Photo: Eclipse Sportswire - Alex Evers
Front running Game On Dude, a two-time winner of the Hollywood Gold Cup in 2012 & 2013, seeks his third lifetime win in the prestigious mile and a quarter fixture on Saturday, as the Grade I, $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita will be run for the first time at The Great Race Place.
To be run for the 75th time, the Gold Cup was first run at the now-shuttered Hollywood Park in 1938 and has been won by such legendary horses as: Seabiscuit (1938), Noor (1950), Citation (1951), Swaps (1956), Round Table (1957), Gallant Man (1958), Native Diver (1965, ’66 & ’67), Ack Ack (1971), Exceller (1978), Affirmed (1979), Ferdinand (1987), Best Pal (1993), Cigar (1995) and Lava Man (2005 ’06 & ’07).
A 7-year-old gelding by Awesome Again, the Bob Baffert-trained Game On Dude will break from the rail and face six rivals, including Imperative, who bested “Dude” by 1 ½ lengths in the Grade II, 1 1/8 miles Charles Town Classic on April 19. The heavy 3-5 favorite, Game On Dude battled head and head with Imperative, but was outrun the final sixteenth of a mile. Two starts back, Game On Dude registered his record third win in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on March 8.
Owned by Joe Torre’s Diamond Pride LLC, the Lanni Family Trust and Bernard Schiappa, Game On Dude has held forth as one of America’s top handicap horses for the past four years and will seek his 17th career win from 33 starts on Saturday. With eight wins from 11 starts at Santa Anita, Game On Dude is 32-16-7-1 overall, with earnings of $6,408,893.
Claimed for $50,000 six starts back on Dec. 21 at Hollywood Park, not many horse racing tips had the George Papaprodromou-trained Imperative on top, but he fired his best career shot in winning the Charles Town Classic at odds of 26-1, earning a lofty Beyer Speed figure of 107. Ridden by Kent Desormeaux in his last three starts, he ran a close second three-back in the Grade II San Antonio Stakes, but was drilled by Game On Dude two back, in the San Anita Handicap, finishing seventh, beaten 17 ¾ lengths.
A 4-year-old gelding by Bernardini, Imperative figures to get a stalking trip in the Gold Cup and he’ll hope that Game On Dude gets enough early pressure to make him vulnerable the final sixteenth of a mile. Owned by K M Racing Enterprise, Inc., Imperative is 15-3-4-1 with earnings of $1,134,620.
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s Fury Kapcori, who had a five-game winning streak snapped when finishing second at odds of 1-2 in the Grade II, 1 1/8 miles Californian, drew post position two and he’ll no doubt provide ample pace pressure to the favorite. Ridden by Corey Nakatani in the Californian, the 4-year-old colt by Tiznow will be handled in the Gold Cup for the first time by Gary Stevens.
With four wins and a second from five starts this year, Fury Kapcori has banked $218,800 in 2014, but he’ll be trying the deep waters of a mile and a quarter for the first time. Owned by Rick Awtrey, Hollendorfer and George Todaro, Fury Kapcori is 15-6-5-1 overall with earnings of $519,880.
Trainer Craig Lewis’ Clubhouse Ride, who ran an even fourth, beaten five lengths by Imperative in the Charles Town Classic, came back to register a gutty half length win in the Californian at odds of 6-1 and will try to post another upset in the Gold Cup.
Second to Game On Dude in last year’s Santa Anita Handicap and Charles Town Classic, the venerable 6-year-old horse by Candy Ride has one second place finish from two tries at 1 ¼ miles. A distant last early in the Californian, jockey Joe Talamo may employ similar tactics in the Gold Cup and hope that a fast pace develops.
Owned by Six-S Racing Stable and Niko Petralia, Clubhouse Ride is 37-5-8-10 overall with earnings of $1,220,132.
The complete field for the Gold Cup, to be run as the eighth on a 10-race card, with jockeys, weights and morning line in post position order: Game On Dude, Mike Smith, 124, (4-5); Fury Kapcori, Gary Stevens, 119, (9-2); Clubhouse Ride, Joe Talamo, 119, (9-2); Imperative, Kent Desormeaux, 119, (4-1); Salto Del Indio, Brice Blanc 121, (8-1); Majestic Harbor, Tyler Baze, 119, (12-1), and Lideris, Juan Enriquez, 124, (20-1).