Game On Dude in the San Antonio Stakes.

Game On Dude in the San Antonio Stakes.

Benoit Photo

Game On Dude Looks Super in San Antonio

Gelding rolls to easy victory at Santa Anita in first race since Breeders' Cup.

Game On Dude may have caused his backers a bit of concern when he trailed the field in the San Antonio Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO) after a tardy start, but it all worked out for the 3-10 favorite, who romped to victory at Santa Anita Feb. 5.

Joe Torre, the former Major League Baseball manager who is part of the ownership group Diamond Pride, led Game On Dude back to the winner's circle after the big 5-year-old gelding defeated four rivals in the 1 1/8-mile San Antonio on Super Bowl Sunday. Game On Dude was making his first start since he nearly stole the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) last November at Churchill Downs at 14-1 odds before settling for second.

Chantal Sutherland rode Game On Dude to a 5 1/4-length victory over Uh Oh Bango in the San Antonio for trainer Bob Baffert. The final time was a strong 1:46.88 on a fast track.

Last year, Sutherland guided Game On Dude to a pair of grade I victories in the Santa Anita Handicap and the Goodwood Stakes before the dark bay son of Awesome Again was defeated in the Breeders' Cup by Drosselmeyer. Game On Dude completed the year with a 3-3-1 record in eight starts with earnings of more than $1.9 million.

After winning the San Antonio, Baffert was non-committal on whether Game On Dude would next race in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) March 31 at Meydan Race Course. He said he would have to consult with the horse's owners -- Diamond Pride, the Lanni Family Trust, Mercedes Stable, and Bernard Schiappa -- about the next step.

"We'll have to sit down and see how he comes out of it (the race)," Baffert said. "He ran pretty hard today."

Of course, Game On Dude may also stay home and defend his title in the March 3 Santa Anita Handicap, which he won last year by a nose in a dogfight of a finish with Setsuko.

Game On Dude registered the fourth graded stakes win of his career while running his overall mark to 6-4-1 in 15 starts. He has now banked $2,254,658.

Adena Springs bred Game On Dude, who is out of the Devil His Due mare Worldly Pleasure, in Kentucky.

The San Antonio was reduced to a field of five with the scratches of Tres Borrachos and Ashtar.

Game On Dude broke a beat slow from an inside post and was at the rear of the compact field briefly as Skipshot , on the far outside, went to the front just ahead of Gato Malo. Game On Dude soon advanced into third, then was second, as Skipshot clipped off an opening quarter mile in :23.09 and a half in quick :45.91. Game On Dude engaged Skipshot on the backstretch and took the lead before they reached the three-eighths pole in 1:09.12.

Game On Dude opened a clear advantage heading into the far turn as the San Pasqual Stakes (gr. II) winner Uh Oh Bango attempted to make a race of it. Ridden by Mike Smith, who was atop Drosselmeyer in the BC Classic, Uh Oh Bango drew to within a couple of lengths. But Game On Dude, given his head by Sutherland, responded to a couple of left-handed cracks of the whip in upper stretch to spurt away to an insurmountable advantage. He came home under steady handling while running the final eighth of a mile in 12.97 seconds.

"He just really didn't break," Sutherland said of Game On Dude's start. "He has a habit of doing that. But fortunately for me, he ran amazing."

Baffert added, "Chantal did a great job of not panicking. Once you get him into that high cruising speed, he's so dangerous."

Uh Oh Bango was a distant second for Smith, but he finished 12 1/4 lengths in front of his nearest competitor, Victory Pete, who was ridden by Martin Garcia. Skipshot and El Gato Malo trailed.

Game On Dude paid $2.60, $2.20, and $2.10 while topping a $5.40 exacta with Triple AAA Ranch homebred Uh Oh Bango, who returned $3 and $2.20. The show price on Victory Pete, who was switching from the turf for trainer Alexis Barba, was $3.