Game On Dude became only the third horse to win the prestigious $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) more than once on Saturday. The victory gave trainer Bob Baffert his fifth win in Hollywood Park’s signature race.
The defending champion in the Grade I, $500,000 Gold Cup, the 6-year-old Awesome Again gelding joined Native Diver and Lava Man, who led the post parade Saturday, as a multiple winner of a race run for the first time in 1938.
Ridden by Hall of Famer Mike Smith, Game On Dude also gave Bob Baffert his third Gold Cup victory in a row. First Dude won by a nose – over Game On Dude – for the Hall of Fame trainer in 2011.
Game On Dude got away with a very slow 25 second opening quarter and was relaxed through :49.31 and 1:12.60 fractions. Kettle Corn, third in the 2012 Gold Cup, made a sudden bid along the rail just before and into the stretch to briefly threaten the leader, but Game On Dude held sway down the lane before raucous reception from the crowd.
The final time for the time for the 10 furlongs was 2:01.88.
Owned by a partnership that includes Joe Torre’s Diamond Pride LLC, Lanni Family Trust, Ernie Moody’s Mercedes Stable LLC and Bernie Schiappa, Game On Dude is 5-for-5 since teaming with Smith in the Grade 3 Native Diver H. last Dec. 1, also at Hollywood Park.
The one-length win under 127 pounds – the most the Kentucky bred has ever carried – was his 14th and the $300,000 payday pushed him over $5 million in earnings. He’s banked $5,002,158 in 26 starts.
The 127 pounds was the most weight toted by a Gold Cup winner since Precisionist in 1986.
“My trip was brilliant,’’ said Smith. “I’m very happy with the outcome, he did what he had to do and seemed to come back really well.
“I was really confident. I hand rode him. He’s a fighter and if you’re going to try and beat him, you’ve got to flat run by him. He’s not the type of horse you can creep up to and try to run by. He’s just a warrior."
Baffert, whose first two Gold Cup victories came with Real Quiet in 1999 and Congaree (2003), was joined by a large contingent in the winner’s circle, including Torre, Schiappa and longtime radio and television personality Larry King.
“He had that look today,’’ said Baffert. “He had control of the pace and everything went like we drew it up in our mind.
“He just finds more gears as he goes along. There’s added pressure when you train a horse like him. He has a fan base now. You don’t want to see him get beat because of the fans. I can hear them cheering him on. When they turned for home, it was like the whole place was on my side."