Game On Dude will try to become the third horse to win the Hollywood Gold Cup more than once when he faces four opponents Saturday at Betfair Hollywood Park.
Scheduled for 1 ¼ miles over Cushion Track, the Grade I, $500,000 Gold Cup is the richer of two graded stakes being offered on the next-to-last Saturday of the Spring/Summer meet. The 10-race card also includes the Grade II, $150,000 Royal Heroine Mile for fillies and mares on turf.
Owned by a partnership that includes Joe Torre’s Diamond Pride LLC, Lanni Family Trust, Ernie Moody’s Mercedes Stable LLC and Bernie Schiappa and trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Game On Dude could join Native Diver and Lava Man as a multiple Gold Cup winner.
Native Diver (1965-1967) and Lava Man (2005-2007) were three-time winners of the track’s signature race.
Successful by 1 ½ lengths over stablemate Richard’s Kid in 2012 - the second consecutive year Baffert finished 1-2 in the Gold Cup – Game On Dude enters having won four in a row. All of those victories have come in tandem with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who won the 2004 Gold Cup with Total Impact.
The most recent score for the 6-year-old Awesome Again gelding out of the Devil His Due mare Worldly Pleasure came as the 3-10 favorite in the Grade II, $1.5 million Charles Town Classic April 20 at Charles Town.
The half-length victory in West Virginia was the 13th in 25 starts for Game On Dude and pushed his earnings to $4,702,158.
Three of those wins have come in four starts over Cushion Track. Game On Dude’s other local successes came in the Grade II Californian and Grade III Native Diver in 2012.
Game On Dude was given 127 pounds, the largest weight assignment of his career. The last horse to win the Gold Cup carrying that impost was Perrault in 1982. Affirmed was the last horse to win carrying more weight. He won under 132 pounds in 1979.
Baffert also entered Sky Kingdom for Westrock Stables LLC. A 4-year-old son of Empire Maker and the Kingmambo mare Sky Beam, Sky Kingdom has won four of 10 and earned $233,980. His initial win occurred Nov. 24, 2011 in his Cushion Track debut prior to a fourth-place finish in the Grade I CashCall Futurity a bit more than three weeks later.
Sky Kingdom has been idle since trailing as the 13-10 favorite in his first start on turf in the Grade II San Juan Capistrano Handicap April 21.
Clubhouse Ride ended a streak of five runner-up finishes in a row with his Californian success.
Trained by Craig Lewis, who won the 1988 Gold Cup with Cutlass Reality, for Six-S Racing Stable and Nikolas Petralia, the 5-year-old son of Candy Ride finished a half-length behind Game On Dude at nearly 13-1 in the Charles Town Classic.
Out of the Seeking the Gold mare Seeking Results, Clubhouse Ride has won four of 28 and banked $959,620.
Third in the 2012 Gold Cup, Kettle Corn will be seeking his first win as a 6-year-old for Lee and Susan Searing’s C R K Stable and trainer John Sadler.
The son of Candy Ride was second in the LeRoy before checking in fourth in the Californian. He’s won seven of 22 in his career and banked $433,111.
Oilisblackgold, who is without a stakes win, was third in the Californian, 4 ½ lengths behind Clubhouse Ride.
Owned by Class Racing Stable and trained by Craig Dollase, who won the 2010 Gold Cup with Awesome Gem, the 6-year-old Tapit gelding out of the Seeking the Gold mare has three wins in 26 attempts and earnings of $256,240.
The Gold Cup will mark his first start in a Grade I. The Californian was his fourth appearance in a graded event. Oilisblackgold was second in the Grade III Tokyo City March 23 at Santa Anita after finishing fourth in the Grade II San Diego Handicap and fifth in the Grade II Strub Stakes in 2011.
From inside out, the field for the 74th Hollywood Gold Cup: Clubhouse Ride, Joe Talamo rides, 119 pounds; Game On Dude, Mike Smith, 127; Oilisblackgold, Edwin Maldonado, 115; Kettle Corn, Rafael Bejarano, 116 and Sky Kingdom, Martin Garcia, 116.