INGLEWOOD, Calif. (July 6, 2013)—Game On Dude became only the third horse to win the Hollywood Gold Cup more than once when he wired four opponents Saturday in Betfair Hollywood Park’s signature race.
The defending champion in the Grade I, $500,000 Gold Cup, the 6-year-old Awesome Again gelding joined Native Diver and Lava Man, who led the post parade Saturday, as a multiple winner of a race run for the first time in 1938.
California-breds Native Diver (1965-1967) and Lava Man (2005-2007) were three-time Gold Cup winners.
Ridden by Hall of Famer Mike Smith, Game On Dude, the 3-10 choice, gave Bob Baffert his fifth Gold Cup victory and third in a row. First Dude won by a nose – over Game On Dude – for the Hall of Fame trainer in 2011.
Owned by a partnership that includes Joe Torre’s Diamond Pride LLC, Lanni Family Trust, Ernie Moody’s Mercedes Stable LLC and Bernie Schiappa, Game On Dude is 5-for-5 since teaming with Smith in the Grade III Native Diver Handicap last Dec. 1 at Betfair Hollywood Park.
The one-length win under 127 pounds – the most the Kentucky bred has ever carried – was his 14th and the $300,000 payday pushed him over $5 million in earnings. He’s banked $5,002,158 in 26 starts.
The last horse to carry 127 pounds to victory in the Gold Cup prior to Saturday was Perrault in 1982.
Favored for the 10th consecutive time, Game On Dude, who is out of the Devil His Due mare Worldly Pleasure, returned $2.60, $2.20 and $2.10 while completing the 1 ¼ miles over Cushion Track in 2:01.88.
Swaps was the shortest-priced winner in Gold Cup history. The legendary California bred paid $2.30 when he won under 130 pounds in 1956.
Able to make the lead without any encouragement from Smith, Game On Dude got away with a very slow 25 second opening quarter and was relaxed through 49.31 and 1:12.60 fractions with stablemate Sky Kingdom and Clubhouse Ride, the 3-1 second choice who was saving ground under new rider Joe Talamo, his closest pursuers.
The newly-blinkered Kettle Corn, a distant third in the 2012 Gold Cup, made a quick bid along the rail before angling out to become Game On Dude’s sole danger with a quarter of a mile remaining.
Worse than third only once in nine starts over Cushion Track, the 6-year-old Candy Ride horse separated from the rest of the field, but couldn’t catch the winner while in receipt of 11 pounds.
The 10-1 fourth choice, Kettle Corn paid $5.20 and $3.40. The show price on Sky Kingdom, who was 6 ¾ lengths behind the runner-up, was $3.80.
Clubhouse Ride, who won the Grade II Californian June1, and Oilisblackgold completed the order of finish.
“My trip was brilliant,’’ said Smith, whose first Gold Cup win came with Total Impact in 2004. “I’m very happy with the outcome, he did what he had to do and seemed to come back really well.
“I was really confident. I hand rode him. He’s a fighter and if you’re going to try and beat him, you’ve got to flat run by him. He’s not the type of horse you can creep up to and try to run by. He’s just a warrior.’’
Baffert, whose first two Gold Cup victories came with Real Quiet in 1999 and Congaree (2003), was joined by a large contingent in the winner’s circle, including Torre, Schiappa and longtime radio and television personality Larry King.
“He had that look today,’’ said Baffert. “He had control of the pace and everything went like we drew it up in our mind.
“He just finds more gears as he goes along. There’s added pressure when you train a horse like him. He has a fan base now. You don’t want to see him get beat because of the fans. I can hear them cheering him on. When they turned for home, it was like the whole place was on my side.
“(Kettle Corn) made a nice move at him, but I was watching (Smith) and he never moved on him. He just sat on him, he knows this horse so well.’’
Bejarano was happy with the trip and effort by Kettle Corn, who is winless in three starts this year. “There was no way I could beat the winner with that type of slow pace,’’ he said. “They were walking, walking, so it was very tough to outrun him at the end.’’
Earlier in the afternoon, 11-10 favorite Schiaparelli stretched out successfully in the $150,000 Royal Heroine Mile for her third win of 2013.
Providing leading jockey Joe Talamo with his third of four wins Saturday, the 5-year-old gray daughter of Ghostzapper and the Avenue of Flags mare Cambiocorsa led throughout in the grassy Grade II, holding on by a half-length over Egg Drop, the longest shot in the field at 7-1.
In her first start beyond 6 ½ furlongs, Schiaparelli, who has won five of nine in her career, completed the distance in 1:34.11
Owned by breeder Ran Jan Racing, Inc. and trained by Mike Puype, Schiaparelli increased her earnings to $274,184 with her initial graded victory. The win was also her third in four attempts over the Betfair Hollywood Park grass. She paid $4.20, $3 and $2.40
Egg Drop, who had won a $57,842 allowance going six furlongs in her turf debut May 24, returned $6.20 and $4.60. She finished 4 ½ lengths clear of 5-1 shot My Gi Gi as the winner’s closest pursuer through legitimate fractions (23.73, 46.74 and 1:09.74 for six furlongs). The show price on My Gi Gi was $4.
I Dazzle, the 3-1 second choice, and a troubled Stormy Lucy completed the order of finish. Appealing was scratched.
The stewards conducted an inquiry regarding an incident involving Stormy Lucy and Egg Drop approaching the stretch.
Stormy Lucy steadied while appearing to clip the heels of the runner-up and stumbled badly under jockey Martin Pedroza. The stewards ruled that the 4-year-old Stormy Atlantic filly was the cause of her own trouble, so no change was made in the order of finish.
“She was pressed all the way and had to really fight the whole race to get the job done,’’ said Talamo after his meet-high 10th stakes success. “She was kind of looking around a little bit down the lane, which she kind of does sometimes.
“I had to ride her a little harder than I thought I would have to. But she pulled it off and every time (Egg Drop) would get close to her she kept finding more.’’
With five days remaining in the Spring/Summer meet, Talamo, who also won the third with 17-10 favorite Gnarly Dude, the fourth with Cast a Doubt ($3.40) and the seventh with 9-1 outsider Forever Freedom, holds a 49-45 lead over defending S/S champion Bejarano.
Shortly after the Royal Heroine was made official, Laffit Pincay, Jr. presented the 10th annual award named in his honor to fellow Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Delahoussaye.
First presented in 2004 to esteemed executive and racing publicist Bob Benoit, the Laffit Pincay, Jr. Award is given yearly to someone who has served the sport with integrity, extraordinary dedication, determination and distinction.
On the one-year anniversary of her becoming the first female rider to win the Gold Cup aboard Game On Dude, jockey Chantal Sutherland rode for the first time at Betfair Hollywood Park since last July 15.
Sutherland, who retired last Oct. 21 before returning to riding June 6 at Woodbine, finished last on the Mike Machowsky-trained Bold Decision, who was dismissed at 35-1 in Saturday’s sixth, a $53,000 maiden race for 2-year-old fillies.
Since ending her retirement, Sutherland is winless with 15 mounts.
Racing resumes Sunday. Post time is 1 p.m. Track gates will open at 9:55 a.m. for simulcasts.
The main event on the nine-race program is the $70,000 Le Cle Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at one mile on turf.
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