The home team is looking
pretty powerful for the Breeders' Cup.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob
Baffert and Rafael Bejarano teamed to win three of the five Grade 1 stakes
worth $250,000 each at Santa Anita on Saturday, including the Awesome Again
with Game On Dude before an on-track crowd of 17,565.
The 5-year-old gelding
earned an automatic berth in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Nov. 3 at
Santa Anita, a race he finished second in last year at Churchill Downs.
"I was hoping for
this kind of outcome," Baffert said. "They were all coming into their
races really well. We still have a ways to go, and as long as they all stay
healthy and keep moving forward, that's the main goal."
Game On Dude returned to
the winner's circle under new jockey Rafael Bejarano after they won by 3 1/4
The gelding improved to
5-0 at his home track for Baffert, who replaced Chantal Sutherland with
Bejarano after Game On Dude lost the Pacific Classic by a half-length last
month at Del Mar.
Berths in various
Breeders' Cup races were awarded to all the winners. Bejarano capped his day by
winning the $70,000-added Unzip Me Stakes.
Game On Dude ran 1 1/8
miles in 1:49.98 as the 1-5 favorite in the race named for his sire. The show
pool on Game On Dude was $368,761, while $160,268 was bet to win. The gelding
is co-owned by retired baseball manager Joe Torre.
"The break was
really important for him," Baffert said. "Sometimes he wants to get a
little edgy in the gate, but he broke really well. Plan A was if he breaks
well, don't move on him. He found a seam right away and got him to the outside.
They slowed it down, so he just sat there and waited, then asked him to run in
the stretch. It was the prep that you want for a horse like this."
Nonios, a 10-1 shot, was
second and paid $4.80 and $3. Richard's Kid, third in the Pacific Classic,
finished in the same spot Saturday in front of 17,565 who endured temperatures
in the low 90s. Richard's Kid, co-owned by Santa Anita CEO Mark Verge, was
another 4 1/2 lengths back and paid $2.80 to show.
Bejarano is the top
rider for Baffert's stable, and the trainer said he made the change because he
wanted his No. 1 jockey on his top horses. Sutherland had no mounts on Saturday.
"He handles the
pressure really well. When you're 1 to 5, he knows just keep him out of trouble
and let them run their race," Baffert said. "If they win, they win.
If they get beat, give them a chance."
Bejarano returned a day
after escaping serious injury when he was thrown in the fifth race
"My horse broke so
fast from the gate that I let the other horse (Winning Machine) send a little
bit to make sure I could hold my horse and put him in better position,"
the jockey said. "After the race was done because he was much the best
horse in the race."
Kentucky Derby and
Preakness-winning trainer Doug O'Neill, who oversees Richard's Kid, had to
settle for a second and a third in the Grade 1 races a day after returning from
a 40-day suspension.
"Our horse was last the whole way and then made up ground to finish third," said Leandro Mora, O'Neill's assistant. "I know the winner is a game horse who likes to go wire-to-wire. If somebody doesn't fight him on top of it, he's a champion."