Game On Dude wins Goodwood Stakes
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has won nine Triple Crown races and seven Breeders' Cup races, just not the $5 million BC Classic. Now he has two possible shots at capturing North America's richest race.
Game On Dude held off the closing bid of Awesome Gem to win the $250,000 Goodwood Stakes by a half-length at Santa Anita on Saturday, earning his first victory since March 5 and giving him a berth next month in the BC Classic.
Baffert's horses went 1 for 3 in the race, with Haskell winner Coil finishing third.
The day's biggest shocker came in the $250,000 Lady's Secret Stakes, with 13-10 favorite Blind Luck finishing a stunning last while Zazu rallied to win by a half-length.
Jockey Joel Rosario won three of the four Grade 1 stakes — with Zazu; Creative Cause in the $250,000 Norfolk; and 2-1 favorite Dubawi Heights in the $250,000 Yellow Ribbon.
Blind Luck, last year's champion 3-year-old filly, was beaten by 19 lengths and finished out of the money for the first time in 22 career starts.
Asked what went wrong, Hall of Fame trainer and co-owner Jerry Hollendorfer said, ''I don't know, bad training job.''
The result may have spoiled a rematch in the BC Ladies' Classic with East Coast star Havre de Grace, who won the Beldame by 8-1/4 lengths on a sloppy track Saturday at Belmont Park. Blind Luck owns a 4-2 record in their rivalry, including a nose victory in their last meeting, in the Delaware Handicap in July.
It was Blind Luck's first start in 2-1/2 months. She fell to 0 for 3 this year at Santa Anita, where the dirt surface was refurbished this summer.
She ran second-to-last under Garrett Gomez approaching the clubhouse turn before dropping to last when Zazu passed her on the backstretch.
''Blind Luck is just not running at all,'' track announcer Trevor Denman said in his race call.
Gomez said nothing was wrong with Blind Luck. ''I couldn't keep up. That's pretty much it.''
The Lady's Secret was won by a horse other than Zenyatta for the first time since 2007. But Zazu kept it in the family since she is owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, who own retired superstar Zenyatta.
The Mosses were in New York to help pal Sting celebrate his 60th birthday on Sunday.
Zazu ran 1-1/16 miles in 1 minute, 46.84 seconds and paid $5.80 on a win bet.
''Ability-wise, she can run with anyone, anytime, anywhere,'' Rosario said. ''No disrespect to the other horses today, but she only ran about four jumps when we turned for home and then she shut it down.''
In the Goodwood, Game On Dude ran 1-1/8 miles in 1:47.36 under Chantal Sutherland, who was aboard when the 4-year-old gelding survived a rough race and stewards' inquiry to win the Santa Anita Handicap. Since then, Game On Dude was winless in four races.
''I could hear Trevor Denman through the stretch, and I knew it was getting tighter and tighter,'' Sutherland said. ''I couldn't see who was coming, but Trevor helped push me on.''
Sutherland pressed the pace set by Tres Borrachos before taking the lead approaching the stretch turn.
''That is his running style (on the lead) and when you get away from that, he doesn't run well,'' Baffert said. ''I like a rider that has a lot of confidence in a horse. She has a great left hand and she is tough to get by when she has the right horse. Down the backside, I thought Coil was just going to pick them all off, but he got a little tired.''
Pacific Classic winner Acclamation, who drew the rail in the Goodwood and whose speed would have challenged Game On Dude, was scratched to run in Sunday's Clement L. Hirsch Stakes on the turf.
Even-money favorite Game On Dude, co-owned by retired Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre, paid $4.20 for a win bet.
In the Norfolk, Creative Cause rallied in the stretch to easily defeat 3-5 favorite Drill and earn an automatic berth in the BC Juvenile. Creative Cause ran 1-1/16 miles in 1:42.66 to win by 3-1/4 lengths. He paid $5.80.
''He raced in a perfect position,'' trainer Mike Harrington said. ''When Joel asked him, he ran by them and drew off by many, so I'd have to think he's the best 2-year-old on the West Coast.''
Drill ran fourth much of the way and failed to deliver a record sixth Norfolk victory for Baffert. Early pacesetter Ruler of Dubai was another half-length back in third.
''We just gave him the race,'' Baffert said. ''He (Martin Garcia) just rode him with too much confidence and had him back there. I learned a lot from this horse today. I see some things that I'm going to make some adjustments on. That's what these preps are for.''
Drill won the Del Mar Futurity by a neck over Majestic City last month, with Creative Cause third as the beaten favorite. However, Creative Cause was moved up to second after Majestic City was ruled to have caused interference in the stretch. Drill got bumped in the stretch of that race.
''If he hadn't have been knocked around there, he'd have won then, too,'' Harrington said.
In the Yellow Ribbon, Britain-bred Dubawi Heights won by three-quarters of a length. The 4-year-old filly ran 1-1/4 miles on the turf in 2:00.52 and paid $6.40, giving her an automatic spot in the BC Filly & Mare Turf.