Photo: Eclipse Spotswire - Alex Evers
Not even 127 pounds could slow down The Dude from his appointed rounds. Further cementing his standing as one of the great geldings of modern American racing, Game On Dude dominated the 74th and final running of the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup (at least at Hollywood Park), from start to finish.
With the Track of Lakes and Flowers set to be bulldozed into oblivion in order for more condominiums and strip malls, the future of the Hollywood Gold Cup is at best, in limbo. The chance of having the historic race picked up by one of the other Southern California tracks is certainly possible, but even then, the big race will never be quite the same. So, it is only fitting that in the final edition of the Hollywood Gold Cup ever to be held at Hollywood Park, a most representative winner proved more than able to send the fans home happy.
Bet down to prohibitive favoritism at odds of 3-10, despite his imposing weight assignment, Game On Dude and rider, Mike Smith sprung out of the gates in the 1 ¼ mile race and never looked back. Setting easy fractions of :25, :49.31, and 1:12.60. It appeared to all the world, that horse and rider were out for a Sunday drive one day early. As the field hit the far turn, it was clear that Game On Dude had the better of his closest pursuers.
With the expected threat not coming, it was long shot Kettle Corn who made a menacing move along the inside of the far turn. Menacing that is to everyone but those who know The Dude the best. Showing his class and superiority, the excellent gelding had more than enough in reserve to keep the challenger, who was carrying 11 pounds less, comfortably at bay. Hand ridden by his Hall of Fame rider, Game On Dude hit the wire a length ahead of Kettle Corn, while finishing the ten furlongs in 2:01.88. Clubhouse Ride, the horse many thought would challenge The Dude, never mounted a serious threat and faded to fourth.
For winning trainer Bob Baffert, today’s victory is his fifth in the Gold Cup. He trains the 6-year-old gelding for a partnership that includes Joe Torre's Diamond Pride, Lanni Family Trust, Mercedes Stable, and Bernie Schiappa. With the victory, Game On Dude not only became only the third horse ever to repeat in the historic race, but he also raised his career record to a gaudy mark of 26-14-5-1. The winner's share of the Gold Cup pushed his career earning’s total over the $5 million mark.
One of his owners is destined for baseball’s Hall of Fame, both his trainer and jockey are already in racing’s version. It seems like only a matter of time before this grand gelding joins his connections in immortality.