by Patrick Reed, Thoroughbred Times
Game On Dude continued to build on his reputation as the top West Coast-based horse in the handicap division with a professional score under Chantal Sutherland in Saturday's $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup Handicap (G1) at Betfair Hollywood Park.
The five-year-old Awesome Again gelding engaged pacesetter Spud Spivens midway through the backstretch, effortlessly pulled ahead entering the far turn, and powered clear in the stretch to defeat multiple Grade 1 winner Richard's Kid by 1 ½ lengths, covering 1 ¼ miles in 2:04.19 as the 2-to-5 favorite on Hollywood's Cushion Track surface.
"Game On Dude wanted to go after [Spud Spivens] early and kept fighting and fighting, but then he just kind of chilled out a little bit," Sutherland said. "When he started getting a little pushy about it, I had to let him do his thing. Down the lane, I didn't want to hit him or push on him, but I was getting a little nervous."
Game On Dude finished second by a nose to First Dude in last year's edition of the Gold Cup, giving trainer Bob Baffert a one-two finish in the race but depriving Sutherland the chance to become the first female jockey to win the signature race of Betfair Hollywood Park's summer meet.
This year, Baffert again witnessed his horses complete the exacta, as Richard's Kid made a stout rally from sixth after a half-mile to finish 6 ¼ lengths clear of Grade 3 winner Kettle Corn.
For Sutherland, the history-making win proved to be the latest highlight in a highly productive pairing with Game On Dude, which began with their win in the 2011 Santa Anita Handicap (G1) and includes wins in the 2011 Goodwood Stakes (G1), the 2012 San Antonio (G2) and Californian (G2) Stakes, and a second-place finish in the 2011 Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) to Drosselmeyer.
Game On Dude has now won all three starts in the United States this year with his only subpar effort coming in the Emirates Airline Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1), where he finished 12th of 13. The gelding bounced back with a win in the Californian on June 2 at Hollywood as he continues to work toward the Breeders' Cup Classic on November 3 at Santa Anita. He earned an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Classic as part of the "Win and You're In" Challenge Series.
"We'll take Game On Dude to Del Mar to see if he likes the track," Baffert said. "Last year, he really didn't run well there. If he trains well, I'll run him [in the TVG Pacific Classic (G1) on August 26]. If he doesn't, I'll just freshen him up and wait for the fall. He loves Santa Anita and the Breeders' Cup [Classic] has been our goal."
Overall, Game on Dude has eight wins from 18 starts with $2,644,658 in earnings.
Patrick Reed is a Thoroughbred Times contributing writer
For an Equibase chart, click here.
GAME ON DUDE ROLLS HOME IN HOLLYWOOD GOLD CUP
Photo courtesy of HorsePhotos.com
JOCKEY CHANTAL SUTHERLAND CREDITS THE HORSE
Photo courtesy of Benoit & Associates