Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who piloted Game On Dude to five consecutive graded stakes victories before giving up the mount in the Aug. 25 TVG Pacific Classic Stakes (gr. I) to ride Royal Delta to victory in the Personal Ensign Handicap (gr. I) on the East Coast the same day, will be back aboard the 6-year-old son of Awesome Again for the Nov. 2 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park, fellow Hall of Famer Bob Baffert confirmed Oct. 1.
"I figured he's our Mariano Rivera," the trainer said. "Mike knows the horse really well and he started him out on that run. He hated to give the mount up, but I understand why he had to ride (Royal Delta).
"Martin (Garcia) also knows him very well and works with him a lot, and he understood. I was just happy to see him win the Pacific Classic on him. He deserved that."
As for Game On Dude's poor effort in last year's Classic, in which he finished seventh, Baffert said, "Different, time, different horse. He's really doing good now. He runs so hard and when you have a speed horse who has to do all the running, it's hard to put two outstanding races together, which is why we skipped (the grade I Awesome Again) this year. When he comes off the bench he's explosive."
Baffert said he was very happy with the runner-up effort of Zayat Stables' Paynter in the Sept. 28 Awesome Again at Santa Anita, saying the 4-year-old colt is still a bit rusty and should only move forward off that race. Paynter is also pointing toward the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Game On Dude, bred in Kentucky by Adena Springs out of the Devil His Due mare Worldly Pleasure, is owned by Diamond Pride, Lanni Family Trust, Bernie Schiappa, and Mercedes Stable. The 2013 Classic marks his third outing in the event; he finished second to Drosselmeyer in 2011.