Many things in her life have changed recently—a new husband and agent
for example—but multiple Grade I winner Game On Dude remains the anchor
of Chantal Sutherland’s professional life.
The Awesome Again gelding’s victory in the 2011 Santa Anita Handicap
made Sutherland the first female rider to win the prestigious event, a
milestone she hopes to duplicate in the upcoming Grade I, $500,000
Hollywood Gold Cup, which will be run for the 73rd time Saturday, July
Sutherland has now ridden Game On Dude eight times and has four
victories and two seconds. His only poor effort was in the Dubai World
Cup March 31st, where the 5-year-old finished 12th of 13.
“There were a couple of things about Dubai,” explained Sutherland.
“I think the humidity had a lot to do with his poor performance. As a
runner, I know that when you go from a climate like we have here and try
to jog where there’s a lot of humidity, you sweat so much more. The
electrolytes and everything are different. It takes them a while to
adjust. It’s a lot easier on them when they come back to this kind of
Game On Dude worked five furlongs in 58 3/5 seconds June 18th and 59
4/5 June 25th, both at Santa Anita, following an eye-catching 7 1-4
length victory in the Grade II Californian June 2nd.
“I haven’t worked him,” Sutherland continued, “but I get reports on
how he’s doing. I get to ride him, and that’s the fun part. I
genuinely love this horse. He recognizes me and he’s like having a dog
that wants to please you. He’s a very sensitive horse. When I go to
ride him, the first part of the race I stay quiet. When I get to the
quarter pole or have to make a move, he pins his ears, puts his head
down and he just knows. I just think go and he goes.
“His last race (Californian) was so easy. I think I raised my stick and put it in my left hand, but that’s all I did.”
Her praise for Bob Baffert is heartfelt and her assessment comes from carefully observing the trainer.
“Bob’s an amazing trainer and he’s very particular with what he
wants,’’ she said. “He likes to stick to one or two jockeys. They get
to know his system. He just wants you to ride a certain way and do
things within his system. He had Martin (Garcia) and Martin’s gone now.
Rafael (Bejarano) is in there now. I’ve been working horses all week
at his barn. Will it come to fruition that I’ll ride more for him? I
don’t know and I could never be so presumptuous. Of course, I’d love
to. I’d work every day at his barn if that’s what he wanted.”
When she returned from Dubai, Sutherland changed agents from Brian
Beach to Tommy Ball. “I already knew that I would be making a change
before I left,” explained the rider. I like Brian, but sometimes it
works and sometimes there’s just no chemistry.”
Sutherland’s romance with Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith was
chronicled on the Animal Planet series “Jockeys.” The two have been
apart for a couple of years and the 36-year-old married Dan Kruse March
“We’re not planning to have children,” Sutherland said. “If I did, I
would definitely have to stop racing. Dan has two daughters, Mandy and
Dani. They’re 18 and 21. They come and they go and I kind of enjoy it.
That’s enough work for me.”