He lives at Santa Anita, and he owns the place, too. Shrewd horseplayers respect the power of the "horse for course" angle, and Game On Dude is 5-for-5 over the track where the $5-million Breeders' Cup Classic will be run Saturday night. If the 5-year-old gelding wins, he'll have an excellent chance to be Horse of the Year, especially if Wise Dan gets upset in the Mile.
Game On Dude warmed up with a 3 1/4-length romp Sept. 29 at Santa Anita in the Grade I Awesome Again, a stakes named, appropriately, for his sire. Bob Baffert loves how the 9-5 favorite has been training and revels in having the home advantage with the horse to beat.
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Baffert smiled as Game On Dude galloped this past Tuesday morning, two days after a 7-furlong workout in 1:25 completed his preparations. "Look at him," he said. "He looks like a copper penny."
Awesome Again won the 1998 Classic at Churchill Downs, but his son is known more for relentless speed than for stamina. Although Game On Dude is 2-for-6 with three seconds and earnings of $2 million at 1 1/4 miles, it's not his best distance. He won only once the last five times he went that far, including an excruciating second in last year's Classic at Churchill. "The Dude" looked home free before Drosselmeyer came from way back on the far outside to beat him by 1 1/2 lengths.
Baffert doesn't think he'll have to endure a rerun. "He's a different horse this year," he said. "He's stronger. He's filled out. He was always a good horse, but he's even better now. He's got that high cruising speed."
Drosselmeyer was trained by Bill Mott, who will send out three horses with different styles to try to knock off Game On Dude again. To Honor and Serve has tactical speed, and Flat Out comes from mid-pack. Ron the Greek, winner of this year's 1 1/4-mile Santa Anita Handicap, is a deep closer. He also is the only horse to defeat Wise Dan this year, and may be Game On Dude's main danger.
Like Baffert, Mott is a Hall of Famer with a terrific strike rate when the racing world is watching. "I've got three good horses in the Classic, and any one of them could win it on their big day," he said. "I wouldn't rule any of them out.
"Game On Dude has been training there, and he's a tough, durable horse with a tremendous amount of speed. If there's anything [negative] you could say about him, I guess it's that the mile and a quarter sometimes gets to telling on him a little bit at the end. We just hope our fellows can be running at him at the finish."