Game On Dude defends Gold Cup title
Watching together from the box seats, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert told Joe Torre that Kettle Corn was coming hard after their horse Game On Dude.
That’s not what the retired Dodgers and Yankees manager wanted to hear.
"It frightened me," Torre said. "It’s like a manager, you have a 10-run lead and they score two and you get concerned."
No worries, Joe.
Game On Dude won the $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup by a length for the second straight year Saturday, giving Baffert his fifth victory in the 74-year-old race and co-owner Torre his second.
"Dude is acting like a machine," Baffert said. "He’s become like Terminator. He gets it done and Mike didn’t have to ask him too hard. It shows the greats come through."
Ridden by Hall of Famer Mike Smith, Game On Dude ran 1\ miles in 2:01.88 as the 1-5 favorite in the field of five. He paid $4.20, $3 and $2.40.
"My trip was brilliant," Smith said. "He is a fighter and if you’re going to try to beat him, you’ve got to flat run by him. He’s not the type of horse you can creep up to and then try to run by him. He’s just a warrior."
Kettle Corn returned $6.20 and $4.60, while Baffert-trained Sky Kingdom was another 6} lengths back in third and paid $4 to show. A year ago, Chantal Sutherland became the first female jockey to win the Gold Cup, guiding Game On Dude to a 1-length victory.
Of the $514,518 bet to show on the Gold Cup, $447,635 of it was wagered on Game On Dude. None of the money came from Torre, though.
"I just wanted to watch him run," he said.
Game On Dude is 5-0 since Smith took over as the 6-year-old gelding’s regular rider from Rafael Bejarano last December.
Sutherland had one mount, a 35-1 long shot, on Saturday’s card. She retired last fall and only recently has resumed riding. She was once engaged to Smith.
Game On Dude went right to the lead and set a slow pace along the inside. Kettle Corn came charging in the stretch, but Game On Dude prevailed without Smith going to the whip.
"There was no way I could beat the winner with that type of slow pace unless Clubhouse Ride (fourth) pressured him, but at least I tried," Bejarano said. "They were walking, walking, so it was very tough to outrun him at the end."
Game On Dude carried high weight of 127 pounds — the most of his career — and spotted his rivals as much as 15 pounds. He earned $300,000, giving him career winnings of $5,002,158.
"If somebody was going to beat us they were going to have to have quite an effort," said Torre, who was set to return to New York on Sunday ahead of next week’s baseball All-Star game there.
There were 6,493 on hand to see the final Gold Cup run at Betfair Hollywood Park before it closes for good in December.
"It’s sort of sad we’re never going to be here in the summer again," Baffert said. "There’s so much history behind it. I’m happy to win, but it’s a little bit emotional."
Baffert said it’s possible Game On Dude would run in next month’s $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar.
"Right now we’ll get him down there and see how he trains," he said.
Torre added, "As I say, nobody ever told me what lineup to write so I’m certainly not going to tell Mr. Baffert what is his next challenge."
Lava Man, a three-time Gold Cup winner from 2005-07, led the post parade for the race.
Baffert also won in 2011, when First Dude edged Game On Dude; in 2003 with Congaree; and in 1999 with Real Quiet.
In the $150,000 Royal Heroine Mile, Schiaparelli held off Egg Drop to win by a half-length under Joe Talamo.
Schiaparelli ran 1 mile on the firm turf in 1:34.11 and paid $4.20, $3 and $2.40 as the even-money favorite. The 5-year-old gray mare wore a white hood over her ears and blinkers to keep her focused on the task at hand.
Egg Drop returned $6.20 and $4.60, while My Gi Gi was another 4 lengths back in third and paid $4 to show.