Updated on 03/05/2013 10:48AM

Santa Anita Handicap: Game On Dude wins his second Big Cap

Barbara D. Livingston
Game On Dude, the heavy favorite under Mike Smith, sets a Santa Anita Handicap record with his 7 3/4-length front-running victory.

ARCADIA, Calif. - It was a subtle moment, but to Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith it meant everything.

When Game On Dude was rumbling down the backstretch of Saturday’s $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap with a lead of more than two lengths, Smith allowed his mount to pause for a few strides.

“I gave him a little breather,” Smith said. “He takes in a whole lot of air. When he does that, I feel like I’m loaded again.”

With that extra energy, Game On Dude was gone. Through the final three-eighths, Game On Dude ($4.60) raced on his own. He drew away from eight rivals to score a historic win in the Grade 1 Big Cap by 7 3/4 lengths, finishing 1 1/4 miles in 2:00.14.

Game On Dude carried top weight of 125 pounds, spotting his rivals three to 10 pounds. The margin of victory was the largest in 76 runnings of the track’s signature race for older horses, surpassing the previous mark of six lengths by Bobby Brocato in 1956.

Game On Dude won his third consecutive stakes in the Big Cap, a win that left Hall of Famer trainer Bob Baffert delighted.

“I think this is a race that will stamp him as the great horse that he is,” he said. “I was impressed watching him myself as a fan.

 “I give all the credit to Mike Smith He really gets along with the horse.”

Game On Dude is owned Bernie Schiappa, Mercedes Stable, the Lanni Family Trust, and Joe Torre. A 6-year-old gelding by Awesome Again, Game On Dude has won 12 of 24 starts and $3,702,158.

Game On Dude won the 2011 Santa Anita Handicap, but did not start in the race last year. With Saturday’s win, Game On Dude becomes the fourth horse to win two runnings of the Santa Anita Handicap, preceded by John Henry (1981-82), Milwaukee Brew (2002-03), and Lava Man (2006-07).

Clubhouse Ride, a 27-1 outsider, finished second, a nose in front of the 4-year-old Called to Serve, the 4-1 third choice. Ron the Greek, the winner of the 2012 Santa Anita Handicap, finished fourth, followed by Guilt Trip, Richard’s Kid, Handsome Mike, Deacon Speakin’, and Stephanoatsee.

Game On Dude broke from post 8 and was angled toward the rail shortly after the start to take control of the race. Smith had Game On Dude in front by 1 1/2 lengths after a quarter-mile in 23.64 seconds, and in front by 2 1/2 lengths after a half-mile in 47.19 seconds. Through the race, Smith’s confidence soared.

“He was incredible today,” Smith said. “It’s a matter of getting him into his rhythm.”

Clubhouse Ride, who was second to Game On Dude in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes on Feb. 2, was third early and a clear second turning into the stretch. Clubhouse Ride, a 5-year-old trained by Craig Lewis, was not able to threaten Game On Dude, but held off a fast-closing Called to Serve in the final sixteenth.

“He ran his [tail] off,” Lewis said. “He gave it his all.”

Called to Serve made his first start in a Grade 1 and first start over1 1/4 miles in the Big Cap. Called to Serve raced in traffic on the turn, which left jockey Gary Stevens frustrated at the result.

“I’m disappointed he didn’t run second,” Stevens said. “At the three-eighths pole, he was in tight and he didn’t like it. We should have been second, but no one was going to beat the Dude today.”



Nick Arden More than 1 year ago
Except for Jeff, I have a feeling a lot of these posts are coming from guys in studio apartments in northern New Jersey with $58 in their XpressBet accounts.
Jeff More than 1 year ago
Baron and Pale Rider... I'm from the Midwest and play both Coasts, but I slant more to the East coast with larger fields and less synthetic tracks (just Turfway/Keeneland). As far as your comments on Game On Dude and the O'Neil horse (Handsome Mike), I do not see this as "good race riding" and "taking a younger jockey to school." I believe that GOD simply got away very fast in the first quarter and Smith did nothing but hang on when GOD shuffled over so quickly. I think GOD was just really full of himself and wanted some competition and felt like King Kong on Saturday afternoon. As far as the Stewards on the East and West Coasts, I will take the CA stewards over the East coast stewards all day long. The West coast stewards will not take a horse down if in their opinion... it wouldn't have affected the outcome of the race. On the other hand, the East Coast stewards (especially Laurel/Pimlico) are "to the letter" and will take a horse down for the practice of doing their lonely job/s. I have seen horses put up that were dying with more than an 1/8th of a mile to go who had ZERO shot at even being in the money. There is a thing called "discretion" that nees to be exercised regardless of what the "rules" say. At least they use "discretion" in CA and will not put up a horse who is dying. I have seen more atrocious calls in NY than CA by far and will debate this point with anyone. As far as the moron who made reference to Mike Smith's ride on Zenyatta vs Blame and the torment he felt... what more do you want than the tears he cried on national television? At least GOD and Zenyatta traveled a bit and GOD is not some kind of CA track aberration. He went to CD, CharlesTown for big races and money. What amazes me to this day are the people who complain about "not traveling" when the Breeders Cup is going to be in your backyard for two years in a row. I would take GOD at a 1 1/8 miles in the Whitney or at Belmont's "one turn" mile track if he was prepping for those races. There was a poster who made the statement about the talent of GOD vs. the East coast contingent (Mucho Macho Man, Ft. Larned, Lawyer Ron, Called to Serve, etc...) There is no assurance that MMM will return anytime soon; we haven't seen a start out of Ft. Larned yet; Lawyer Ron looked good against a weak field on an "off track" that he relished and MMM fired like he was going 6 furlongs only; and Called to Serve looked good (doing something he never did off a layoff). I am putting CTS on my watch list as I feel he is in good hands and has more upside (because of his style of running) than any "older" horse I have seen thus far. There have been enough comments regarding the "high cruising speed" to hopefully silence the person who originally made this foolish comment. Having said all that, this is a finicky game and horses need to stay healthy and, even if they do; it is more than likely that they will take time to reach their previous best "form" (i.e. Ft. Larned, Called to Serve, or Flat Out). We need to understand and remember and allow for "other" 4 year olds who didn't mature mentally enough to make a dent in the Triple Crown races but will be late maturing 4 year old. The horse at Fair Grounds could suprise (Mark Valeski) if he continues to mature. Some of these horses finally figure out their jobs and surprise us... that's all I'm saying. There are horses on the West coast as well who could figure things out. Fed Biz ran well for 3rd in his first "turf" attempt. Let's not forget the huge impact Wise Dan made last year on Synthetic, Dirt, and especially; Turf. Talk about a high cruising speed and with all due respect to our USA horses; Frankel also had the unique ability to do the same. Too bad they didn't test him with travel. As far as the comments regarding Rosario getting the mount over Cornelio V., I was initially shocked by the news. After witnessing Rosario take over SoCal racing, I have nothing but respect for his decision to go out and compete against the best jockeys in the USA and the world. Rosario's ride on Vyjack made me understand the difference in jockeys and the confidence they can bring to a race and the confidence that the horse obviously can detect. That was a MOST professional ride and there was no fighting
Pale Rider More than 1 year ago
Watch the headon replay and tell me Mike Smith wasn't trying to intimidate Handsome Mike. He came very close to putting him over the rail. Watch how the field wasn't bunched togetther until Smith pulls his stunt. He deliberately aimed his horse and got the desired effect. His reckless act changed the entire shape of the race. Thanks for your comments but watch the headon replay.
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Seriously, shake it off and move on. If the jock or the trainer didn't CRY foul , which they did not, then the acting job didn't work. Sorry for your loss but get over it. ..... "The greatest bridge between hope and dispair is agood night's sleep'
Tiny Montgomery More than 1 year ago
Great post, though I'm sure you meant Ron The Greek, not Lawyer Ron. As for Zenyatta, I was rooting as hard as anyone on the planet for her to catch Blame, I just don't think she could do it on this particular day. Never understood the criticism Smith took for this loss. She ran her race and had every chance to win, she just wasn't getting by Blame, he really really dug in. I know Smith felt bad, that was a historic moment, it wasn't his fault though.
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Agree to disagree,
Tiny Montgomery More than 1 year ago
I have no problem with that, respect your opinions, and enjoy your comments, post often.
Jeff More than 1 year ago
Tim... thanks for pointing that out to me and my apologies to the connections of Ron the Greek. I was clearly in error by butchering the names of Lawyer Ron (out of Langfuhr - Donation, by Lord Avie) and Ron the Greek; who is out of Full Mandate - Flambe', by Fortunate Prospect. My bad... I believe that I was focused on horses who had high cruising speeds and just remembered Lawyer Ron first. I remember using Ron the Greek in a Super in the Lecomte in 2010 (before RTG was even 3 years old; he was a late May 2007 foal) and it paid handsomely. I went right back to him in the Risen Star and took a beating that day, giving back at least 25% of what I won on that Super... ouch. Cool Bullet hung on for 4th that day and made me a lot of money when Maximus Ruler got passed by RTG/James Graham in deep stretch. Cool Bullet turned out to be a decent sprinter, but that was his limitation. I'll never forget that day because I put 3 Super part wheels together and couldn't find the ticket I knew I played (#11 w/1,9 w/all w/1,9) with other combinations. It was in my stack of losing tickets and the sigh of relief was amazing. I went from "I got it... I got it" to "Did anyone find a ticket in the machine from Fair Grounds 10th race?" I was moments from making a complete arse of myself that day... some of you may know the feeling... watching the door for someone leaving unexpectedly because they found a "signer" in the machine? Anyway, I have always given my winnings to my wife to limit what I can lose. She doesn't mind me playing if it's with house money... but I must give her the majority of the profits to satisfy her Mormon tendencies... and Ron the Greek made my life a lot easier in late January of 2010.
Ceil Rock More than 1 year ago
Game On Dude also ran the race without his right front shoe.
B More than 1 year ago
Just watched this again. Dude never touched Handsome Mike and he never stopped him from running. Smith was using smart tactics to get in the position that he wanted to be in and, of course, it didn't hurt to hinder a bit the only other speed in the race. Very smart and very legal race riding.
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Has anyone read the insightful article about the Gulfstream Handicap?
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Gotcher last n yes read the Gulf story. I think I know what I think. You?
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
I think I do. But sometimes I don't know what to think.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
I think that some really good Irish Horsemen don't need a bunch of corporate bull, at all.
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Jeff More than 1 year ago
Big Jeff... I finally got it; I read the article on Ft. Larned's Gulfstream Park Handicap. The Breeders Cup Classic winner should have an easy time with whatever they put up against him. I doubt that Ian Wilkes will think ill of this. What better way to start your season out than with a payday where your horse isn't "all out" to take home the lion's share of the purse? I think this will benefit Ft. Larned later in the year. He built up slowly last year... at Gulfstream and Tampa Bay as I recall or vice versa. Either way, he had a great year and is older now. I hope he has a great year and I'm still mad at myself for not using him as a saver in my Pick 3's that closed with the Breeders Cup Classic. I used Trinniberg and was only alive to Game on Dude... "dumb handicapping" on my part is my only excuse. I told my mentor that front speed was holding/winning and another $10.00 turns into about $500.00 instead of $309.00 to Game On Dude. I was alive to 3 of those and none to Ft. Larned... dumb and dumber. I have always liked Ian Wilkes... I never have any doubt that his horses will finish a race with some heart. He is a good horseman and studied under the best.
. Anderson More than 1 year ago
When the Dude "dashes over toward the rail" doesn't Handsome Mike get forced from the two path into the rail?
B More than 1 year ago
The connections of Handsome Mike didn't seem to have a problem as they didn't claim foul. It was just smart tactical race riding.
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Inconvenient fact
commenting More than 1 year ago
Dude is a nice horse... when he gets his own way in a race.
B More than 1 year ago
I get your point, but I think you could say the same about most horses.
commenting More than 1 year ago
Not really, most horses don't pout quite the way Dude does. When Dude doesn't get the lead, he sulks along at the back and doesn't even try.
Chris Butler More than 1 year ago
Very aggresive (dirty) riding by Mike Smith against Mario Gutierrez going in to the first turn. Was this precipitated by the fact that Gutierrez beat smith in both the Derby and Preakness last year? Come on Mike you're a Hall of Famer you didn't need to do what you did to win the race yesterday. Congratulations on your first Big Cap win yesterday, However, nothing will be able to erase in your mind the best race call at the end of a race I ever heard at the end of the 2010 Breeders Cup Classic: BALAAAAME HAS WON IT A HEAD!!!!!!!!
zerosumzen More than 1 year ago
It was precipitated by Bejarano's (losing) start on Game On Dude in the BC, and by Mike Smith wanting to keep his ride on the horse. Baffert has made it abundantly clear that he wants Game On Dude on the lead going into the first turn.
Kaydee815 More than 1 year ago
Ummm...what does Blame have to do with this race? Get over yourself. This was a brilliant ride.....
Kalar Walters More than 1 year ago
Yeh, and Garrett Gomez said he did not want a rematch between Blame and Zenyatta because he knew he got LUCKY! Nevermind that none of that has anything to do with the Dude and Mike Smith.
Pale Rider More than 1 year ago
Chris, I agree, borderline dirty. But, who cares, Mike won the race, got his check, and now on to his next victory. Just another day at the track!
James Madden More than 1 year ago
Different rules in California Chris!!!
Mike More than 1 year ago
Dude reminded me of when J.O. Tobin destroyed Slew back in 1977 at Hollywood park in the swaps staes. Except there was no "seattle slew" here......
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
That was NOT Seattle Slew you saw that day.
B More than 1 year ago
It was Seattle Slew I saw that day running the worse race of his life.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Think about it...
Meydan Rocks More than 1 year ago
LOLOL!!! No Seatle Slew here? MikeMikeMike!!! You are a veritable quote machine aren't Cha?!!! The last time it was War Emblem "fell in Bafferts lap" if I'm not mistaken. Just how ARE you doing today, Mike? Everything goingnwellnwith your stable? ;-))
Kalar Walters More than 1 year ago
Hand ride! WOW!!! Go, Dude!!