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Game On Dude Sensational in Big 'Cap

Before an on-track crowd of 26,901 and in a performance for the ages, 6-5 favorite Game On Dude went gate to wire to win Saturday’s Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap by a record 7 ¾ lengths under Mike Smith, vanquishing eight rivals in 2:00.14 while becoming only the third horse in the 76-year history of the race to win it twice.

Trained by Bob Baffert, who picked up his fourth Big ’Cap win, Game On Dude, winner of the 2011 Big ’Cap, broke from post position eight and set front-running fractions of 23.64, 47.19, 1:10.97 and 1:35.24.

He paid $4.60, $3.40 and $2.10.

“He knocked it out of the park today, he really did, it was extremely impressive,” said Smith, who tasted victory in the Big ’Cap for the first time. “He broke really well today. I basically waited a little to see what Handsome Mike (off at odds of 30-1 from post position two with Mario Gutierrez) was going to do out of the gate and when I saw that I had the jump on him, the advantage, I got on over (towards the rail) as quick as I could just to impede him a little bit without bothering him in any way, and it worked out really well.

“He got into this great rhythm he has, he’s got a real high cruising speed, and he was well within himself the whole way around there really.”

Owned by Joe Torre’s Diamond Pride Stable (Torre was unable to attend due to a World Baseball Classic managing commitment in Arizona), the Lanni Family Trust, Mercedes Stable LLC and Bernard Schiappa, Game On Dude, a 6-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding by Awesome Again, picked up $450,000 for the win, boosting his overall earnings to $3,702,158. His record now stands at 24-12-5-1.

“I think Mike really gets along with him well,” said Baffert. “He must have given him a breather along there somewhere…but the thing about ‘Dude,’ he’s got to go along at a fast clip. The horse is just a great horse. What he showed today was amazing.

“I was waiting to see what was going to happen. Mike didn’t see anybody going, so he just took the lead. He was going to cruise right along there (anyway). If you go with him, you’re not going to get anything. He likes competition, and he was still going pretty fast. I’m so proud of him the way he’s developed into such a great horse.”

Clubhouse Ride, dismissed at 27-1, got a ground saving trip under Rafael Bejarano and although he was no match for the winner, prevailed in a desperate nose photo for second over Called to Serve, who was the third choice in the field under Gary Stevens at 4-1.

Clubhouse Ride, trained by Craig Lewis, paid $13.40 and $6.80.

“I’m proud of him, he ran well,” said Lewis, who ran third behind Game On Dude with longshot Quindici Man in 2011.

Called to Serve, who shipped in from Belmont Park for trainer Nick Canani, was 3 ½ lengths off the leader passing the half mile pole, split horses turning for home and finished 1 ½ lengths in front of last year’s Big ’Cap winner, Ron the Greek.

Called to Serve paid $3.40 to show.

“There was no beating Game On Dude,” said Stevens. “I should have been an easy second. We got in tight at the three-eighths pole and he doesn’t like it down inside. When I got him out, he re-broke for me…I’m disappointed we didn’t finish second. I know Nick is too.”

Florida-bred Ron the Greek, who came off a smashing win in the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park Jan. 19, made a huge run to win a “Dude-less” Big ’Cap last year from well off the pace, was the second choice at 5-2 but was never a factor under Jose Lezcano.

“I got my horse in a position he wanted to be in, and he gave me a good race,” said Florida-based Lezcano. “The only thing is that Game On Dude is so fast—nothing compares. We ran hard the whole way, but we couldn’t keep up with him.”

Game On Dude joined three previous two-time winners of the Big ’Cap: John Henry (1981 & ’82), Milwaukee Brew (2002 & ’03), and Lava Man (2006 & ’07).

California-bred John Scott, 20-1 on the morning line, was scratched by trainer Carla Gaines earlier in the day.

 

 

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Older Comments about Game On Dude Sensational in Big 'Cap...

@icy...Andrew need to realize that his formula is outdated and he need to go back to the drawing board.
travel_vic...I remember Skywalker's race as well. I also remember his gutsy win the SA Derby coming back against Fast Account with Pincay aboard and the young Gary Stevens on FA. GOD made his own pace and ran away with the SA Handicap. Solid ride from Smith.
There is one thing I would like to point out that I didn't touch on and should have in my other comment, Speed Figures and why putting to much emphasis on them is unwise IMO. God received a 116 beyer for running loose on lead in a time of 2.00. Fort Larned received a 117 for running under tremendous pace pressure in 2:00, at the same track, both races listed as fast, but the two figures would lead one to believe both horses are equal, which is not the case, and why SF are dubious at best in determining the better horse.
icyhotboo..You're the man. Love that post and don't understand why Ron the Greek connection didn't put a rabbit in the race? Any contender that race against GOD need to understand that you cannot let that horse relax on the lead.
It sounds as though it's very likely that The Dude will go for the Charles Town Classic.
I certainly wouldn't blame the jockey for letting him run loose on the lead. That's the trainers job that has the leading contender to get a rabbit in the race. Here is a comparison as to why internal fractions are so important when analyzing a race. It is a must to have a pretty accurate idea of what the fractions will be, and where each horse will likely be positioned. These are the fraction of the SAH and the 2012 BCC respectively. It clearly shows why GOD won and lost each, again respectively. If you watch the replay of the BCC you'll see just why pace pressure is so important to beat a horse like GOD, as he was taken to the three quarters 4/5 of a second faster than the SAH in the BCC. This is where the extra energy used in running relaxed and running under pressure clearly shows. They had to do the same thing to DR. Fager with Damascus. However with Dr. Fager you had to get him to the 3/4s in 1:09.2 as opposed to 1:10 for GOD to make him burn extra energy or you lose. SAH 23.3/47/1:10.4/1:35./2:00----BCC 23.1/46.2/1:10/1:34.3/2:00. I needed an example of why using a rabbit is neccessary, and Dr. Fager is the best known example of a rabbit being used. This is not a comparison of the two horses mentioned, or a comment meant to diminish GOD, who is a fine horse in his own right. Please don't read any more into this than what I'm trying to point out, which is pace pressure, and it's effect on the out come of a race.
Better set up for Ron The Greek last year, Ambitious D, but I did think he was going to take second.
Mary, I'm not sure if other horses could have hung on the lead with the Dude, but I was expecting a better kick from Ron the Greek. But given how big the Dude ran, even if Ron the Greek was placed closer to the pace, he still would have been unlikely to catch him in the stretch
I wouldn't call the jockeys moronic or pinheads in this case. Which horse was going to go with Dude and still last the 10f? I should have put much more on Game On Dude.
I hear riders talk all the time "Don't worry HE will come back to us." NOT as often as you think pinheads!
Moronic for any jock to let Dude alone on the lead. Gave the closers no shot when that happened.
Game on Dude has game. I'm not a Baffert fan but kudos to him and the connections.
I was there for the 86 Breeder's Cup when 82K were on hand to see Skywalker take home the bacon.
"Afraid".............. all trainers work for OWNERS who tell THEM what to do.
The Dude ran in the Charles Town after he won the Big Cap a couple of years so I can see him going back there again. Unlike Nick Zito and those other East Coast trainers who are afraid to ship their horses, Baffert does not dodge anyone and loves to run for those big purses. Plus he can pick up some cheap moonshine from those hillbillies in West Virginia.
That's what happens when Dude gets loose on the lead. Ron The Greek did his best, but was no match for the gutsy gelding. Called To Serve will be one to watch for in the Fall. The next step for Dude is prepping for the Hollywood Gold Cup, but Baffert should consider running him in the Whitney, Woodward, or Jockey Club Gold Cup this year. If they employ the same strategy of "get the lead at all costs", Dude won't lose many races on the East.
He better stay in California or he will get his ass handed to him .

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