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Gold Cup Another Showcase for Game On Dude?

The Grade I $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup, which will be run for the 74th time Saturday at Betfair Hollywood Park, is shaping up as a showcase for Horse of the Year candidate Game On Dude.

The defending champion, who is trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, is likely to have only four rivals in the 1 ¼ mile race over Cushion Track. The probable opponents: Clubhouse Ride (trainer Craig Lewis, jockey Joe Talamo), Liaison (Baffert, Martin Garcia), Oilisblackgold (Craig Dollase, Edwin Maldonado) and Kettle Corn (John Sadler, Rafael Bejarano). Entries for the Gold Cup will be taken Wednesday.

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith has the call again on Game On Dude. Smith is 4-for-4 since teaming with the 6-year-old gelded son of Awesome Again. Game On Dude has won 13 of 25 and earned $4,702,158. Three of his wins have come in four starts at Betfair Hollywood Park.

Owned by a partnership that includes baseball icon Joe Torre’s Diamond Pride LLC, Lanni Family Trust, Ernie Moody’s Mercedes Stable LLC and Bernie Schiappa, Game On Dude is unbeaten in 2013 and enters the Gold Cup on a four-race win streak. He romped in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap March 2 before winning the Grade II, $1.5 million Charles Town Classic April 20 at Charles Town.

Game On Dude’s biggest challenge likely will come from Six S Stable and Niko Petralia’s Clubhouse Ride, who finished only a half-length behind Game On Dude when second at Charles Town. The 5-year-old Candy Ride horse was also a distant second behind Game On Dude in the Big `Cap and the Grade II San Antonio Stakes.

Clubhouse Ride ended a streak of five runner-up finishes in a row with a decisive victory in the Grade II Californian June 1. A first, second or third-place finish in the Gold Cup would push the chestnut over $1 million in earnings.

Though second as the even-money favorite in the Californian, Liaison has shown a fondness for Cushion Track and could pose an upset threat to stablemate Game On Dude. The 4-year-old Indian Charlie colt won the Grade I CashCall Futurity in 2011 and won the Grade II Mervyn LeRoy Handicap May 4 in his first start of the Spring/Summer meet.

Oilisblackgold and Kettle Corn, third and fourth, respectively in the Californian, both have similar styles and will try to rally from the back of the pack. Both had their final works June 29. Oilisblackgold went five furlongs in 1:00 2/5 while Kettle Corn drilled six furlongs in 1:14 2/5.

In conjunction with the Hollywood Gold Cup, there will be a special 75th Anniversary DVD giveaway – one per paid admission while supplies last.

The Gold Cup is part of a big week of racing, which begins Thursday with the Grade II $150,000 Swaps Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles over Cushion Track highlighting the 4th of July card. Friday will mark the final night racing program at Betfair Hollywood Park. The first running of the

$70,000-added Lucie Manet Stakes for older fillies and mares at 1 1-4 miles on turf is the feature. First post is 7:05 p.m. and there will be a concert feature 80z All Stars after the races conclude.

The co-feature Saturday is the Grade II, $150,000 Royal Heroine Mile for older fillies and mares. The one-mile turf event is expected to attract, among others, Ran Jan Racing’s Schiaparelli, winner of the Great Lady M. Stakes May 26.

The racing week wraps Sunday, July 7. The feature attraction is the $70,000-added Le Cle Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at one mile on turf.




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