Dude works bullet, confirmed for Big 'Cap
It's game on for Game On Dude in Saturday's Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap after the favorite for the track's marquee race worked six furlongs in a bullet 1:11 on Sunday.
Under Martin Garcia, the Bob Baffert charge drilled in company with stablemate Patriot's Voyage, who went in the same time. The duo tied for the fastest of 11 moves at the distance on Santa Anita's fast main track. The day's average time was 1:12.95.
Game on Dude, the 2011 Big 'Cap winner who has earned more than $3.2 million, galloped out seven furlongs in 1:24.
"I was really happy with the work," said Baffert, who will accept the top weight of 125 pounds assigned to Game On Dude for the $750,000 prize.
"I wasn't really happy with the weights," Baffert went on. "I thought I'd at least get the same weight as Bill Mott's horse (defending Big 'Cap winner Ron the Greek). That's a good horse. Every time I run against those good horses, they beat me. My horse is a tough little horse, but Ron the Greek's tough, too."
Ron the Greek was given second high weight of 122 pounds.
"The main thing is, he worked really well," Baffert said of Game On Dude, not dwelling on the weights.
Owned by a partnership of the Lanni Family Trust, Bernie Schiappa, Mercedes Stable and baseball great Joe Torre, Game On Dude has never won carrying more than 124 pounds.
Game On Dude will be the morning-line favorite for the Santa Anita Handicap, according to Jon White, who is Santa Anita's oddsmaker and provides commentary from the paddock for the track's simulcast network.
"Before we know who is actually entered, any morning-line prices for the Big 'Cap are subject to change," White said. "But based on the horses currently listed as probable, I plan to make Game On Dude a 6-5 favorite, with Ron the Greek the second choice at 5-2.
"I made Game On Dude a 9-5 morning-line favorite for the Breeders' Cup Classic, with Ron the Greek at 6-1. Game On Dude was sent away as a 6-5 favorite in that race, while Ron the Greek's closing price was 8-1. Ron the Greek finished fourth, while Game On Dude ended up seventh.
"Since the Classic, Game On Dude is two-for-two and Ron the Greek romped (to an 11 1/4-length victory) on a sloppy track in Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream.
"In next Saturday's Big 'Cap, I expect Game On Dude and Ron the Greek to be much, much closer in the betting than the 6-5 and 8-1 they were in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Game On Dude and Ron the Greek really are the 'big two' in this year's Big 'Cap. I think they definitely deserve to be the morning-line favorite and second choice for this year's Santa Anita Handicap considering they have won the last two Big 'Caps."
Ron the Greek was scheduled to arrive at Ontario Airport early Sunday afternoon, then van to Santa Anita to prepare for the race he won last year by 3 1/2 lengths, coming from 10th after a quarter-mile in a field of 13.
Probable for the 1 1/4-mile Santa Anita Handicap, with assigned weights: Game On Dude, 125; Ron the Greek, 122; Called to Serve, 118; Richard's Kid, 118; Guilt Trip, 117; Handsome Mike, 117; John Scott, 116; Stephanoatsee, 116; and Clubhouse Ride, 115.
Carla Gaines, who Saturday said John Scott would pass the Big 'Cap, Sunday morning said she was "not ruling it out" after the Crystal Water winner worked six furlongs under Garcia in 1:11 3/5.
White commented on what the rest of the Big 'Cap morning line might look like.
"Beyond Game On Dude and Ron the Greek, depending on exactly how many others are entered, I plan to put Called to Serve, Guilt Trip and Stephanoatsee from 5-1 to 8-1," White said.
"Called to Serve won the (Grade 3) Discovery at Aqueduct by almost five lengths and the Broad Brush at Laurel by almost six. He's very dangerous, especially with his rider being Gary Stevens, who has won the Big 'Cap four times.
"Guilt Trip looked good winning the (Grade 2) Strub. And Stephanoatsee, who ran second in the Strub, acts as if he will like the longer distance of the Big 'Cap."
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