Game On Dude Draws Rail for Native Diver

Game On Dude Draws Rail for Native Diver
Photo: Benoit Photo
Game On Dude takes on 4 in the Native Diver.

Game On Dude, looking to rebound from his seventh-place finish as the favorite in the Nov. 3 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I), drew the rail for the $250,000 Native Diver Stakes Presented by the Oak Tree Racing Association (gr. III) Dec. 1 at Betfair Hollywood Park.

The race, which gets a boost in purse level from $100,000 last year, came up lighter than expected with five entrants. Besides Game On Dude, the field includes multiple grade I winner Richard's Kid   as well as the promising 3-year-old Nonios. Last year's Native Diver  winner, Kettle Corn  , returns to defend his title, and the multiple graded stakes-placed Make Music for Me   completes the field.

The 1 1/8-mile Native Diver goes as the fourth race on Hollywood's Saturday card with a 2:01 p.m. PST probable post.

Game On Dude, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, returns to the scene of his victory in the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) in July. A four-time grade I winner, the 5-year-old son of Awesome Again   also won the Californian (gr. II) at Hollywood Park this year. He is seeking his third tally from four starts over Hollywood's Cushion Track.

Owned by Joe Torre’s Diamond Pride, Lanni Family Trust, Ernie Moody’s Mercedes Stable, and Bernie Schiappa, Game On Dude was 13-10 in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park, but was never really in the race after steadying at the start and failing to establish an early position toward the front, where he likes to be. He never threatened while finishing some 15 lengths behind upset winner Fort Larned  .

Mike Smith will ride the big dark bay gelding in the Native Diver. Game On Dude carries 124 pounds and will spot his rivals from five to seven pounds. Game On Dude, whose last win came in the Sept. 29 Awesome Again (gr. I), formerly the Goodwood, has won nine times from 21 starts while earning $2,994,658.

Just to his outside in the starting gate will be former Baffert stablemate Richard's Kid, who was fifth in the Breeders' Cup Classic for his current trainer, Doug O'Neill. Richard's Kid was second to Game On Dude in this year's Gold Cup, beaten by 1 1/2 lengths. The 7-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid   is winless in three starts for O'Neill since he was purchased by a group headed by Triple B Farms prior to the Pacific Classic (gr. I) this summer at Del Mar.

Richard’s Kid finished seven lengths in front of Game On Dude in the BC Classic. The effort came on the heels of consecutive third-place finishes in the Pacific Classic Aug. 26 and the Awesome Again at Santa Anita. The dark bay has won 11 of 38 starts and banked $2,286,385. He’s won twice in four races over Hollywood's Cushion Track.

Also coming out of the BC Classic is sixth-place finisher Nonios. The son of Pleasantly Perfect  , trained by Jerry Hollendorfer for owner Green B. Smith Jr., ran second in the Awesome Again and competed in major grade I events for 3-year-olds this summer, finishing second in both the Swaps Stakes (gr. II) and the Haskell Invitational (gr. I), and fifth in the Travers (gr. I). He won the Affirmed Handicap (gr. III) over Hollywood's Cushion Track June 3.

Defending champion Kettle Corn will aim for his second win of the meet when he returns to the main track for owner Lee and Susan Searing’s C R K Stable and trainer John Sadler. A winner by a neck as the even-money favorite in a $57,008 allowance on turf Nov. 8, Kettle Corn will try to become the first two-time winner of the Native Diver.

Never worse than third in five races over Cushion Track, Kettle Corn, a 5-year-old Candy Ride   horse, has won seven of 19 and banked $364,111.

Completing the field is Make Music for Me, who returns from a layoff of more than six months for trainer Alexis Barba and owners Ellen and Peter O. Johnson Sr. Away since a 3 1/4-length allowance win on turf May 19, the 5-year-old son of Bernstein will be aiming for his first win in his ninth try over a synthetic surface.

$250,000 Native Diver Stakes Presented by Oak Tree Racing Association (gr. III, Race 4, 2:01 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Game On Dude (KY), M E Smith, 124, B Baffert
2. Richard's Kid (MD), R Bejarano, 119, D F O'Neill
3. Make Music for Me (KY), T Baze, 117, A Barba
4. Nonios (KY), M A Pedroza, 119, J Hollendorfer
5. Kettle Corn (KY), G K Gomez, 119, J W Sadler

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