Eclipse Award hopeful Game On Dude worked a strong four furlongs at Betfair Hollywood Park on Sunday and afterward trainer Bob Baffert said his seven-time Grade I stakes winner would ship to Churchill Downs on Wednesday to compete in Friday’s 139th running of the $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (Grade I).
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
The 6-year-old son of Awesome Again covered the distance under jockey Martin Garcia in :48, the sixth-fastest of 53 works at the distance.
“He worked nice,” Baffert said by telephone. “He just cruised around there. We didn’t do anything real serious with him, but he looked good doing it. Martin Garcia worked him and said he feels great, so we’re coming.”
The race will be the first for Game On Dude since a disappointing ninth-place finish behind Mucho Macho Man in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) at Santa Anita on Nov. 2. The loss was his first in six races in 2013 and snapped a six-race winning streak that included Grade I wins in the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup and the Pacific Classic.
His foes in the Clark Handicap will include Willis D. Horton’s Will Take Charge, who was beaten by a nose in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The D. Wayne Lukas-trained winner of the Travers (GI) will carry 123 pounds in Friday’s 1 1/8-mile race.
Game On Dude was assigned high weight of 126 pounds for the Clark and Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will ride.Baffert’s star was the favorite for Eclipse Award “Horse of the Year” honors prior to the Breeders’ Cup, and remains a candidate for the award that goes to America’s champion older male.
Owned by a partnership that includes Bernie Schiappa, the Lanni Family Trust, Diamond Pride Stable of former New York Yankees manager Joe Torre and Mercedes Stable, Game on Dude has a career record of 28-15-5-1 with earnings of $5,602,158.
The Clark Handicap’s known probable starters include (with trainers, weights): Bourbon Courage (Kellyn Gorder, 117), Easter Gift (Chad Brown, 116), Finnegans Wake (Romans, 116), Game On Dude (Bob Baffert, 126), Golden Ticket (Kenny McPeek, 120), Prayer for Relief (Steve Asmussen, 118) and Will Take Charge (D. Wayne Lukas, 123). Possible: Jaguar Paw (Stephen Lyster, 115).