After finishing a well-beaten seventh as the 6-5 favorite in the Breeders' Cup Classic, Game on Dude will attempt to end 2012 on a winning note when he lines up for Saturday's Grade 3, $250,000 Native Diver at Hollywood Park. The five-year-old gelding faces a couple of nice rivals in the five-horse field, but none appear quick enough to run with him early. He could prove difficult to catch from the rail with new jockey Mike Smith.
An easy winner of the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup in July, Game on Dude will seeking his third win in four local starts on the Cushion Track. The Bob Baffert-trained son of Awesome Again also captured posted convincing victories in the Grade 1 Awesome Again (formerly the Goodwood) and Grade 2 San Antonio at Santa Anita this year as well as a close second in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic on Del Mar's Polytrack. He turned in an uncharacteristically flat performance in the Breeders' Cup, unable to keep up during the early stages despite possessing top early pace figures, and essentially spit the bit by the midway point of the far turn, eventually finishing 15 lengths behind the winning Fort Larned.
He appears to be training forwardly for the 1 1/8-mile Native Diver, recording a recent five-furlong bullet drill at Santa Anita, and there is no suspense surrounding Smith's tactics: the Hall of Fame jockey will send the dark bay from the start. Game on Dude will be spotting his main rivals, Richard's Kid and Nonios, five pounds each as the 124-pound highweight.
Multiple Grade 1 hero Richard's Kid exits a late-running fifth in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Runner-up in the Hollywood Gold Cup for Baffert, the seven-year-old horse will be seeking his first win in his fourth start since joining the Doug O'Neill stable. Richard's Kid recorded third-place efforts in both the Pacific Classic and Awesome Again, and the deep closer will receive a rider switch Saturday to Rafael Bejarano, who lost the mount on Game on Dude.
Nonios is an up-and-coming sophomore. The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee captured his stakes debut this summer, the Grade 3 Affirmed at Hollywood, and finished second in the Grade 2 Swaps and Grade 1 Haskell in his next two outings. Following a fifth in the Grade 1 Travers, the Pleasantly Perfect colt rallied to be a clear second in the Awesome Again. Nonios split the field in the Breeders' Cup Classic, checking in sixth, and should relish the cutback to nine furlongs. Martin Pedroza retains the mount on the stalker.
Kettle Corn will make a title defense against a much deeper field this year. The John Sadler-trained five-year-old exits a turf allowance score earlier in the meet. Make Music for Me, unraced since a turf allowance win in May, completes the line-up.
The supporting feature Saturday is the $65,000 Skillful Joy for three-year-old fillies at six furlongs on turf. It will go as the third race. The field of eight is topped by 124-pound high weight Reneesgotzip and Byrama.
Third behind Mizdirection and Unbridled's Note in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, Reneesgotzip will break from post 2 in the eight-horse field with Garrett Gomez. Byrama, who starts from the rail with Bejarano, exits a close third in the Grade 3 Senator Ken Maddy and will be seeking her third stakes victory of the season.