INGLEWOOD, Calif. (May 30, 2012)—Multiple graded stakes winner Game On Dude will make his first start since a forgettable trip to the United Arab Emirates in the $150,000 Californian Saturday at Betfair Hollywood Park.
A Grade II at 1 1/8 miles over Cushion Track, the Californian is the final major prep for the Grade I, $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup July 7. It is the eighth of nine races. Post time Saturday is 1 p.m. Track gates will open at 9:55 a.m. for simulcasts.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert for a partnership that includes Joe Torre’s Diamond Price LLC, Lanni Family Trust and Bernie Schiappa, Game On Dude finished 12th of 13 in the $10 million Dubai World Cup March 31 at Meydan Race Course.
This subpar performance – he finished 20 ½ lengths behind winner Monterosso – came only days after Baffert had suffered a heart attack.
A 5-year-old gelded son of Awesome Again and the Devil His Due mare Worldly Pleasure, Game On Dude has won six of 16 and earned $2,254,658.
Five of those wins have occurred since he joined the Baffert stable in the spring of 2010. His most significant victory came by a nose in a controversial Santa Anita Handicap March 5, 2011. The dark bay, who was bred in Kentucky by Adena Springs, survived a lengthy stewards’ inquiry after finishing a nose in front of Setsuko.
His other Grade I win came in the 2011 Goodwood Stakes last fall at Santa Anita. Game On Dude had the lead at 14-1 in the Breeders’ Cup Classic Nov. 5 of last year at Churchill Downs, but was collared shortly before the wire by Drosselmeyer.
The Californian will be Game On Dude’s second race at Betfair Hollywood Park. He was second – beaten by a nose – by stablemate First Dude in the 2011 Gold Cup while finishing a neck in front of favored Twirling Candy.
The primary threat to Game On Dude in the Californian is Morning Line.
A 5-year-old Tiznow horse out of the A.P. Indy mare Indian Snow, Morning Line was successful in his California debut for trainer John Shirreffs, wiring the field in the Grade II Mervyn LeRoy Handicap May 5.
Owned by Will Farish, Dixiana Stables and Thoroughbred Legends Racing Stable, Morning Line had been away for nine months prior to defeating Prayer for Relief and seven others in the LeRoy.
The Kentucky bred has won five of 13 and earned $1,212,300. Morning Line could become the third horse in nine years to win both the LeRoy and Californian, joining Even the Score (2004) and Rail Trip (2010).
Baffert, who has never won this race, will also be represented by the aforementioned Prayer for Relief.
Owned by Ahmed Zayat, the 4-year-old Jump Start colt out of the Mr. Sparkles mare Sparklin Lil has won five of 14 and banked $1,087,225.
Four of Prayer for Relief’s wins came during his 3-year-old season, including three Derbies – the Iowa at Prairie Meadows, West Virginia at Mountaineer and Super at Louisiana Downs.
Bred in Kentucky by G.R. Aschinger, Prayer for Relief has not been worse than second in four races over Cushion Track. His wins were in a $50,000 maiden claimer at six furlongs during the Oak Tree/Hollywood Park meet Oct. 10, 2010 and an allowance at 1 1/16 miles May 29, 2011.
Kettle Corn could move forward in his second of 2012 after finishing third in the LeRoy.
Trained by John Sadler for Lee and Susan Searing’s C R K Stable, the 5-year-old son of Candy Ride had been idle five months when he surfaced in the LeRoy. He was defeated by 4 ¼ lengths, his first loss in three races over the local main track.
Out of the Lil E. Tee mare Somethingbeautiful, Kettle Corn wrapped 2011 with a victory in the Grade III Native Diver Handicap. The half-length win came 16 days after an optional claiming score in his Cushion Track debut.
A winner six times in 13 outings, Kettle Corn has earned $189,891. Most of his bankroll and three of his wins have come in six starts since he was privately purchased by his current connections.
Salder will be seeking consecutive victories in the Californian, having won a year ago with Twirling Candy. The last trainer to win the race back-to-back was the late Bobby Frankel – Skimming (2001) and Milwaukee Brew (2002).
Joel Rosario, who was aboard Twirling Candy, has the mount aboard Kettle Corn. The last rider to win the Californian in consecutive years was Chris McCarron – Mud Route (1998) and Old Trieste (1999).
Owned and bred by Triple AAA Ranch and trained by R. Kory Owens, Uh Oh Bango returns to California after splitting the field in the Grade II Charles Town Classic April 14.
A 5-year-old son of Top Hit and the French Deputy mare French Debutante, Uh Oh Bango has won five of 20 and earned $691,512. He is 1-for-2 over Cushion Track. The Arizona bred won an optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles in his Betfair Hollywood Park debut May 12, 2011.
From inside out, the field for the Californian: Game On Dude, Chantal Sutherland rides, 120 pounds; Uh Oh Bango, Mike Smith; 118; Morning Line, Joe Talamo, 118; Prayer for Relief, Rafael Bejarano, 122 and Kettle Corn, Joel Rosario, 118.
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