Game On Dude romped to victory in the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap by 7-3/4 lengths on Saturday.
Ridden by Hall of Famer Mike Smith, Game On Dude ran 1-1/4 miles in 2:00.14 while setting a Big ‘Cap record for margin of victory. (Bobby Brocato won by six lengths in 1956.)
A $2 win bet returned $4.60.
Game On Dude, who had the lead at every call Saturday, became the fourth horse to win the Santa Anita Handicap twice. The 6-year-old-gelding also won the race in 2011.
"I looked over at the screen," Smith said, "and I was counting the poles — even, even, odd — and I thought, ‘This is great, man; this is perfect.’ Then, going into the far turn, when they were starting to catch me, he takes this big breath and he just takes off.
“He knocked it out of the park today; he really did. It was extremely impressive."
Clubhouse Ride, a 27-1 long shot, was second, and Called to Serve was another nose back in third.
Defending Big ‘Cap champion Ron the Greek finished fourth in the field of nine for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. Jockey Jose Lezcano offered no excuses.
“I got my horse in a position he wanted to be in, and he gave me a good race,” said Lezcano. “The only thing is that Game On Dude is so fast — nothing compares. We ran hard the whole way, but we couldn’t keep up with him.”
Game On Dude, who now has 12 wins in 24 career starts, is trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert and co-owned by retired Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre. Baffert’s other entry, Guilt Trip, finished fifth.
"The thing about ‘Dude,’ he’s got to go along at a fast clip," Baffert said. "The horse is just a great horse. What he showed today was amazing."
Baffert said Game On Dude’s next start might come in the $1 million Charles Town Classic on April 20. The gelding joined John Henry (1981, ’82), Milwaukee Brew (2002, ’03) and Lava Man (2006, ’07) as two-time winners of the Santa Anita Handicap.