In an otherwise remarkable career, Game On Dude has been known to throw in a
clunker now and then, resulting mainly from occasional problems leaving the starting gate.
They should all be behind him now since Mike Smith has taken
over as the gelding’s regular rider two races back, both easy victories,
in the Grade III Native Diver last Dec. 1 and the Grade II San Antonio
Stakes on Feb. 3. Next up: the March 2 Santa Anita Handicap, a race Game
On Dude won in 2011 and is favored to win a week from Saturday.
A subtle maneuver with Game On Dude’s tail seems to have
rectified previous gate woes and allowed him to “sit” well in the stall
until the doors open.
“They’ve been schooling him a lot with his tail,” Smith pointed
out. “They hold it up, giving him a light tail and it seems to make him
stand still. Before, he was anxious in there. It wasn’t like he wouldn’t
fit in there or anything like that.
“He just wanted to go. He’d hear every noise and he was ready.
So he would kind of rock a lot. So they started doing a light tail on
him and he’s standing better, so hopefully, that’s the answer.”
A “light tail” was explained by Santa Anita starter Jay Slender.
“Once the horses are in the gate, an assistant starter will grab their
tail when they back up against the gates, and they’re fine. But Game On
Dude, he likes to move around a little, so we’ll grab his tail and move
it up a bit over the back gate. That flattens out some horses, and with
him, it worked.
“Like anything, if it helps, you’ll try it, and if works, you’ll go with it”
“Whatever it is,” Smith continued, “I’m excited to be a part of
it. When these kind of horses get a chance to hang around and stay sound
and get older, they get stronger. Game On Dude is at a point right now
where this could be his year.
“He’s certainly got the ability and seems to maybe even stepped
his game up a notch. That would be pretty impressive, if that’s the
Probable for the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap at 1 ¼
miles presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino: Game On Dude,
Ron the Greek, Called to Serve, Guilt Trip, Stephanoatsee, Handsome
Mike, John Scott, Clubhouse Ride and Tritap.
Not only will Santa Anita present three Grade I races on Big
’Cap Day, fans on track will receive free an attractive Santa Anita tote
bag with paid admission while supplies last.
Festivities also will include popular premium Food Trucks, a KROQ
concert featuring Youngblood Hawk, a microbrew and craft beer
presentation and a $400,000 guaranteed late Pick 4 presented by Daily
First post time on Big ’Cap is 12 noon. Gates open at 10 a.m.