Rafael Bejarano will replace Chantal Sutherland as the rider for multiple grade I winner Game On Dude, trainer Bob Baffert told The Blood-Horse Sept. 11.
Although Sutherland has ridden the 5-year-old son of Awesome Again in most of his major stakes victories, such as the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, and Goodwood Stakes (all gr. I), Baffert felt the time was right to make the change and decided to switch to Bejarano, who has ridden the majority of Baffert's top horses this year.
Bejarano has ridden Game On Dude on one occasion, winning a Santa Anita Park allowance event on Jan. 27, 2011. Sutherland then picked up the mount to win the Santa Anita Handicap March 5 that year, but did not become the regular jockey until two starts later, after he was ridden to a runner-up finish in the Charles Town Classic (gr. III) by David Flores and finished third in the Lone Star Park Handicap (gr. III) under Martin Garcia.
Sutherland got back aboard to miss the 2011 Hollywood Gold Cup by a nose, and has ridden Game On Dude in eight races since then, resulting in four graded stakes victories.
In his most recent start, Game On Dude finished second to Dullahan in the TVG Pacific Classic (gr. I) as the 6-5 favorite.
"Rafael is our main rider and we wanted to have our No. 1 rider on our No. 1 horses," Baffert said. "With the big fall races coming up, we just felt comfortable having Rafael on Game On Dude.
"It was difficult for me when I told Chantal about the decision. It's been a fun ride and we made history together, but we just felt it was time to make the change."
Game On Dude, who is undefeated in four starts at Santa Anita, is scheduled to either make his next start in the newly named Awesome Again Stakes (formerly the Goodwood, gr. I) or train up to the Nov. 3 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I), in which he finished second to Drosselmeyer last year at Churchill Downs.
Game On Dude is owned by Diamond Pride, Lanni Family Trust, Mercedes Stable, and Bernie Schiappa.