The 4-year-old son of Stephen Got Even , who was a consistent placer in several of last year’s grade I races, has found his winning form this year. The Alysheba was First Dude’s second straight win of the year, the first coming in a $58,000 allowance race April 9 at Santa Anita Park.
“I thought he got beat but that big head of his really came through in the end,” said winning trainer Bob Baffert, who took over the colt's training chores from Dale Romans earlier this spring. “He’s got a head like a dinosaur. He can eat out of 50-gallon drum and still look you in the eye, you know?”
First Dude, a homebred for Donald Dizney, the owner of Double Diamond Farm, went over the $1 million mark in career earnings. The final time in the 1 1/16-mile race was 1:42.56 on a fast track.
The field for the Alysheba was exceptionally deep, including grade I winners Giant Oak and Awesome Gem, multiple grade II winner Mission Impazible , and grade II winners Caracortado and Regal Ransom. Mission Impazible was the post-time favorite at 5-2.
When the gates sprung open, jockey Alan Garcia used Regal Ransom’s early speed to move from post 11 to the inside of the track. Wise Dan, Regal Ransom, and Mission Impazible were in front together heading into the first turn, but it was Wise Dan and Julien Leparoux who grabbed the lead followed a length back by Regal Ransom, Godolphin Racing’s son of Distorted Humor .
The pacesetting son of Wiseman's Ferry stopped the clock in the first quarter mile in a solid :23.56, the half mile in :47.49, and six furlongs in 1:11.95. The field began bunching up going into the final turn. As they hit the top of the stretch, Wise Dan—down on the rail that had not been kind to runners all day—was fading and Regal Ransom running three off the rail took the lead.
Out in the middle of the track swung First Dude, ridden by Martin Garcia, who began a grinding run down the stretch. He was up in the final jump over an unfortunate Regal Ransom, who finished a head in front of the closing Equestrio and Jose Lezcano. In a blanket finish, Awesome Gem was a neck farther back in fourth with another neck to Giant Oak in fifth. Caracortado was a nose back in sixth.
Garcia said he had the perfect trip.
“It was a real close at the finish, but I thought I had it,” he said. “I had plenty of horse when I needed it.”
First Dude, who is out of Run Sarah Run, by Smart Strike, won for the third time in 16 starts. He earned $213,380 to boost his career bankroll to $1,142,140. The bay colt placed in five consecutive grade I races last year (Blue Grass, Preakness, Belmont, Haskell Invitational and Travers) for Romans and also ran second in the rich Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II).
First Dude paid $9.20, $5.40, and $4.20. Regal Ransom paid $9.80 and $7.40. Equestrio finished third, paying $8.80. The $2 exacta paid $93.80 and the trifecta paid $1,777.20.
Mission Impazible faded to seventh, followed by Wise Dan and Demarcation.
“I thought I had him in the garden spot, but he kept wanting to drift out on me,” said jockey Garrett Gomez of Mission Impazible. “The track is really dead and deep, cuppy. Maybe he struggled with it some.”