A Grade II at 1 1/8 miles over Cushion Track, the Californian is the final major prep for the Grade I, $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup July 7. The Californian will be run for the 59th time Saturday, June 2.
A 5-year-old Awesome Again gelding out of the Devil His Due mare Worldly Pleasure, Game On Dude was second in the 2011 Gold Cup, beaten a nose by stablemate First Dude. The dark bay, whose biggest victory came in the Santa Anita Handicap last year, has won six of 16 and earned $2,254,658.
Baffert, who has never won the Californian, also nominated two-time Pacific Classic winner Richard’s Kid and Prayer for Relief, who won three Derbies – Iowa, West Virginia and Super in Louisiana – in 2011 for Zayat Stables.
The other nine nominees include Morning Line, who wired the field in the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap May 5 in his California debut for trainer John Shirreffs, Anthony’s Cross, Balladry, Juniper Pass, 2011 Native Diver winner Kettle Corn, Make Music for Me, Mobilized and Uh Oh Bango.
The other graded stakes the first weekend of June at Betfair Hollywood Park is the $100,000 Affirmed Handicap.
A Grade III for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles over Cushion Track, the Affirmed, named in honor of the last Triple Crown winner, attracted 12 noms. It will be run Sunday, June 3.
A quarter of those nominations are trained by Baffert, who has won the race three times, tying him for the lead with Jay Robbins. Baffert won a year ago with eventual Haskell winner Coil.
The Baffert trio are Blueskiesnrainbows, the pacesetter in the Santa Anita Derby won by I’ll Have Another, Gun Boat and 2011 CashCall and Real Quiet winner Liaison.
The other nominees: All Squared Away, American Act, Blingo, Called to Serve, Holy Candy, Jonny’s Choice, Nonios, Press Baron and recent Snow Chief Stakes winner Unusual Heatwave.
Entries for the Californian will be taken Wednesday, May 30 and for the Affirmed Thursday, May 31.