handicap
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Must be afraid of Setsuko...
Gregory Sellgren More than 1 year ago
Move it up a few weeks?!? There are FOUR WEEKS between the two races already. Regardless of the modern evolution toward spacing races ridiculously far apart, four weeks should be plenty of time for a good horse to recover from a race and bring a decent effort. Perhaps we ought to ask Black Caviar's connections what they think? Mr. Baffert himself shouldn't be so reticent; after all, it was only a decade or so ago that the 2nd-best horse he ever trained raced in the Goodwood, the BC Classic and the Clark within the space of 41 days - and, just for the record, went to Dubai 22 days after contesting the Big 'Cap the following year. Run in both of them, for crying out loud!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I actually totally agree with you. But trainers these days just aren't going to run back in the World Cup so quickly. I don't like it and don't fully understand it, but that's the reality. We can sit back and keep the current schedule and hope trainers go back to treating their racehorses like racehorses, or we can accept the new reality and change with it by moving the Big Cap up. Move the Strub and San Antonio up where the San Fernando and San Pasqual are now run, and eliminate the latter 2 races. The Strub series would be dead, but how many trainers are going to run 3 times in 6 or 7 weeks anyways?
Jordan Miller More than 1 year ago
Wow, it will say alot about the decline in relevancy of the Big Cap if the defending champ, and a horse that's 4 for 4 over Santa Anita, bails to go to Dubai. Should Santa Anita think about moving the Big Cap up a few weeks to better facilitate those wanting to run in both? Doing so would mean getting rid of the San Fernando and San Pasqual Stakes. Money is money, but if I was fortunate enough to own Game on Dude, he would be staying in SoCal for the Big Cap. Maybe having won the Big Cap last year makes winning it again less special, but there are so many positives going for Dude in the Big Cap and so many negatives around Dubai. Dude ran well over Hollywood's Cushion Track in a race that unfolded like a dirt race(faster early, slower late). But when he had to run on a more turf-like synth at Del Mar, he simply wasn't able to quicken with Acclamation and Twirling Candy. Dude's strengths are being able to run fields into the ground with a fast early pace and then turn the rest of race into a war of attrition. In the 2 years on Tapeta, the World Cup has been run like a turf race, with an emphasis on acceleration and finishing kick; that's not Dude's game.