In becoming just the fourth horse in the 76-year history of the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap (Grade 1) to win twice, Game On Dude set himself apart from both the field and history's winners with the largest margin of victory ever at 7 ¾ lengths. He also became the first multiple winner not to do so in consecutive years.
"I'm so proud of this horse just the way he's developed into such a great horse," said trainer Bob Baffert in the winner's circle after the race. "Hopefully we'll keep him healthy and at this level. The way he's running right now, it's pretty incredible."
Sent off as the 6-to-5 favorite in the field of ten, the six-year-old gelded son of Awesome Again was in his customary position forwardly placed throughout the 1 ¼-mile race by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith and was never challenged while romping home for his seventh win in eight tries over Santa Anita's main track.
His lone defeat over this strip came in the 2012 Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) when he was bumped around early and unable to get to the front before finishing well beaten by 15 lengths.
"On Breeders' Cup day he was a little flat in the paddock," said Baffert. "It was an off day for him and he didn't get the trip."
After winning the Big 'Cap by a nose in controversial fashion two years ago, Game On Dude opted to bypass the event last year in favor of a try in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (Group 1). That resulted in a career-worst 12th placed finish.
With Game On Dude absent last year, Ron the Greek shipped in from Florida to win impressively and was back to attempt a repeat as the 5-to-2 second choice. However, he had to settle for fourth after not being able to make up any significant ground.
Owned in part by baseball legend Joe Torre, Game On Dude pushed his earnings to over $3.7 million with his 12th career win.
Baffert indicated the next start for Game On Dude could come in the $1.5 million Charlestown Classic (G2) on April 20.
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