Baseball paragon Joe Torre, co-owner of multi-millionaire Game On Dude, will be at Betfair Hollywood Park Saturday to watch his 6-year-old gelding compete in the Grade I, $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup.
Torre, who races as Diamond Pride LLC, owns Game On Dude in partnership with Bernie Schiappa, Lanni Family Trust and Ernie Moody’s Mercedes Stable, LLC.
As Major League Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations, Torre’s schedule has limited him to seeing just a handful of Game On Dude’s races live. The last time Torre was at Betfair Hollywood Park was for Game On Dude’s victory in the 2012 Californian.
Torre did make it to West Virginia for Game On Dude’s hard-fought win in the Grade II, $1.5 million Charles Town Classic April 20 and admitted to being nervous before the race.
“My heart was pumping,” Torre told Charles Town publicity. “It’s a helpless feeling because you can’t do anything about it but watch. It’s sort of the same thing when (New York Yankees closer) Mariano Rivera goes out to the mound. You put your hands in your pocket and hope for the best.”
“(Hall of Fame jockey) Mike Smith has such a great relationship with ‘Dude. He backed him out when he wasn’t comfortable, then got him back in. He’s a terrific jock.”
Torre, who will turn 73 July 18, has Southern California connections. In addition to managing the Los Angeles Dodgers (2008-2010), he was the color commentator for the California Angels from 1985-1990.
Torre managed the New York Yankees to four World Series championships. As a player for the New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves, he was a nine-time All-Star at catcher, first base and third base.
Before he left for Nashville to spend the July 4 holiday with wife Jill and son Bode, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert declared Game On Dude fit and ready for Saturday’s Grade I, $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup.
After Game On Dude worked a half mile in 47 4/5 seconds Monday at Santa Anita, Baffert tweeted: “Game On Dude ready to rock n roll. Worked great today.”
Baffert also called Paynter’s :48 3/5 half-mile drill “fabulous.” Paynter returned with an impressive victory at Betfair Hollywood Park June 14, eight months after recovering from numerous severe health issues.
On his Twitter page, Baffert also joked about Game On Dude’s weight assignment for the Gold Cup:
“Game On Dude gets 127 lbs. for Gold Cup. Mike Smith can have lunch that day. Lol.”
One year after Chantal Sutherland became the first female jockey to win the Gold Cup aboard Game On Dude, Kristine Leahy, a sports anchor and reporter for KCBS/KCAL television, will become the first woman to call a race at Betfair Hollywood Park Friday night.
The Friday card, the final night racing program at the historic track, begins at 7:05 p.m. After a brief lesson from track announcer Vic Stauffer, Leahy will get behind the microphone to call a race which has yet to be determined.
Leahy has been with KCBS/KCAL since September, 2012. Before that, she was a sports reporter in Boston. She interned at KCAL in 2008, reporting for the Los Angeles Lakers’ Fan Cam.
Thursday, July 4 kicks off an action-packed week of racing at Betfair Hollywood Park.
In honor of Independence Day, the track will present the Grade II, $150,000 Swaps Stakes for 3-year-olds. Box seats are free for all fans. Veterans and active duty personnel – with military identification – will receive free general admission.
The Friday night card will see beer offered for $1 from 7-9 p.m. General parking is free and there will be a concert featuring 80z All Stars following the races – approximately 10:30 p.m.
The $70,000 Lucie Manet for older fillies and mares at 1 ¼ miles on turf is the Friday evening feature.
Betfair Hollywood Park will present the signature race – the Grade I, $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup – Saturday. Defending champion Game On Dude will be heavily favored to give Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his third consecutive win in the Gold Cup, which goes at 1 ¼ miles on Cushion Track. The supporting feature is the Grade II, $150,000 Royal Heroine Mile for fillies and mares on turf.
On Gold Cup Day, Betfair Hollywood Park is giving away a DVD commemorating highlights of the track’s 75-year history – one per paid admission while supplies last.
Also on Saturday, jockey Eddie Delahoussaye will be presented the 10th annual Laffit Pincay, Jr. Award. Pincay will be on hand to present the trophy to his fellow Hall of Famer and will also be the special guest of George Ortuzar and Michael Burns at the Escogiendo Ganadores (Picking Winners) seminar at 11:30 a.m. at the Paddock Tote Board.
Legendary Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg will be signing his new book, “Jack: From Grit to Glory’’, at the Paddock Tote Board from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
The next-to-last week of the meet concludes Sunday. The $70,000 Le Cle Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at one mile on turf is the main event.
With eight racing days remaining in the Betfair Hollywood Park Spring/Summer meet, Rafael Bejarano and Joe Talamo are tied for the lead in the rider standings with 44 victories apiece.
Here’s a look inside the numbers:
Bejarano leads Talamo in win percentage (22-17) and in-the-money percentage (62-45). Bejarano has won 27 per cent on Cushion Track and 15 per cent on turf, while Talamo is 13 per cent on Cushion Track and 24 per cent on grass. Talamo leads all jockeys with nine stakes victories.
There is no bonus for winning the title, but Talamo’s agent Scott McClellan says it’s still important.
“To say you were the leading rider at a major meet is a big deal,” said McClellan. “Winning the title would mean a lot to Joe and me.”
Though no threat to the top pair, Mario Gutierrez has made huge strides over the last few weeks. Gutierrez has moved up to eighth in the standings and has the best winning percentage (19-for-72) among the top ten. He’s been remarkably consistent at 25 per cent on Cushion and 24 per cent on turf.
John Sadler has led the trainer standings since opening day, but he may be looking over his shoulder. Buoyed by a recent six-race win streak, Mike Puype has leap-frogged several trainers into second place. Sadler now leads Puype 24-20.
Tied for third with 17 victories Hall of Famer Bob Baffert and Doug O’Neill.
The top trainer in terms of percentage is Adam Kitchingman, who is ninth in the standings. Kitchingman has won at a 40 per cent clip this meet, going 10-for-25.
Jim Byers, who at the tender age of 23 became track announcer at Betfair Hollywood, will revisit the Inglewood venue on Hollywood Gold Cup Day Saturday.
Byers, now 52, held the position from 1984-1987. Among his memorable calls was the 1984 Sunset Handicap, won by John Henry.
Though not born in California, Byers considers himself a native of the state. He graduated from El Camino High School and San Diego State University.
Byers has lived in Oklahoma City for the last 25 years since departing Los Angeles in 1988. He was the original track announcer at Remington Park from 1988-99.
After leaving the race track, Byers began broadcasting other sports.
“I just finished my third season as radio play-by-play broadcaster for the American Hockey League’s Oklahoma City Barons,” said Byers.
The Barons are the top affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers of the National Hockey League.
Prior to that, he spent 11 seasons broadcasting the Oklahoma City Redhawks of the Pacific Coast League, who at the time were the Triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers.
Byers still calls races occasionally. He filled in at Remington in 2003 and 2006, and, for 10 days last summer, he was a temporary replacement at Fair Meadows in Tulsa. He also substituted for John Lies one night each of the past two Septembers during the quarter horse meeting at Lone Star Park.
CLOSING STRIDES*—At the last minute, trainer *Bob Baffert decided not to enter Liaison in the Hollywood Gold Cup and instead will run Sky Kingdom. “He’s OK,” said assistant trainer Mike Marlow. “Bob just decided not to run here.” Sky Kingdom broke his maiden on Cushion Track in 2011 and was fourth to Liaison in the Grade I CashCall Futurity three weeks later. Baffert’s other entrant, Game On Dude, will be the heavy favorite……Agent Tony Matos reports that jockey Garrett Gomez, absent the last two weeks due to personal issues, will be working horses Thursday and is due back riding the last week of the Betfair Hollywood Park meet. The 49-day season concludes July 14…..Leading trainer John Sadler is high on Sunny Kat, a first time starter by Kitten’s Joy out of the Miswaki mare Waki Affair. The $260,000 Ocala Two-Year-Old in Training purchase is scheduled to run Sunday in a $52,000 maiden special weight at five furlongs on turf.………Et Tu Walker has a chance to become the first four-time winner at the Spring/Summer meet in Thursday’s eighth race, a $62,500 optional claimer at six furlongs on turf. The only other three-time winner is Unusual Hottie, who is not expected to race again at the meet.
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