This weekend’s $1 million, Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar features a showdown between two Southern California stars – one an established handicap division heavyweight and the other an up-and-coming 3-year-old making his first start in the older male division.
The Nos. 6- and 7-ranked horses in the country, 7-year-old multimillionaire Game On Dude and Shared Belief, the 2013 champion 2-year-old male, will square off at Del Mar on Sunday with the winner taking home bragging rights and a guaranteed place in the Breeders’ Cup Classic starting gate.
The duo’s similarities extend far beyond their California base.
Both are geldings and both are trained by Hall of Fame trainers; Game On Dude is under the tutelage of Bob Baffert and Shared Belief is conditioned by Jerry Hollendorfer. Game On Dude is campaigned by an ownership group that includes former New York Yankees manager and 1971 National League Most Valuable Player Joe Torre. One of Shared Belief’s owners also makes his living in sports — Jim Rome, sports radio talk show host.
Game On Dude and Shared Belief even shared the same jockey prior to this weekend’s race. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith has been the regular rider of Game On Dude since late 2012 and he hopped aboard Shared Belief for his win in the Los Alamitos Derby. Smith was faced with a difficult decision before entries were taken for the Pacific Classic. Who’d he pick? Shared Belief.
Martin Garcia will be aboard Game On Dude on Sunday and will look to duplicate the pair’s winning 2013 Pacific Classic effort.
Smith cited a few reasons for his choice but there’s no doubt both are serious racehorses. With a career tally of 16 wins, seven seconds and one third from 33 starts, Game On Dude has put $6,438,893 in the bank.
Shared Belief’s record is less impressive in sheer numbers but makes up for it in might. As the Eclipse Award champion 2-year-old male of 2013, the Candy Ride gelding has run only five times but each of them was a convincing victory. His smallest win margin was 4¼ lengths, and he has amassed $772,200 in earnings.
Game On Dude is a need-the-lead type of horse. He goes to the front and stays there, often devastating his competition. In last year’s Pacific Classic, Game On Dude was victorious by 8 1/2 lengths. Shared Belief is a stalker, preferring to let a foe do the dirty work up front while he moves into contention in the stretch and draws off with a quick turn of foot.
Will Game On Dude get the lead and the victory? Will Shared Belief capitalize on a stalking trip to remain undefeated? Or will another contender like Gold Cup winner Majestic Harbor or two-time Californian winner Clubhouse Ride take home the prize? The racing world awaits the Aug. 24 verdict and the crowning of Southern California’s top contender for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.