MIKE SMITH, GAME ON DUDE, WINNER: “I knew he was going to run today. I knew it from the post parade when we turned around to go to the gate. He was on his toes today, he was on fire. He’s like that when he runs well. He ran big; I just had that feeling that he was going to. Down the backside he was happy, he was cruisin’, he was well within himself. He was throwing numbers, I knew we were going fast; I actually went even faster this time than I did last time (San Antonio Feb. 8). I got yelled at for going fast last time and that was forty-six; we went forty-five today and that’s at a mile and a quarter!
“I knew he was going to have to run today because they came at me. But when they came at me he dropped to the ground. When he needs to, he fires.
“I knew they would have to be better than him today to beat him. Like I’ve said before, when he shows up he can run with anybody in the world. We may throw in a dud every now and then but he makes up for it!”
LUIS SAEZ, WILL TAKE CHARGE, SECOND: “He ran so hard. He’s very good and was in good position all the way. At the half-mile pole, I saw Game On Dude going so comfortably. My horse still ran good. It’s OK. I wanted to be following Mucho Macho Man, (because I thought that was the horse with the best chance to win).”
AARON GRYDER, BLINGO, THIRD: “He ran great. We knew we were up against some very good horses and he had to step up and I do believe he did. He ran a very good race. His first time going a mile and a quarter and he cut it real nice. He gave a good account of himself. It was his first time going the distance and he was still running down the lane. He had to run to pass Mucho Macho Man and I was very pleased with his effort. He runs hard. He’s improving.”
GARY STEVENS, MUCHO MACHO MAN, FOURTH: “He broke real well for me, and I was actually in a pretty good spot, and then Rafael (Bejarano, on Rousing Sermon) came up on me and made him move right along. I slipped to the outside, where I wanted to be, going into the back stretch. (Luis Saez) came with Will Take Charge and attacked me about the half-mile pole. That probably was a winning move had Game On Dude not been on his game today. I was fourth-best, and the champ arrived again today at Santa Anita, and Will Take Charge was second-best.”
(Did your horse do anything differently today?)
“He was a complete professional – he warmed up good, ran good. I was very happy. The race really started at the half-mile pole when Luis engaged me and I couldn’t go with him. I was basically empty at the 3/8 pole. That’s a bad feeling in a race like this and on a horse like that when you know at the 3/8 pole that you don’t have a chance to win.”
BOB BAFFERT, GAME ON DUDE, WINNER: “They went fast but he was rockin’, he was rollin’. The Dude showed up. Last time (the San Antonio), he wasn’t ready . . . He had to do it today. I just told Mike Smith, ‘When they expect you to be on the lead, you have to be on the lead. Just let him rip, do his thing and if it happens, it happens.’”
Asked about Game On Dude becoming the first-time three-time winner of the Big ’Cap: “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.”
KATHY RITVO, MUCHO MACHO MAN, FOURTH: “It’s going to take us some time to figure it out (what happened). I’m going to watch it again.”
Question: Mentioned that it didn’t seem to be his day? “That happens.”
NOTES: Game On Dude is the first horse to win the Santa Anita Handicap three times, in this, its 77th running. The winning owners are Joe Torre of Harrison, NY (Diamond Pride LLC); Lanni Family Trust of Pasadena; Ernest Moody of Las Vegas (Mercedes Stable, LLC); and Bernie Schiappa of Las Vegas. Today’s on-track attendance was 27,121.