Game On Dude, generally considered the top handicap horse in America, strengthened his claim to ultimate “Horse of the Year” honors with a romping, 8 ½ length triumph in the Grade I $1 million TVG Pacific Classic Sunday at Del Mar.
With Martin Garcia subbing for the injured Joel Rosario, Game On Dude hustled to the lead in the first few strides from the gate and never was seriously threatened, winning by a record margin in Del Mar’s signature contest. The previous record margin was 5 ½ lengths by Skimming in the 2001 renewal.
In a blanket finish for runner-up honors, Kettle Corn, the San Diego Handicap winner this summer, prevailed by a nose over You Know I Know, who was the same margin in front of fourth-place Richard’s Kid, the two-time Pacific Classic winner (2009-10).
Byrama, the lone female in a field of a dozen male horses, was seventh, with Dullahan, the 2012 Pacific Classic winner, checking in a disappointing eighth.
Game On Dude, a six-year-old gelding by Awesome Again, owned by the partnership of Diamond Pride, Lanni Family Trust and Schiappa and trained by Bob Baffert, thus became only the second horse in the same year to complete California’s handicap triple comprised of the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup and Pacific Classic. Lava Man accomplished the feat in 2006.
Game On Dude, in his third try in the Pacific Classic after having finishing fourth in 2011 and second a year ago to Dullahan, nevertheless went postward the solid 8-5 favorite and returned $5.40, $3.80 and $3.20 while earning $600,000. His career total is $5,602,158 as he continues as the richest horse in training in North America. . He has 15 wins in 27 lifetime efforts.
Kettle Corn, who was ridden by Victor Espinoza, paid $5.60 and $4.40, while You Know I Know paid $9 to show.
The final time was 2:00.69 for the mile and one-quarter on the main track , compared to the record 1:59.54 set by Dullahan a year ago.
The Pacific Classic is one of the Breeders’ Cup’s “Win and You’re In” qualifying races with the winner guaranteed an all expenses paid spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, set for Saturday, Nov 2 at Santa Anita. Game On Dude finished seventh to Fort Larned in the BC Classic in 2012, his last loss before reeling off six straight victories.
Sunday’s Attendance was 29,319.