INGLEWOOD, Calif. (July 9, 2011)—What had already been a memorable Spring/Summer meet for Bob Baffert got even better Saturday when the Hall of Fame trainer finished 1-2 in the $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup (video) .
First Dude won for the third time in four starts since joining the Baffert barn, edging Game On Dude by a nose with 11-10 favorite Twirling Candy a neck back in third.
The victory was the third in Hollywood Park’s signature race for Baffert, who had won previously with Real Quiet (1999) and Congaree (2003).
He became the first trainer since the late Bobby Frankel to achieve the Gold Cup exacta. Frankel accomplished the feat in 2001 with Aptitude and Skimming, a result made possible by the disqualification of Futural, who was moved from first to third.
The last time it happened naturally was 1997 and Richard Mandella, who saddled Setsuko for a fourth-place finish Saturday, went one better. Mandella had a 1-2-3 finish that year with Gentlemen defeating Siphon and Sandpit.
Owned by breeder Don Dizney, First Dude, a 4-year-old son of Stephen Got Even and the Smart Strike mare Run Sarah Run, was taken off the pace set by his stablemate by jockey Martin Garcia while in the clear, finishing well on the outside to prevail in the last jump.
By virtue of the thrilling victory, First Dude earned a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs as the Gold Cup was a BC “Win and You’re In’’ challenge race. Additionally, First Dude will have his pre-entry and entry fees waived for the Classic and receive a $10,000 travel allowance.
Successful for the fourth time in 17 starts, the Florida bred earned his first Grade I in his ninth such appearance. He had hit the board five times before, including thirds in the Blue Grass, Belmont, Haskell Invitational and Travers and a second in the Preakness. All those efforts were in 2010 for former trainer Dale Romans.
Pushing his earnings to $1,442,140, First Dude, whose only loss this year was a sixth in the Santa Anita Handicap won by Game On Dude, paid $10.20, $4.80 and $3.20 as the 4-1 second choice. He completed the 1 ¼ miles over Cushion Track in 2:01.57.
The Gold Cup win was a first for Garcia, who finished third in the race a year ago aboard the Baffert-trained Richard’s Kid.
Game On Dude, who established the lead immediately after breaking directly outside Twirling Candy, the 122-pound highweight, just failed to make some additional history for his rider as the 9-2 third choice.
Chantal Sutherland, who teamed with the gelding initially in the Santa Anita Handicap, was the first female to ever ride in the Gold Cup, so, obviously, she would have been the first female to win a race which was run for the 72nd time Saturday.
More relaxed than he had been in his victory in the Californian June 4, Twirling Candy sat just off Game On Dude, took a narrow lead briefly in the stretch, but couldn’t quite match strides with the Baffert duo near the finish. He’s now 0-for-2 at 10 furlongs.
“In the morning they’ve been finishing together and they both ran a great race today,’’ said Baffert, who leads the meet in both wins (34) and stakes victories (seven). “First Dude is just a big old horse and you’ve just got to let him settle. You just have to ride him with a lot of confidence and that’s what Martin did.
“When they hit the wire, I knew I’d won it. I just didn’t know which one. I was hoping for a dead heat. That would have been really cool. They both could have gotten a “Win and You’re In’’ and really bust out the Breeders’ Cup. I didn’t know what I was going to do with him, but now I can take him to Del Mar and run him in the ($1 million) Pacific Classic (Aug. 28).
“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Chantal. She rode a great race. She really picked that horse up and carried him and got a second wind. He was on the lead and that’s the way he wants to run.’’
Twirling Candy’s trainer John Sadler and jockey Joel Rosario believe the distance may have gotten the best of the talented 4-year-old.
“He was relaxed,’’ said Rosario. “A mile and a quarter may be a little too far for him. He was good and had no excuses. I wasn’t even asking him to relax, he just did everything on his own. He just got a little tired in the lane.’’
Game On Dude paid $5.60 and $3.60 while the show payoff on Twirling Candy was $2.40.
Setsuko, who was a nose behind Game On Dude in a roughly run Big `Cap in early March, was 2 ¼ lengths behind Twirling Candy, then came defending champ Awesome Gem, Dark Cove, the mare Miss Match and Soul Candy.
Baffert had to settle for second and third in the afternoon’s supporting feature, the $150,000 Swaps Stakes.
Dreamy Kid, who was making his first start in blinkers and first in a graded race, shocked heavily-favored Coil to win by a head.
Trained by Neil Drysdale for owner-breeder Robert S. Evans, the 3-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid and the Silver Hawk mare Dreams was rated off the pace set by Runflatout, split horses with less than a quarter of a mile to go before rallying outside Coil to prevail after the 1-2 choice had gained the lead early in the stretch.
There were plenty of other firsts in the 38th Swaps. The win was the first in the Grade II for jockey Joe Talamo, who had never collaborated with Dreamy Kid in the afternoon prior to Saturday.
The 19-1 surprise came nearly 12 months to the day when Talamo, riding 1-5 favorite Sidney’s Candy, was beaten by a head by Skipshot in the 2010 Swaps.
In providing his Hall of Fame trainer with his third Swaps victory – the others were Forceten (1975) and Prized, who stunned Sunday Silence in 1989 – Dreamy Kid increased his earnings to $138,880. He’s won two of five. His previous victory was a 7-1 upset of maidens May 26.
The second longest shot in a field reduced to five after the scratch of Boxeur des Rues, Dreamy Kid paid $40, $8 and $4.40. He ran the 1 1/8 miles over Cushion Track in 1:50.43. He carried 112 pounds, six fewer than the runner-up.
An impressive winner of his two turn debut in the Grade III Affirmed Handicap June 11, Coil paid $2.60 and $2.10 as the 1-2 favorite. He finished 2 ¼ lengths in front of stablemate Uncle Sam. The show price on Uncle Sam was $3. Runflatout, who tired after a stutter step start, and Spud Spivens completed the order of finish.
“I’ll tell you what, I’m real glad Neil let me work him last time,’’ said Talamo, referring to a 47 1/5 bullet half mile drill Dreamy Kid turned in four days earlier. “I really think that made a big difference. He was in blinkers and went the last quarter in 22 2/5 (seconds).
“That’s unheard of, not only for a 3-year-old, but even a stakes horse. That’s why I waited as long as I did. I knew that right when I asked him, he’d kick.
“I thought about going around on the far turn, but I hate going that wide. Anytime you go four wide they’ll usually hang the last part. So I went to wait and wait and I said you know if he runs like he works, he’ll win. And man he really had a nice turn of foot. He’s the kind of horse that’s just going to get better and better.’’
In perfect tracking position outside Runflatout for most of the nine furlongs, Coil had no excuses as he lost for the first time in four starts since being privately purchased by Baffert for owners Mike Pegram, Kartl Watson and Paul Weitman.
“He just got beat,’’ said Coil’s rider Martin Garcia. “I just rode my horse. I didn’t worry about anyone else. There really wasn’t a difference between last time and this time. He ran well, just not well enough to win today.’’
Drysdale was quick to credit David Flores, who had ridden Dreamy Kid in all of his previous starts, for the decision to add blinkers.
“David confirmed when he rode last time that he did need blinkers,’’ said Drysdale, who indicated Talamo gained the mount Saturday because of his ability to make the assigned weight. “He’s a nice, developing 3-year-old.’’
Baffert, who was seeking a record fifth Swaps victory, said Coil will make his next appearance in either the $500,000 Jim Dandy Stakes July 30 at Saratoga or the $1 million Haskell Invitational July 31 at Monmouth Park.
Racing resumes Sunday. Post time is 1 p.m.
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