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Updated on 03/05/2013 9:48AM
Santa Anita Handicap: Game On Dude wins his second Big Cap
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.”
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.
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
Game On Dude also ran the race without his right front shoe.
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.
Has anyone read the insightful article about the Gulfstream Handicap?
When the Dude "dashes over toward the rail" doesn't Handsome Mike get forced from the two path into the rail?
Dude is a nice horse... when he gets his own way in a race.
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!!!!!!!!
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......
Hand ride! WOW!!! Go, Dude!!