Trainer Bob Baffert will attempt to win the Lone Star Derby (gr. III) for the fourth time when he saddles Game On Dude for the $200,000 event May 8 in Grand Prairie, Texas.
Baffert, who won the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds last year with Peachtree Stable's Mythical Power, is the only trainer to win more than once in the event's 13-year history. He also took the Lone Star Derby in 2006 with Wanna Runner and in 1997, the race's inaugural year, with Anet.
Game On Dude is a recent addition to Baffert's stable following the Awesome Again gelding's purchase from Kuehne Racing prior to the Derby Trial (gr. III) at Churchill Downs last month. He is now owned by the Lanni Family Trust, Mercedes Stable, Diamond Pride, and Bernie Schiappa.
Just six colts and geldings were entered in this year's Lone Star Derby, and all but one, Thatlleaveamark, have been lightly campaigned so far. The Lone Star Derby is the ninth race on the program with a 5:19 p.m. CDT probable post.
In his first start April 24 for Baffert, Game On Dude disappointed at odds of 9-2 in the Derby Trial, fading to fifth after stalking the pace along the inside, more than 19 lengths behind the victorious Hurricane Ike.
Following a three-length win over maidens at Gulfstream Park in his second lifetime start Feb. 27 for trainer Michael Mareina, Game On Dude went directly into the Florida Derby (gr. I) three weeks later and finished a well-beaten seventh.
He'll be making his third consecutive graded stakes attempt and will be ridden for the first time by Martin Garcia from post 4. The jockey and trainer combined to win the Texas Mile Stakes (gr. III) with Mythical Power two weeks ago at Lone Star.
Game On Dude's main rivals in the Lone Star Derby are likely to be the Steve Asmussen-trainee Crider and Henshin Hero, the 8-5 morning line favorite from the Bret Calhoun barn.
Heiligbrodt Racing Stable's Crider placed fourth at 71-1 in the one-mile Southwest Stakes (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park Feb. 20. In his only start since, the bay son of Closing Argument ran second as the odds-on choice in a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming race at Oaklawn March 27.
Crider, who breaks from the outside post with Aaron Gryder aboard, is seeking his first win since posting back-to-back victories at Remington Park late last year.
Cheyenne Stable's front-running Henshin Hero is in strong form coming into his stakes debut for Calhoun. This will be the first route try for the Florida-bred gelding by Dance Master, who will be ridden by Bobby Walker Jr. Henshin Hero has won all three of his dirt sprint races in good style by a combined 14 1/4 lengths. In his other start on dirt, on a sloppy track at Oaklawn Jan. 23, he unseated his rider shortly after the break.
“He’s a very, very nice horse who has never been two turns,” Calhoun said. “We wanted to stretch him out sooner, it just didn’t work out, and we thought this was a good spot to try him at two-turns.”
Henshin Hero is coming off a runner-up showing April 16 in a 5 1/2-furlong turf race at Keeneland in which he was favored.
Three Texas-breds comprise the balance of the field.
Wando Redd comes off a 6 1/2-length maiden special weight triumph going 5 1/2 furlongs at Evangeline Downs in his third start April 7.
Thatlleaveamark is the most experienced horse in the race with 10 starts and both of his victories came at Lone Star last month. On April 24, the Allen Milligan trainee scored a gate-to-wire win by a half-length going one mile at the state-bred $20,000 claiming level.
Gilded Woodman never ran a step in his debut on grass April 30 and will stretch out for trainer Pedro Lopez.
$200,000 Lone Star Derby (gr. III, Race 9, 5:19 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Trainer
1. Wando Redd (KY), C Landeros, J Lara
2. Gilded Woodman (TX), J Guzman, P Lopez
3. Thatlleaveamark (TX), M Escobar, A Milligan
4. Game On Dude (KY), M Garcia, B Baffert
5. Henshin Hero (FL), B J Walker Jr., W B Calhoun
6. Crider (FL), A T Gryder, S M Asmussen
All carry 122 pounds.