What had already been a memorable Spring/Summer meet for Bob
Baffert got even better Saturday when the Hall of Fame trainer finished 1-2 in
the $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup.
First Dude won for the third time in four starts since
joining the Baffert barn, edging Game On Dude by a nose with 11-10 favorite Twirling
Candy a neck back in third.
The victory was the third in Hollywood Park’s signature race
for Baffert, who had won previously with Real Quiet (1999) and Congaree (2003).
He became the first trainer since the late Bobby Frankel to achieve
the Gold Cup exacta. Frankel accomplished the feat in 2001 with Aptitude and
Skimming, a result made possible by the disqualification of Futural, who was
moved from first to third.
The last time it happened naturally was 1997 and Richard
Mandella, who saddled Setsuko for a fourth-place finish Saturday, went one
better. Mandella had a 1-2-3 finish that year with Gentlemen defeating Siphon
Owned by breeder Don Dizney, First Dude, a 4-year-old son of
Stephen Got Even and the Smart Strike mare Run Sarah Run, was taken off the
pace set by his stablemate by jockey Martin Garcia while in the clear,
finishing well on the outside to prevail in the last jump.
By virtue of the thrilling victory, First Dude earned a spot
in the Breeders’ Cup Classic Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs as the Gold Cup was a BC
“Win and You’re In’’ challenge race. Additionally, First Dude will have his
pre-entry and entry fees waived for the Classic and receive a $10,000 travel
Successful for the fourth time in 17 starts, the Florida
bred earned his first Grade I in his ninth such appearance. He had hit the
board five times before, including thirds in the Blue Grass, Belmont, Haskell
Invitational and Travers and a second in the Preakness. All those efforts were in
2010 for former trainer Dale Romans.
Pushing his earnings to $1,442,140, First Dude, whose only
loss this year was a sixth in the Santa Anita Handicap won by Game On Dude,
paid $10.20, $4.80 and $3.20 as the 4-1 second choice. He completed the 1 ¼
miles over Cushion Track in 2:01.57.
The Gold Cup win was a first for Garcia, who finished third
in the race a year ago aboard the Baffert-trained Richard’s Kid.
Game On Dude, who established the lead immediately after
breaking directly outside Twirling Candy, the 122-pound highweight, just failed
to make some additional history for his rider as the 9-2 third choice.
Chantal Sutherland, who teamed with the gelding initially in
the Santa Anita Handicap, was the first female to ever ride in the Gold Cup,
so, obviously, she would have been the first female to win a race which was run
for the 72nd time Saturday.
More relaxed than he had been in his victory in the
Californian June 4, Twirling Candy sat just off Game On Dude, took a narrow lead
briefly in the stretch, but couldn’t quite match strides with the Baffert duo near
the finish. He’s now 0-for-2 at 10 furlongs.
“In the morning they’ve been finishing together and they
both ran a great race today,’’ said Baffert, who leads the meet in both wins
(34) and stakes victories (seven). “First Dude is just a big old horse and
you’ve just got to let him settle. You just have to ride him with a lot of
confidence and that’s what Martin did.
“When they hit the wire, I knew I’d won it. I just didn’t
know which one. I was hoping for a dead heat. That would have been really cool.
They both could have gotten a “Win and You’re In’’ and really bust out the
Breeders’ Cup. I didn’t know what I was going to do with him, but now I can
take him to Del
Mar and run him in the ($1 million) Pacific Classic (Aug. 28).
“I’ve got to give a lot
of credit to Chantal. She rode a great race. She really picked that horse up
and carried him and got a second wind. He was on the lead and that’s the way he
wants to run.’’
Twirling Candy’s trainer John Sadler and jockey Joel Rosario
believe the distance may have gotten the best of the talented 4-year-old.
“He was relaxed,’’ said Rosario. “A mile and a quarter may
be a little too far for him. He was good and had no excuses. I wasn’t even
asking him to relax, he just did everything on his own. He just got a little
tired in the lane.’’
Game On Dude paid $5.60 and $3.60 while the show payoff on
Twirling Candy was $2.40.
Setsuko, who was a nose behind Game On Dude in a roughly run
Big `Cap in early March, was 2 ¼ lengths behind Twirling Candy, then came defending
champ Awesome Gem, Dark Cove, the mare Miss Match and Soul Candy.