Updated on 10/02/2012 5:30PM

Santa Anita: Game On Dude dominates Awesome Again

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Benoit & Associates
Rafael Bejarano collects his third of four stakes wins on the day aboard Game On Dude in the Awesome Again.

ARCADIA, Calif.- There might not be any NHL hockey for a while, but Bob Baffert and Rafael Bejarano each scored a Grade 1 hat trick on Saturday, capped off by an easy, 3 1/4-length victory by Game On Dude in the $250,000 Awesome Again Stakes before 17,565 at Santa Anita.

After settling into second during the early going, Game On Dude easily took command from pacesetting Winning Machine on the far turn and pulled away down the lane. Nonios ran on for second, Richard’s Kid was third, and Rail Trip fourth in the field of nine. Game On Dude completed 1 1/8 miles on the fast main track in 1:48.98.

Game On Dude ($2.60) was an obvious winner. Not only were Baffert and Bejarano riding the crest of previous Grade 1 wins Saturday with Power Broker and Executiveprivilege, but the track was playing to Game On Dude’s style, and, from a hunch standpoint, Game On Dude is a son of the horse for whom the race is named. He is now unbeaten in five starts at Santa Anita, and moves on to the Breeders’ Cup Classic here on Nov. 3 as one of the elite contenders for that race.

Bejarano added a fourth win on the card when capturing the final race, the Unzip Me, on Byrama.

The Awesome Again offers a fees-paid berth to the BC Classic through the Win and You’re In program, but Game On Dude already had earned a spot in that race through his win in the Hollywood Gold Cup in July. Game On Dude finished second in last year’s Classic at Churchill Downs to Drosselmeyer.

“I was hoping for this kind of outcome,” Baffert said of his three Grade 1 wins. “Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. But they were all coming into their races really well.”

Bejarano replaced Chantal Sutherland, and turned in a flawless ride. Game On Dude started from the rail, but Bejarano was able to deftly move him outside of Winning Machine by the time the field reached the first turn. In addition, Game On Dude did not get rank when turning into the backstretch, something he had done in recent races. Bejarano had not ridden Game On Dude in a race for more than a year, but he had been working the horse regularly, and his familiarity paid off.

“He was able to get outside and slow him down, sit there, waiting and waiting,” Baffert said. “It was a nice kind of prep. He knows the horse. He’s been on him so many times.”

The win was the ninth in 20 starts for Game On Dude, and his fourth in six starts this year. He most recently had finished second to Dullahan in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Polytrack, but he is clearly better on dirt, and with the Breeders’ Cup being at Santa Anita, he has the home-court advantage.

Game On Dude has earned just shy of $3 million. He is owned by a partnership that includes Joe Torre, Bernie Schiappa, and Debbie Lanni.