Multiple Grade I winner Game On Dude signaled that this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic may finally be his for the taking, putting in a huge five furlong move in :59 over the Santa Anita Park main track Monday morning.
Working in company with Amazing Hearted, Game On Dude broke off about six lengths behind before surging past his partner to his inside as the two were finishing up in the lane. It was Game On Dude’s monster gallop out that proved most impressive to trainer Bob Baffert and the rest of the onlookers as the 6-year-old gelding maintained his powerful rhythm around the turn, putting several more lengths between himself and his workmate.
“He just seems to be a stronger horse this year and more focused,” jockey Mike Smith said of his Classic mount after watching the move on the apron. “He steps on the racetrack and he looks straightforward, he won’t turn his head from side to side. He just is all business now, it’s pretty cool. Until he gets off over there (to the gap) and he gets a peppermint.”
Saturday will mark the third consecutive year Game On Dude will start in the Classic, having finished second in the race in 2011 and an uncharacteristically dull seventh here last season. The gelded son of Awesome Again is unbeaten in five starts this year and is coming off an 8 1/2 length victory in the Grade I Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 25.
Shortly after dubbing Game On Dude’s work “perfect”, Baffert hustled back up to the stands to watch his other Classic contender Paynter put in his final serious work. Zayat Stables’ Grade I winner and sentimental fan favorite went five furlongs in company with stablemate Flashback, staying in front of that one while covering the distance is 1:00 flat.
Paynter’s Breeders’ Cup presence is remarkable regardless of result as the 4-year-old son of Awesome Again nearly died last year during a battle with colitis.
“I’m not a big miracle guy but this horse what he went through, it’s amazing,” Baffert said. “He’s tough. If he were a human, he’d be a big obnoxious, tough bully type linebacker. That’s what kept him fighting.
“They’re two different types of horses,” Baffert said of Game On Dude and Paynter. “You know so one will be rolling up front, the other will be in the second wave.”
Baffert also worked Juvenile contender Tap It Rich four furlongs in 48.20 and sent Filly & Mare Sprint contender Book Review through a four-furlong work in 48.60.
Champion Beholder continued to tout herself in advance of her expected run in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, working four furlongs in 49.20 Monday. The 3-year-0ld daughter of Henny Hughes bested older girls last time out in the Grade I Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita on September 28 and won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies over this main track in 2012.
“That’s it; we’re all set now,” trainer Richard Mandella said. “I didn’t want her to do too much today and it was fine. I may have to put her back on the track tomorrow; we’ll see. It (the Distaff) is a heckuva race and she’s going to have to be at her best for it.”