02/03/2013 6:50PM

Santa Anita: Game On Dude overpowers three foes in San Antonio

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Benoit & Associates
Game On Dude, ridden by Mike Smith, pays $2.10 to win after cruising to a 6 1/2-length win in the San Antonio Stakes.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Game On Dude was challenged for the lead for the first six furlongs of the $200,000 San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita on Sunday, a speed duel that would have softened many runners.

Game On Dude was not bothered. The leading older horse in California, Game On Dude shook off a pesky Basmati and had no competition in the final furlong, winning the ninth stakes of his career in the Grade 2 San Antonio.

Ridden by Mike Smith, Game On Dude ($2.10) won by 6 1/2 lengths over Clubhouse Ride, running 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.53. Game On Dude was such a heavy favorite that there was a minus win pool of $4,045.

Game On Dude won the San Antonio for the second consecutive year, a victory that makes him the favorite for the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap on March 2. Game On Dude won the 2011 Santa Anita Handicap, but did not start in last year’s race.

Sunday, the early pressure that Game On Dude faced from the 12-1 outsider Basmati, through fractions of 23.38 and 46.78 seconds, did not overly concern Smith.

“In a short field, people make you do things because it’s more of a match race,” Smith said.

Game On Dude raced on the inside of the pair and was comfortable despite the challenge, Smith said. “You let him get into his rhythm,” he said. “That’s what I did and he was brilliant.”

Game On Dude shook loose from Basmati in early stretch and led by 2 1/2 lengths with a furlong remaining. Smith hand-rode Game On Dude to the finish.

Clubhouse Ride finished 13 3/4 lengths clear of Make Music For Me, who was 2 1/4 lengths in front of Basmati in a field of four. Chosen Miracle was scratched from the San Antonio field on Sunday after finishing seventh in Saturday’s Grade 2 Arcadia Stakes on turf.

Game On Dude races for Bernie Schiappa, Mercedes Stable, the Lanni family trust, and Joe Torre. A 6-year-old gelding by Awesome Again, Game On Dude is trained by Bob Baffert, who won three stakes over the weekend. Saturday, Baffert won the Grade 2 Robert Lewis Stakes with Flashback and the Grade 2 Strub Stakes with Guilt Trip.

Game On Dude has won 11 of 23 starts and $3,252,158. Since finishing 12th in the Dubai World Cup last March, Game On Dude has won 5 of 7 starts, all stakes. The only losses in that span were a second in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar last August and a seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Classic here in November.

Smith rode Game On Dude for the second time in the San Antonio. He rode Game On Dude for the first time in the Grade 3 Native Diver Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park on Dec. 1.

“He might be better this year,” Smith said. “The feeling he gave me today was more so than last time.”