Updated on 10/01/2011 7:51PM

Santa Anita: Game On Dude gets back on track in Goodwood

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Benoit & Associates
Chantal Sutherland guides Game On Dude to victory in the Goodwood Stakes.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The Goodwood Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita did not unfold the way trainer Bob Baffert drew it up on paper, but the result was still what he desired. Game On Dude, returning to the scene of his greatest win, bravely held off Awesome Gem to win the Grade 1, $250,000 race despite an unexpected, torrid early pace.

The scratch of Acclamation from the Goodwood seemingly left Game On Dude as the lone pace in the race, and Baffert said he was intent on going to the lead. So, too, though, was Tres Borrachos, who came flying out of the gate under jockey Joel Rosario and in fact led Game On Dude through rapid fractions of 22.30 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 45.28 seconds for a half-mile of the 1 1/8-mile race.

Game On Dude, under Chantal Sutherland, disposed of Tres Borrachos at the top of the stretch, repelled a bid from stablemate Coil a furlong out, then was able to stave off Awesome Gem, who closed from last in the eight-horse field.

As part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge series, the Goodwood is a Win and You're In race, giving Game On Dude an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Classic on Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs.

BREEDERS’ CUP CHALLENGE: Racing schedule, replays, and past winners >>

Game On Dude ($4.20), the favorite, prevailed by a half-length over Awesome Gem, with Coil another 1 1/2 lengths back in third. Tres Borrachos tired to finish fifth.

Nijinsky’s Song, at 46-1 the longest shot in the race, was pulled up after the Goodwood and was vanned from the track. According to Jeff Blea, the on-call veterinarian with the American Association of Equine Practitioners, Nijinsky’s Song appeared to have a soft-tissue injury to his lower right front leg. The limb was placed in a splint, and Nijinsky’s Song was to be returned to the barn of trainer Mike Harrington for further evaluation, Blea said.

Game On Dude completed 1 1/8 miles on the fast main track in 1:47.36 following a six-furlong split of 1:09.03 and a mile split of 1:34.30.

“I told Chantal to have the lead at all costs, and I thought down the backside I shouldn’t have said ‘all costs,’ ” Baffert said. “She rides the horse with a lot of confidence. You just have to let him run like that because that’s the way he wants to run.”

Game On Dude won the Santa Anita Handicap here earlier in the year, surviving a rough stretch run and a lengthy stewards inquiry before being declared the winner. That was the first time Sutherland rode him.

“I have to leave her on or I can’t go home,” Baffert said, referring to Sutherland’s friendship with Baffert’s wife, Jill.

Game On Dude has now won all three of his starts on the main track at Santa Anita. Overall, he has won five times in 13 starts. Game On Dude, 4, a gelding by Awesome Again, is owned by a partnership that includes Bernie Schiappa, Ernie Moody, the estate of Terry Lanni, and former major league baseball manager Joe Torre.

“It was sort of an emotional win too because we just lost Terry Lanni, so the family was here and that had a lot to do with it,” Baffert said.

Baffert said Game On Dude would make his next start in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Runner-up Awesome Gem also will go to the Breeders’ Cup, though he could run in the Dirt Mile. Regardless, if Awesome Gem does run, it will be his fifth straight appearance in the Breeders’ Cup, tying a record.