Game on Dude makes his first start since he nearly pirated the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) last fall when he takes on six opponents in the $200,000 San Antonio Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita Feb. 5.
First post on Super Bowl Sunday is 11 a.m. The San Antonio is set as the seventh of eight races at 2 p.m. PST.
The 1 1/8-mile San Antonio is a major steppingstone to the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I), a race Game On Dude won in ultra-game fashion last year. It was one of two grade I victories the 5-year-old son of Awesome Again garnered last season for trainer Bob Baffert during a campaign in which the gelding earned more than $1.9 million. Had the front-running bay held on to win the BC Classic, in which he led until deep stretch at Churchill Downs Nov. 5, he would have likely been named Horse of the Year in 2011. Instead, he finished second to Drosselmeyer by 1 1/2 lengths.
The San Antonio means decision time is coming for the connections of Game On Dude, whose large ownership group includes Ernie Moody, the Lanni Family Trust, Bernie Schiappa, and former Yankee and Dodger manager Joe Torre. Game On Dude could defend his title in the Big 'Cap March 3, or he could be on his way to Dubai for the World Cup March 31. A major drawback for making the trip to the Middle East is that the race is contested on a synthetic track at Meydan Race Course, which is not Game On Dude's preferred surface.
Game On Dude, meanwhile, “has been training great” at Santa Anita for the San Antonio, according to Baffert. Game On Dude is three-for-three on the Santa Anita main track with a victory in the Goodwood Stakes (gr. I) last fall in addition to his Big 'Cap score. Only six Santa Anita Handicaps had been run faster than when Game On Dude nosed out Setsuko in 1:59.47 for 1 1/4 miles in last year’s 74th renewal.
Chantal Sutherland has been along for the ride with Game On Dude. She became the first female jockey to win the Santa Anita Handicap and nearly became the first to win the BC Classic at odds of 14-1. She will retain the mount in the San Antonio. Game On Dude breaks from post 3 with co-high weight of 123 pounds.
Uh Oh Bango, 7-1 upset winner of the San Pasqual Stakes (gr. II) Jan. 7, is the other horse assigned 123. Trained by Kory Owens, Triple AAA Ranch's 5-year-old homebred son of Top Hit is in the sharpest form of this year's San Antonio entrants. Uh Oh Bango seized the lead approaching mid-stretch and outlasted favored Tres Borrachos by 1 3/4 lengths in the 1 1/16-mile San Pasqual. Mike Smith, who rode Uh Oh Bango for the first time that day, has the return call.
Tres Borrachos also returns with Rafael Bejarano aboard. The 7-year-old gelding has earned $914,257 while winning just four times in 36 lifetime starts. The Ecton Park gelding is often around for a piece, however, and has performed well since Marty Jones took over training duties for owner George Hicker and Button Stable last summer. He won the San Diego Handicap (gr. II) in July, which led to a third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I).
Also in the field are San Pasqual third-place finisher Skipshot and Victory Pete, runner-up to Caracortado in the Daytona Stakes (gr. IIIT) on the hillside turf course last month.
$200,000 San Antonio Stakes (gr. II, Race 7, 2 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Tres Borrachos (KY), R Bejarano, 120, M F Jones
2. Uh Oh Bango (AZ), M E Smith, 123, R K Owens
3. Game On Dude (KY), C Sutherland, 123, B Baffert
4. El Gato Malo (KY), C S Nakatani, 118, C Dollase
5. Ashtar (CHI), K Krigger, 120, K E Nettles
6. Victory Pete (FL), M Garcia, 118, A Barba
7. Skipshot (KY), J Talamo, 118, J Hollendorfer