Game On Dude hasn’t disappointed Bob Baffert often since he took over as trainer of the 5-year-old gelding two years ago. Sure, Game On Dude has lost a few races in that span, but overall, he’s been a consistent money winner against world-class competition, winning eight of 19 career starts, six of them stakes.
Baffert hopes Game On Dude maintains his perfect record at Santa Anita on Saturday when he heads the inaugural running of the Awesome Again Stakes, formerly the Goodwood Stakes, at 1 1/8 miles on the main track.
“He went nice,” Baffert said of Sunday’s workout on a refreshingly cooler morning Tuesday than Southern California has experienced in the past six weeks. “He worked really well.”
Owned by Bernie Schiappa, Joe Torre’s Diamond Pride LLC and the Lanni Family Trust, Game On Dude has earned more than $2.8 million in his career.
“We gave a lot of money for a gelding, and I think we bought him a week before the Florida Derby,” Baffert said. “This year, he’s really filled out. He’s a stronger horse.”
Joe Ferrer, agent for Bejarano, understandably is happy to be back on Game On Dude, and looking forward to even greater business with the move of main rival Joel Rosario to the East Coast, but not without a caveat.
“The more business you have, the more work there is,” Ferrer said. “Rosario leaving helps guys more down the line. It helps everybody, but more so guys like (Joe) Talamo and (Garrett) Gomez. We’ve got some decent horses to ride in stakes, and Baffert’s got 160 head of runners, so that helps a lot.”
The Awesome Again is one of five Grade I, “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge Races to be decided on Saturday, second day of Santa Anita’s 24-day Breeders’ Cup World Championship meet that ends Nov. 4.
Nominated winners of said races will be entitled to have pre-entry fees and entry fees waived for their respective Breeders’ Cup races, provided they are Breeders’ Cup-nominated by the pre-entry deadline on Oct. 22.
EDDIE D. LOOKING FORWARD TO RACE IN HIS HONOR OPENING DAY
Eddie Delahoussaye was taking care of business Tuesday morning at Santa Anita, four days before being the honored guest for the inaugural Eddie D Stakes on opening day, Friday.
The Grade III race at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf formerly was run as the Morvich Stakes.
“That was a very nice story Bill (Dwyre) wrote on me today in the Los Angeles Times,” said the retired Hall of Fame rider, who celebrated his 61st birthday last Friday. “I’m looking forward to the big day and hopefully we’ll have a good turnout.
“I know it’s Friday and a lot of people are working, but people I’ve met at the gym and through my doctor’s office are going to be off and they’re going to come out, along with a lot of my other friends.
“It will be great, and hopefully racing can build off of this day and keep getting better.”
For the record, Delahoussaye won the Morvich once, in 1984, with the Eddie Gregson-conditioned Tsunami Slew.
The field for the Eddie D, race eight of nine: Crimson Giant, Modesto Linares; Chosen Miracle, Alonso Quinonez; Calimonco, Martin Garcia; Koast, Rafael Bejarano; Shrug, Victor Espinoza; Comma to the Top, Martin Pedroza; Boxeur des Rules, Mario Gutierrez; Octane, David Flores; Red Sun, Joe Talamo; Tale of a Champion, Garrett Gomez; Mensa Heat, Juan Hernandez; Canuletmedowneasy, Edwin Maldonado; and Unbridled’s Note, Corey Nakatani.
TRANQUILITY NOW FOR DAVID FLORES, STILL AT THE TOP OF HIS GAME
There’s an aura of tranquility surrounding David Flores these days, from head to toe and inside and out. The 43-year-old jockey carries himself with an air of confidence that comes from experience. The Tijuana native hopes his demeanor helps on Oct. 6 when he rides Pat O’Brien winner Capital Account for Bob Baffert against Breeders’ Cup Sprint king Amazombie in the inaugural Santa Anita Sprint Championship.
“If he runs like he has been, we’ll be fine,” Flores said of Capital Account, who worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Sunday in 1:00.60. “A good pace will help him, although he’s a much better horse at seven or seven and a half furlongs.”
The Santa Anita sprint will be decided at six furlongs, so adjustments might be in store. “He ran a good race behind Amazombie the time before (third by a length and a quarter in the Bing Crosby on July 29),” pointed out Flores, who is represented by agent Craig O’Bryan. “But going shorter, I don’t know. We might have to change something. But the horse has the talent.”
As for Flores, he’s like a kid on Christmas morning every time he gazes at Santa Anita’s rapturous setting.
“I enjoy every moment here,” he said. “It’s a lovely place and I’ve had the privilege of being here for quite a while now, and still have few nice horses to ride. It’s great to have trainers who back me up. If you don’t have the trainers to support you, this game is not easy.”
Now one of the senior riders on the circuit, Flores takes facing Father Time it in stride.
“Things have been changing for the last 10 years and there are a lot of new riders here now,” he said. “But I feel great. I’m on the top of my game, physically and mentally. As long as I have good stock, we’ll be able to compete with this new colony of riders.”
VERSATILE SLIM SHADEY WORKS TOWARDS JOHN HENRY ON SUNDAY
San Marcos Stakes winner Slim Shadey had his final major drill for Sunday’s John Henry Turf Championship (formerly the Clement Hirsch), going five furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Saturday in 1:02.20.
“He worked really well,” trainer Simon Callaghan said. “He’s training great. He’s freshened up really well. We ran him back too quick last time (in the July 21 Eddie Read at Del Mar) on short rest (from the Whittingham at Betfair Hollywood Park on June 9). He just ran a flat race.
“We’ve given him some time, freshened him up, and now I think we’ve got him in really good form and he’s going to run a really good race.
“He’s won on the lead here and he’s won from coming out of it, so he’s really easy in that respect. He’s pace-dependent. If something wants to go quick in front, we’ll rate in behind. If nothing goes, we can make the lead. He’s really adaptable in that way.”
FINISH LINES: After a run of 13 straight years, Martin Pedroza was dethroned as leading rider at Fairplex Park by Edwin Maldonado, who captured the crown, 26-19, at the 13-day meet that ended Sunday. Pedroza’s long-time agent, Richie Silverstein took a rational view of end of the reign. “Over the last year and a half Martin’s had a lot of injuries,” Silverstein said, “and a lot of the big stables didn’t race over there this year. I didn’t win a race for any trainer in the top 10 and still finished second. The track was very tiring and there were a lot of longshots. We had 26 seconds and I missed two full days of riding. Had I not, it would have been a little better race, but all in all, you can’t finish second that many times and win. I went there to be leading money winner and we were, so I was very happy with that. Of course it was disappointing not be leading rider again but I didn’t have the lower claiming horses to ride because trainers like (Jack) Carava and (Jeff) Mullins weren’t there.” . . . Agent Brian Beach reports that Corey Nakatani rides out of town this weekend for Steve Asmussen, Tapizar in the Kelso at Belmont Park on Saturday and Daddy Nose Best in the Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park on Sunday . . . Unbeaten Rancho Bernardo winner Winding Way worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Tuesday in a minute flat for Carla Gaines . . . M One Rifle, winner of the Grade I Malibu Stakes in 2009, had his third three furlong breeze Thursday as he prepares for his return to the races. “We gave him some time off but he’s coming back, “ said Karen Headley, daughter of trainer Bruce Headley . . . Clockerscornerrosy, a 2-year-old owned in partnership by Pinner Family Trust and trainer Danny Velasquez, finished third in her career debut in Sunday’s fourth race at Fairplex Park. The filly is named after Rosy Ybarra, popular hostess at Santa Anita’s famous Clockers’ Corner. Clockerscornerrosy was beaten 3 ½ lengths at 15-1 under Saul Arias.