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Smith: 'Stay out of (Game on Dude's) way' in San Antonio

Game on Dude is the class of the San Antonio (Benoit Photos)

With four Grade 1 wins, Game on Dude towers over four rivals as he goes for a title defense in Sunday's Grade 2, $200,000 San Antonio going 1 1/8 miles at Santa Anita.

A facile gate-to-wire winner at odds of 1-5 of the Grade 3 Native Diver on December 1, the Awesome Again gelding was a disappointing seventh in the Breeders' Cup Classic on November 3. Prior to that, he was a nice 3 1/4-length winner, at odds of 1-5, in the Grade 1 Awesome Again going nine furlongs at Santa Anita on September 29.

Ridden by Rafael Bejarano in both the Awesome Again and Breeders' Cup Classic, Mike Smith took over on the Bob Baffert-trained six-year-old for the first time in Hollywood Park's Native Diver.

"I know this horse is brave, so I just put him where I thought I had to," Smith explained. "The key for me was to win. He won pretty much within himself."

When asked about tactics for Sunday's San Antonio, Smith indicated that he intends to keep things simple.

"Stay out of his way," the Hall of Famer rider smiled before getting serious.

"Things can happen in short fields, as we all know," he said. "Everyone knows where everyone's at. Each rider can kind of sit there and make it a sprint for home, but Game on Dude's a naturally quick horse and has a great cruising speed.

"I'm just going to let him do his thing, and I'd do that even if it was a bigger field. We've just got to get away well and get him in a place where he can do what he does best, and that's run. That's my job, anyway. Hopefully, he does the rest."

Though Game on Dude may be committed to a front-running game plan, Jerry Hollendorfer's Chosen Miracle could challenge for that position if he goes in the race. A hard-knocking sprinter on turf, the Ghostzapper five-year-old is cross-entered to Saturday's Grade 2 Arcadia going a mile on the turf.

Chosen Miracle stretched out for a gate-to-wire win going 1 1/16 miles on Hollywood Park's turf December 8 and employed similar tactics when third, beaten 3 1/4 lengths, in the nine-furlong, Grade 2 San Gabriel on January 13 over Santa Anita's green.

The bay's lone dirt win came in his debut over a sloppy track going six furlongs at Hawthorne on April 19, 2011.

Trainer Craig Lewis will send out Clubhouse Ride, who like Chosen Miracle, was also cross-entered to the Arcadia. The Candy Ride five-year-old will enter one of those two races off a good second-place finish from off the pace in a tough third-condition allowance going a mile on grass January 10. It's expected Aaron Gryder will again take him back early in the San Antonio.

Make Music for Me makes his third start off a freshening in the San Antonio and will try to regenerate some of the luster he generated as a Kentucky Derby hopeful three years ago. Trained by Alexis Barba, the Kentucky-bred son of Bernstein was a sharp gate-to-wire winner three starts back on May 12, when he beat a classified allowance field going 1 1/8 miles on turf by 3 1/4 lengths.

Make Music for Me, whose last dirt start came as a third in the 2011 Grade 2 Strub, figures to get a stalking trip on Sunday under Martin Garcia.

The remaining entrant in the San Antonio is Doug O'Neill's Basmati, who pressed the pace before being well beaten in the opening day Grade 1 Malibu at seven furlongs. One race prior to that, he was an allowance winner going seven furlongs on November 2, his first start back since running poorly in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity in December 2011.

The four-year-old colt by Borrego will be ridden for the third consecutive time by Mario Gutierrez.

Breeders' Cup Marathon winner Calidoscopio was not entered in the San Antonio due to an ankle injury.

"He came up with a wrenched ankle," trainer Mike Puype said of 10-year-old Argentine-bred son of Luhuk. "We need a little time to fix it up."

There will be a special early first post time on "Big Game" Sunday at Santa Anita of 11 a.m. (PST).

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