Undoubtedly one of the finest races run in the 2011 season was the Hollywood Gold Cup. Three of the best older horses in the nation in First Dude, Game On Dude, and Twirling Candy battled it out to the wire with Bob Baffert’s First Dude getting the narrow decision with his late burst on the outside. The horse he nipped on the wire was also from Baffert’s barn and ran almost too good to lose that day. Setting all the fractions under regular rider, Chantal Sutherland, Game On Dude was joined on the far turn by race favorite Twirling Candy and the two would fight tooth and nail to the wire. Displaying his great grit, Game On Dude won that battle, but lost the war when the other Dude got him on the last stride. Without the likes of First Dude and Twirling Candy to worry about in 2012, a similar performance this year by Game On Dude should see him coast to the finish line an impressive winner.
The five-time stakes winner and last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up, Game on Dude stands over this field and should go off even lower than his 4-5 morning line odds, as he looks to continue his dominance over the California older male division in this afternoon’s Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup at Betfair Hollywood Park. Owned by a partnership that includes Joe Torre’s Diamond Pride LLC, Lanni Family Trust, Ernie Moody’s Mercedes Stable and Bernie Schiappa, the five-year-old gelding comes into the Gold Cup off an powerhouse victory in last month’s grade 2 Californian. The more than seven length romp raised the son of Awesome Again’s lifetime mark to 7 wins in 17 starts with more than $2.3 million in earnings. The easy victory over the Hollywood strip also signaled his readiness to resume his place as possibly the best older horse in America after an unsuccessful journey to Dubai.
Ironically, the only horse in the seven horse field that may have the tools to give the Dude a run for his money also comes from the loaded Bob Baffert Barn. Richard’s Kid, now seven-years-old, had been away from American racing and winless for more than a year, but the son of Lemon Drop Kid demonstrated he still has some running in him with a sharp return in the Prove It Stakes at Hollywood Park on June 8. His tenth career win was his first since October of 2010, which proceeded five consecutive losses in the United Arab Emirates in 2011 and early 2012. While it came against much softer competition, the 7 ¼ length victory looked like the old Richard’s Kid who excelled on synthetic surfaces and who scored back-to-back victories in the rich Pacific Classic before leaving for the desert.
Others looking to join Ron the Greek as automatic berth holders into this year’s $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic include, the filly, Love Theway Youare, Kettle Corn, Spud Spivens, Anthony’s Cross, and Thirtyfirststreet. Probably the only thing this has bunch has going for them in their quest to shock Game On Dude is the seven to twelve pounds they will receive from the favorite in the handicap race.
It seems only fitting, considering how well he ran last year in losing, that Game On Dude should add a Hollywood Gold Cup victory to his growing list of accomplishments. I like his chances for redemption.