Odds-on choice Game On Dude repelled a major challenge from stablemate Richard's Kid to make Chantal Sutherland the first female jockey to win the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) July 7 in its 73rd running at Betfair Hollywood Park (VIDEO).
Trainer Bob Baffert finished first and second in the $500,0000 Hollywood Gold Cup for the second year in a row. Game On Dude, the 2-5 favorite in the field of seven, avenged a nose loss to the Baffert-trained First Dude in last year's renewal of Hollywood's signature race.
Sutherland was the first female jockey to ride in the Gold Cup last year aboard Game On Dude.
Owned by a partnership that includes Joe Torre’s Diamond Pride, Lanni Family Trust, Ernie Moody’s Mercedes Stable, and Bernie Schiappa, Game On Dude won at the 1 1/4-mile distance for the second time in his career, following the 2011 Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I).
His victory makes him the early favorite for this year's Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park Nov. 3. The Gold Cup is a Breeders' Cup Challenge race for the Classic and guarantees the 5-year-old Awesome Again gelding an all-expenses-paid slot in the starting gate.
Game On Dude won by 1 1/2 lengths over Richard's Kid, who made a big move at the winner on the far turn. Richard's Kid finished 6 1/4 lengths ahead of Kettle Corn in third. The final time was a slow 2:04.19 over the Cushion Track.
"I could actually hear Rafael yell, 'I'm coming Chantal' at the quarter pole," an excited Sutherland said. "We're friends, and it was just like 'I'm coming to get you,' like a game of tag."
Asked about becoming the first woman to ride a Gold Cup winner. Sutherland said, "It's exciting, I feel really honored. It's pretty cool. I hope I'm one of many more to come."
Spud Spivens, a 20-1 longshot ridden by Victor Espinoza, got the early lead as Game On Dude broke leisurely but settled into his usual cruising speed just off the early leader. Game On Dude pushed Spud Spivens through soft quarter-mile fractions of :24.18 and :47.71 before sweeping past approaching the five-eighths pole after completing six furlongs in 1:11.93.
"(Game On Dude) wanted to go after (Spud Spivens) early and kept fighting and fighting, but then he kind of chilled out a little bit," Sutherland said of how the race unfolded. "When he started getting a little pushy about it, I had to let him do his thing. Down the lane, I didn't want to hit him or push on him, but I was getting a little nervous.’’
Game On Dude kicked clear by three lengths reaching the quarter pole while angled to the inside by Sutherland. Richard's Kid, rallying from sixth after an awkward start for Rafael Bejarano, loomed up on the outside of Spud Spivens at that point and appeared to be a serious threat.
But Game On Dude remained steady through the long drive under some left-handed encouragement and Richard's Kid, in spite of his momentum, was unable to get on even terms. Richard's Kid continued to close willingly but was making only a minor impression on Game On Dude late.
"They had to run one-two," Baffert said of the finish. "They're two really good horses. That longshot (Spud Spivens) made them go pretty brisk. Game On Dude was getting a little tired, but he needs the competition.
"It looked like Richard's Kid was going to come up to him, but (Game On Dude) dug in there at the end. I'm glad they both ran their races and I'm happy for Chantal because I sort of got goose bumps when (track announcer Vic Stauffer) said she was trying to become the first woman to win this. I hoped it wasn't the kiss of death. I told (wife Jill), ‘Uh oh, here comes Richard's Kid.' I told Chantal if she heard Richard's Kid coming at the eighth pole you might be in trouble."
Kettle Corn picked up the minor pieces late for Garrett Gomez, finishing 4 1/4 lengths in front of Spud Spivens. Then came the filly Love TheWay Youare, Anthony's Cross , and Thirtyfirststreet.
Game On Dude came into the Gold Cup off a 7 1/4-length romp in the Californian Stakes (gr. II) June 2, his first start since a 12th-place finish in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) March 31. Game On Dude began the year with a 5 1/4-length tally in the San Antonio Stakes (gr. II). The Gold Cup is his third grade I score, following the Big 'Cap in March 2011 and the Goodwood Stakes at Santa Anita last fall.
Bred in Kentucky by Adena Springs, Game On Dude is out of the Devil His Due mare Worldly Pleasure. The dark bay or brown gelding has banked $2,644,658 while winning eight of 18 races with four seconds and one third.
Carrying top weight of 124 pounds, Game On Dude paid $2.80, $2.20, and $2.10, while topping a $5.40 exacta. Richard's Kid, who shouldered 120, returned $2.60 and $2.10 in his second start for Baffert since returning from the United Arab Emirates this spring. Kettle Corn was $2.60 to show.
Baffert said both Game On Dude and Richard's Kid will go to Del Mar but he was unsure of whether Game On Dude would race in the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic (gr. I) Aug. 26.
"We'll take him to Del Mar to see if he likes the track," he said. "Last year, he really didn't train well there. If he trains well, I'll run him (in the Pacific Classic). If he doesn't, I'll just freshen him up and wait for the fall.
"He loves Santa Anita and the Breeders' Cup has been our goal," Baffert added. "Richard's Kid will run next in the Pacific Classic.’’
Richard's Kid won the Pacific Classic in both 2009 and 2010.