Setsuko (left) finished a nose behind Game On Dude in the 2011 Santa Anita Handicap.

Setsuko (left) finished a nose behind Game On Dude in the 2011 Santa Anita Handicap.

Setsuko Completes Big 'Cap Preparation

Last year's runner-up works seven panels in 1:23 4/5 for rematch with Game On Dude.

Setsuko, gearing up for his expected rematch with Game On Dude in the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino (gr. I) March 3, drilled seven furlongs handily over the track in a sizzling 1:23 4/5 for trainer Richard Mandella Feb. 24.

“He went fabulous,” said the Hall of Fame conditioner who is seeking his fourth Santa Anita Handicap victory. “He galloped out a mile in (one) 38. He couldn’t look much better.”

Wertheimer and Frere's homebred missed by a nose to Game On Dude as a 25-1 outsider in a thrilling Big 'Cap last year.

The 5-year-old Setsuko, coming off an allowance optional claiming win Feb. 4, heads into the race in top shape. He drilled six furlongs in 1:12 Feb. 17.

“I think he’s better now than he was last year, judging from how he’s come back since his layoff and from being gelded,” said his regular jockey, Victor Espinoza, prior to the latest workout. “The win on Feb. 4 was an easy one for him, but what I liked even more was the fact that he moved between horses from the inside after breaking from the rail.

“Before, he was a little afraid and intimidated when he was in between horses. His last race, I was inside all the way and he acted like it was no big deal."

After breaking his maiden in December 2009, Setsuko ran in 12 races, including nine graded stakes, before his latest win. The son of Pleasantly Perfect has a 2-6-3 record from 17 starts with earnings of $506,486.

A day earlier, Game On Dude completed his major work for the Big 'Cap with a six-furlong move in 1:10 4/5 at Santa Anita. Game On Dude, trained by Bob Baffert, will be favored among nine candidates for the important 1 1/4-mile spring test.

“He couldn’t have gone any better,” Baffert said of the 5-year-old Awesome Again  gelding. “He’s as ready as I can get him.”

Added private clocker Toby Turrell: “He looked like a machine.”

In his first start since finishing second in last fall's Breeders Cup Classic (gr. I), Game On Dude won the 1 1/8-mile San Antonio Stakes (gr. II) impressively Feb. 5. Game On Dude has won six of 15 lifetime starts over a three-year career with earnings of $2,254,658.

Probables for the Santa Anita, with riders, are Boxeur des Rues, Mario Gutierrez; Game On Dude, Chantal Sutherland; Gladding, Joel Rosario; Holladay Road, no rider; Ron the Greek, Jose Lezcano; Setsuko, Victor Espinoza; Twice the Appeal, Christian Santiago Reyes; Uh Oh Bango, Mike Smith; and Strub Stakes (gr. II) winner Ultimate Eagle, Martin Pedroza.