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Baffert Sorts Out Stakes Contenders

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will saddle defending champion Game On Dude in the Pacific Classic, the only one of four horses he nominated to the event. Of the others, Bayern is headed to Saratoga for Saturday’s Grade I $1.2 million Travers, Fed Biz will go in Sunday’s Pat O’Brien Stakes here and Sky Kingdom will continue to train for a race yet  to be determined.

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, aboard for Game On Dude’s last six starts, opted to ride undefeated Shared Belief in the Classic. In essence, he chose a 3-year-old gelding of great promise over a 7-year with eight times the experience and earnings of his younger rival.

“When Shared Belief won the Los Alamitos Derby, as soon as they crossed under the wire I thought, ‘Oops, I’m going to need a new jockey,’ ” Baffert said Tuesday on a national teleconference call. “Mike has been a big part of the (recent) success of  Game On Dude. With Mike, we learned some things we didn’t know about the horse before.

“I don’t blame him for going with the younger gelding.”


Two wins by two-time defending champion Rafael Bejarano and two by trainer Jerry Hollendorfer on Sunday moved them into co-leader positions atop the meet standings.

Bejarano is tied with Kent Desormeaux, who won once on Sunday, at 21 apiece. Elvis Trujillo, who was blanked Sunday, is one back and Hall of Famer Mike Smith, despite having far fewer mounts than the top three, is only two back in the win column.

Hollendorfer has won every training title except one since 1986 at the two San Francisco Bay area tracks, now closed Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields. While a major force for the last several years, he has not won a title on the Southern California circuit. Could it change with this meeting?

“We have lots of horses that look like they have chances,” Hollendorfer assistant Dan Ward said. “We’re competitive and we’re going to try. I like the last (condition) book. We have horses that fit if the races fill like we hope they will.”


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