Game On Dude

Game On Dude

Mathea Kelley

Californian: Game On Dude Meets Morning Line

Breeders' Cup Classic runner-up battles Mervyn LeRoy winner in Gold Cup preview.

Game On Dude makes his first start since an unplaced finish in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) when he takes on Mervyn LeRoy Handicap (gr. II) winner Morning Line  in the $150,000 Californian Stakes (gr. II) June 2 at Betfair Hollywood Park.

Besides Game On Dude, trainer Bob Baffert also entered Prayer for Relief , a closing second to Morning Line in the Mervyn LeRoy. Just five horses were drawn for the Californian, which is contested over Cushion Track at 1 1/8 miles.

The eighth race on the Saturday program with a 4:30 p.m. PDT probable post, the Californian is the last major stop locally for the $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) at 1 1/4 miles July 7.

Runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Classic in November, Game On Dude was 12th in the $10 million Dubai World Cup in his most recent start March 31. The 5-year-old Awesome Again  gelding, owned by Diamond Pride and partners, won the San Antonio Stakes (gr. II) by more than five lengths at Santa Anita Park Feb. 5 as a prep for the World Cup.

Baffert said he decided to get Game On Dude back in action after the imposing dark bay worked seven furlongs in 1:24 flat over the main track at Santa Anita May 27. In his only previous start over Hollywood's Cushion Track, Game On Dude came up a nose short to stablemate First Dude  in last year's Gold Cup.

Game On Dude came back to win the Goodwood Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita in front-running fashion last October, setting him up for the Breeders' Cup Classic. Game On Dude led the field to deep stretch at Churchill Downs before being passed by Drosselmeyer.

Chantal Sutherland, who has been aboard Game On Dude for his past six starts, retains the mount. Game On Dude, who drew the inside post in the short field, carries a 6-4-1 record in 16 starts into the race, including a victory in the 2011 Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I). He has banked $2,254,658.

Morning Line was off for nine months before returning in the Mervyn LeRoy, which he won after leading throughout by a gritty half-length over Prayer for Relief.

John Shirreffs trains the 5-year-old son of Tiznow  who is owned by W.S. Farish, Dixiana Stables, and Thoroughbred Legends Racing Stable. Morning Line, winner of the 2011 Carter Handicap (gr. I) at Aqueduct Racetrack, was making his West Coast debut in the LeRoy. He was previously trained by Nick Zito.

Joe Talamo is once again aboard Morning Line, who has earned $1,212,300 while winning five of 13 races with five placings. They break from post 4.

Prayer for Relief, a multiple graded stakes winner for Zayat Stables, was assigned top weight of 122 pounds for the Californian. To be ridden by Rafael Bejarano, the 4-year-old son of Jump Start  spots two pounds to Game On Dude and four to the rest of the field, including Morning Line.

Winner of three derbies -- Iowa, West Virginia, and Super -- in succession last year, Prayer for Relief is yet to win in four tries in 2012. In addition to the runner-up effort in the LeRoy, he was third in both the San Fernando and Strub (both gr. II) stakes, and 12th in the Santa Anita Handicap.

Prayer for Relief has earnings of $1,087,225 while winning five of 14 races. He has two wins and two seconds in four starts at Hollywood.

Also in the Californian lineup are Kettle Corn , third in the Mervyn LeRoy, and Uh Oh Bango, who ran third in the Big 'Cap March 3 and was most recently fifth in the Charles Town Classic (gr. II) April 14.

$150,000 Californian Stakes (gr. II, Race 8, 4:30 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Game On Dude (KY), C Sutherland, 120, B Baffert
2. Uh Oh Bango (AZ), M E Smith, 118, R K Owens
3. Morning Line (KY), J Talamo, 118, J A Shirreffs
4. Prayer for Relief (KY), R Bejarano, 122, B Baffert
5. Kettle Corn (KY), J Rosario, 118, J W Sadler