Race of the Week 2017
HRN Original Blog:

Santa Anita Handicap draws field of 13, but no Game On Dude

Unfortunately, the biggest news coming from the post position draw for Saturday's 75th running of the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap (Grade I) run at the classic distance of 1 ¼-miles over the main track was that Bob Baffert has elected to have Game On Dude bypass an attempt at a repeat victory and ship across the world for the $10 million Dubai World Cup (Group 1) on March 31.


Controversy ensued after a lengthy inquiry last year, when Game On Dude took the worst of the bumping at the top of the stretch, but battled back after being past by Setsuko to beat him to the wire by a nose at 14-to-1 under Chantal Sutherland.


A solid 2011 campaign that had the five-year-old gelded son of Awesome Again in the discussion for Horse of the Year honors culminated with a runner-up finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade I) at Churchill Downs in November.


A perfect 4-for-4 over Santa Anita’s main track after beginning 2012 with a romping 5 ¼-length victory in the San Antonio (Grade II) on Feb. 5, Game On Dude would have been trying to become just the fourth horse to win consecutive Big ‘Caps.


Setsuko dipped out of a graded stakes for the first time since his race prior to last year’s Big ‘Cap to finally capture his second career win in an allowance optional claiming race on Feb. 4. Gelded prior to that start, the five-year-old son of Pleasantly Perfect drew post No. 9 and was made the 4-to-1 second choice for trainer Richard Mandella, who is in search of his fourth Big ‘Cap.


“I’ve had a lot of experience with frustration,” Mandella said regarding last year’s inquiry process. “He’s trained really well. If they gelded me imagine how well I’d do.”


The new star on the scene is Ulitmate Eagle, who will carry the top weight of 120-lbs. and was made the 5-to-2 morning line favorite after drawing post No. 2. The four-year-old son of Mizzen Mast is already a Grade I winner at 1 ¼-miles after capturing the Hollywood Derby on turf last year, and has won five of his last six starts including a resounding 7 ¼-length score in his debut on dirt in the Strub Stakes (Grade II) on Feb. 4. 


"We would have liked to have run against Game On Dude, but I have no idea what Baffert thinks. None of us do," said Ultimate Eagle's owner B.J. Wright. 


Baffert is not without a runner in the Big ‘Cap, with Prayer for Relief looking to snap a five-race losing streak since winning the Super Derby (Grade II) at Louisiana Downs in September. The four-year-old son of Jump Start is listed at 8-to-1 and will break from post No. 11.


For the first time ever, the Santa Anita Handicap will be carded as the final race on an 11-race card with post time at approximately 5:15 pt.


Below is the complete field for Saturday's Santa Anita Handicap, including post position, morning line and a brief comment.


For my analysis and selections every racing day in Southern California visit www.pick4blog.com and follow me on Twitter @mdoche!


PP Horse (Morning Line Odds) Comment


1. Uh Oh Bango (6-1) AZ-bred was over 5 lengths behind Game On Dude in San Antonio.

2. Ultimate Eagle (5-2) Won 5-of-6 including trio of graded stakes since adding blinkers.

3. Ron the Greek (6-1) Pair of wins over last 2 years came in ungraded stakes at Aqueduct.

4. Boxeur des Rues (50-1) Tries dirt for 1st time off uncharacteristic O’Neill work tab.

5. Thirtyfirststreet (30-1) Either right there or nowhere and latter seems more likely.

6. Twice the Appeal (30-1) 2-for-2 over this track in maiden claiming & starter allowance.

7. Fiddler’s Afleet (50-1) Flashed ’09 form on return to dirt in 1st for Eurton.

8. Gladding (12-1) Up the track last year, but benefits from less company on early pace.

9. Setsuko (4-1) Snapped 11-race losing streak after ultimate equipment change.

10. Norvsky (6-1) Only dirt try came in runner-up finish at Fairplex.

11. Prayer for Relief (8-1) Quartet of losses off four-race win streak for “other” Baffert.

12. Holladay Road (8-1) Ambitiously placed by Escalante off restricted stakes win.

13. Victory Pete (50-1) Winless in last 10 starts spanning nearly three years.


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Older Comments about Santa Anita Handicap draws field of 13, but no Game On Dude...

What do people think of Victory Pete? His last race was terribad, but other than that, he has been very consistent. At 50-1 ML, that might be a chance I would look at twice?
I also think that Holladay Road could be the horse to win the SA HCP. He's in good form & his last race was very good, even though he did not beat the best horses. I think the race will set up for him.
Holladay Road is my key in this race. But not overlooking Ultimate Eagle..he will be strong in the front and seems to have natural speed. Hope he stays around 2-1.
GO Dude and Chantal! I really want her to be the first Canadain rider to win the World cup! :p
travel_vic, horse racing is not immune to the economy, hence the rise of regionalism since the economy has tanked.
the shine of superstar horses may be off the Big Cap apple, but you can't deny a 13-horse field is a juicy one for bettors!
The Big Cap has fallen on hard times. It used to be an East/West rivalry of top quality with shippers coming from all over to compete. Days pass, the shine is there no longer
Dubai should be fun .. The Dude (Game On) and The Animal (Kingdom) so far for the U.S.A.
It is time to move the Big Cap to earlier in the year, maybe switch the Strub and Big Cap and run the Big Cap in February. Santa Anita can't compete with the 10 million World Cup and todays trainers want 6-7 weeks between races. The Big Cap is too great and historic a race to be overshadowed by the World Cup. By the way I think they are making a mistake by skipping Big Cap. Game On Dude loves Santa Anita, the track is perfect for his racing style and with the Breeders Cup in California he could have a big shot at Horse of The Year. The World Cup knocks a lot out of a horse, how many horses have won the Breeders Cup Classic after running in the World Cup?
Hard to pass up $10 million ... good luck, Dude!

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Meet Marc Doche


As a life long horse racing fan and handicapper, it’s an honor to be joining
Horseracingnation.com to share my knowledge and expertise on a daily basis to horse racing fans.
Since the early 1980’s when I visited Santa Anita with my grandfather as a young boy, the track has been in my blood. As soon as I turned 16, I was driving out to the track as much as possible, and with the advent of the self-service machines, was able to wager hassle free.
After graduating from UCLA in 2000, I began my career in sports media as a site manager for Athletesdirect.com and a couple of years later became the Media Relations Coordinator for the Los Angeles Avengers of the Arena Football League.
In the past few years, I have moved my focus to covering the Sport of Kings and have worked in the early hours to better understand morning workouts and putting the pieces of the handicapping puzzle together.
I have also used my journalistic talents to produce video coverage of stakes races in Southern California, as well as interviews with jockeys, trainers, owners and more. I look forward to providing their in-depth insight to you.

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