Bob Baffert's veteran campaigner Game On Dude overpowered an overmatched group of three rivals to defend his title in Sunday’s, $200,000 San Antonio S. (G2) at Santa Anita, winning by 6 ½ lengths while covering 1 1/8 miles in a rapid 1:47.53.
In addition to Game On Dude's two San Antonio wins, Baffert also capture the race in 2010 with Richard's Kid and 2003 with Congaree.
Game On Dude broke sharply from post position two, and with Basmati to his outside, the pair dueled through early splits of 23.38 and 46.78. Game On Dude took a lead he would never relinquish going to the far turn. Mike Smith kept the 6-year-old veteran to the task in the stretch as he pulled away for an easy win.
“You know I got pressured, even more so than if it was a full field believe it or not,” said Smith. “In these short fields, people make you do things because it’s more of a match race. He has a high, high cruising speed and you just let him get into his rhythm whether that’s up front or off the lead.
“I let him do his thing today and he ran brilliant to be honest. He stood up over on the turn, took one breath and turned around like it was nothing. They were running quick, but that’s just him.”
Game On Dude takes his 2nd straight San Antonio S.
“I knew that other horse (Basmati) was probably going to try him a ways,” said Baffert. “They’re trying to win, but Game On Dude, he likes that. He’s competitive. Yeah, if all’s good, that’s where we’re headed (to the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap (G1) at 1 ¼ miles on March 2).
A winner of the 2011 Santa Anita H., Game On Dude, by Awesome Again, has four Grade 1 wins to his credit and he came off another comfortable win in the Grade 3 Native Diver S. at Betfair Hollywood Park on Dec. 1.
“This is an extremely talented horse,” said Smith. “He might even be better this year.”
The San Antonio winner’s share of $120,000 boosted Game On Dude’s bankroll to $3,252,158 from an overall mark of 23-11-5-1.
Game On Dude is owned in-part by former baseball great Joe Torre, who was on-hand Sunday.
“He just seems to be such a great competitor,” said Torre. “Again, I’m not an authority on horses. I sit next to Baffert whenever I can, and when he told me at the top of the stretch that he’s got plenty left, I sort of relaxed a little bit.”
Along with Torre, Game On Dude is owned by Bernie Schiappa, Deborah Lanni, Ernest Moody and Maria Mercedes Vila.