Game On Dude took his incredible career to another level on Saturday, becoming the first horse to win the storied Santa Anita H. (G1) three times. This was also Bob Baffert's fifth win, and fourth in the past five years, in Santa Anita Park's signature race.
After a sub-par performance in the San Antonio (G2) last month, Baffert said prior to Saturday's race that Game On Dude would go to the front in the 'Big Cap'. Breaking post 7, Mike Smith sent his mount quickly from the gate, but got company from Hear the Ghost the first time under the wire. Game On Dude would have none of it though, shaking clear to open up by three lengths after a half-mile in a very quick :45.39.
At the end of the backstretch, Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge, the 1-2 finishers in the 2013 Breeders' Cup Classic (G1), made their run at the leader, but the Dude spurted away again. Will Take Charge, who narrowly bested Game On Dude in the Clark H. (G1) last November at Churchill Downs, gave chase through the stretch, but couldn't gain ground, with Game On Dude winning by 1 3/4-lengths.
“Bob told me to trust him, that I would have a different horse this time,” said Smith. “He didn’t think he had him exactly where he wanted him for the San Antonio. Bob told me not to be down, that he didn’t have him ready. He had him 110 percent today and when it comes to Bob, that’s who you want to be riding for on big days.”
The final time of 1:58.17 bested Affirmed's 35-year-old stakes record of 1:58.60 and less than a half-second off Spectacular Bid's 1 1/4-mile track record.
"It was exciting - I was in awe of the horse watching him come down the stretch," a jubilant Baffert said. "What an amazing animal!
“Bernie (Schiappa) is the only guy (owner) here today. To me, it’s an emotional win for the horse. It kills me when they knock on him, but we came in here quiet and that’s the way I like to come in. We came in under the radar and we were ready for them.”
Game On Dude, owned by the partnership ofJoe Torre’s Diamond Pride LLC, Lanni Family Trust, Ernie Moody’s Mercedes Stable LLC and Schiappa, is now 16-6-1 in 30 lifetime starts, earning $6,163,893. Fourteen of the 7-year-old's wins have come in graded stakes. He won the Santa Anita H. in 2011 and 2013.