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Game On Dude Works at Hollywood, Ships Wednesday for Run in Friday's Clark Handicap
Eclipse Award hopeful Game On Dude worked a strong four furlongs at Betfair Hollywood Park on Sunday and afterward trainer Bob Baffert said his seven-time Grade I stakes winner would ship to Churchill Downs on Wednesday to compete in Friday’s 139th running of the $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (Grade I).
The 6-year-old son of Awesome Again covered the distance under jockey Martin Garcia in :48, the sixth-fastest of 53 works at the distance.
“He worked nice,” Baffert said by telephone. “He just cruised around there. We didn’t do anything real serious with him, but he looked good doing it. Martin Garcia worked him and said he feels great, so we’re coming.”
The race will be the first for Game On Dude since a disappointing ninth-place finish behind Mucho Macho Man in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) at Santa Anita on Nov. 2. The loss was his first in six races in 2013 and snapped a six-race winning streak that included Grade I wins in the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup and the Pacific Classic.
His foes in the Clark Handicap will include Willis D. Horton’s Will Take Charge, who was beaten by a nose in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The D. Wayne Lukas-trained winner of the Travers (GI) will carry 123 pounds in Friday’s 1 1/8-mile race.
Game On Dude was assigned high weight of 126 pounds for the Clark and Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will ride.
Baffert’s star was the favorite for Eclipse Award “Horse of the Year” honors prior to the Breeders’ Cup, and remains a candidate for the award that goes to America’s champion older male.
Owned by a partnership that includes Bernie Schiappa, the Lanni Family Trust, Diamond Pride Stable of former New York Yankees manager Joe Torre and Mercedes Stable, Game on Dude has a career record of 28-15-5-1 with earnings of $5,602,158.
The Clark Handicap’s known probable starters include (with trainers, weights): Bourbon Courage (Kellyn Gorder, 117), Easter Gift (Chad Brown, 116), Finnegans Wake (Romans, 116), Game On Dude (Bob Baffert, 126), Golden Ticket (Kenny McPeek, 120), Prayer for Relief (Steve Asmussen, 118) and Will Take Charge (D. Wayne Lukas, 123). Possible: Jaguar Paw (Stephen Lyster, 115).
DON’T TELL SOPHIA WORKS AT KEENELAND, READY FOR FALLS CITY – Phil Sims and Jerry Namy’s Don’t Tell Sophia, the high-weight and likely favorite for the 98th running of the $150,000-added Falls City Handicap (GII) on Thanksgiving Day, completed her serious training for the race on Saturday with a five-furlong work at Keeneland.
The 5-year-old Congaree mare, who is trained by co-owner Sims, covered the distance in :49 over the Lexington track’s Polytrack surface.
“She’s coming into the race well,” Sims said. “We gave her just a little maintenance work at a half-mile and galloped-out to six furlongs. It was just a slow easy work. She’s fit for a mile-and-an-eighth, so that’s not a concern.”
Don’t Tell Sophia is coming off an emphatic 2 ½-length victory in the $150,000-added Chilukki (GII) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 2. A victory in the Falls City would make her the first filly or mare since 2004, and only the fourth overall, to sweep the two stakes races for fillies and mares ages three and up in a single meet.
Jerry Crawford, Matt Gannon and Charles Grask’s Halory Leigh won both races for trainer Dale Romans in 2004, and A. Stevens Miles Jr.’s Lead Story took both for trainer Carl Nafzger a year earlier. Char-Mar Stable’s Feasibility Study was the first to complete the sweep, winning both races for trainer Bill Mott in 1997.
The Chilukki, which was known as the Churchill Downs Distaff Handicap when those horses completed their respective sweeps, was first run in 1986, while the Falls City dates to Churchill Downs’ first meet as the Kentucky Jockey Club in 1875.
Given her background, a victory on Thanksgiving Day by Don’t Tell Sophia would make her the most unlikely of horses to complete the Fall Meet double.
She was purchased as a yearling at the 2009 Keeneland September Sale for just $1,000. Heading into the Falls City, Don’t Tell Sophia’s career record stands at 16-7-3-2 and she has earned of $440,814 – with $302,208 of that total earned in 2013.
“We’ve had some purchases that were inexpensive that worked out pretty well – but not quite this well,” Sims said. “This is very unusual.”
Don’t Tell Sophia is Sims’ best horse since Nelson McMakin’s Hot Cha Cha resided in his barn. That daughter of Cactus Ridge won the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth Challenge Cup (GI) over the Keeneland turf as a 3-year-old in 2009, and also took the Early Times Mint Julep (GIII) at Churchill Downs, Arlington Park’s Pucker Up (GIII) and the Bourbonette Oaks (GIII) at Turfway Park (GIII). Hot Cha Cha won six of 19 races and earned $998,552. She finished her racing career in 2010 with a close fifth-place finish to Shared Interest in the $2 million Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (GI) at Churchill Downs.
“We always liked (Don’t Tell Sophia) as a 2-year-old,” Sims said. “I said this filly is as good as or better than Hot Cha Cha. Even though she was a $1,000 purchase, she’s a nice big, strong filly and she always looked like that. She’s just nice and has a very good mind to her.
“I bought seven yearlings that year, and the one I paid $1,000 for I thought was the best of all of them. You never know.”
Entries for the Falls City were taken on Sunday.
QUIET DAY FOR CONTENDERS FOR KENTUCKY JOCKEY CLUB, GOLDEN ROD – Sub-freezing temperatures resulted in the cancellation of training on Sunday at Churchill Downs made for a quiet morning for 2-year-olds on the grounds being pointed toward the $150,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) and the $150,000-added Golden Rod.
Those 1 1/16-mile races will be the co-featured events on the “Stars of Tomorrow II” program devoted exclusively to 2-year-olds on Saturday, Nov. 30, the closing day of the Fall Meet.
Known probable starters for the 87th running of the $150,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (GII), (with trainers): Almost Famous (Pat Byrne), Awesome Sky (Mark Casse), Culprit (Dale Romans), Dobra Historia (Bill Mott) and Laddie Boy (Chuck Peery). Possible: All Cash (D. Wayne Lukas) Bro Rodrigeaux (Lukas), Financial Mogul (Rick Violette Jr.), and Ichiban Warrior (Todd Pletcher), Sheikinator (Ken McPeek).
The known probable starters the 70th running of the Golden Rod (with trainers) include: Bird Maker (Ian Wilkes), Canaryinacoalmine (Steve Margolis), Madly Truly (Mark Casse), Naïve Enough (Ignacio Correas IV), Playful Love (Wilkes), Stonetastic (Kelly Breen), Streethomealabama (Kenny McPeek) and Vexed (Al Stall Jr.). Possible: Daddy’s Memory (Cecil Borel), Room Service (Wayne Catalano) and Spangled Banner (Eoin Harty).
BARN TALK – Frigid conditions on Sunday morning prompted Churchill Downs officials to cancel training. Track Superintendent David Lehr’s team worked the track during that four-hour period to ensure that it would be ready for Sunday’s nine-race program, which was scheduled to start at 12:40 p.m. EST. Turf racing was cancelled on Sunday and the fourth and sevenths races, which had been scheduled for the Matt Winn Turf Course, were moved to the main track … Jockeys Joe Rocco Jr. (sore) and John McKee (pinched nerve) were both absent from the Churchill Downs jockeys room on Sunday as both continue to mend from recent injures. Both cancelled scheduled mounts on the day, with Rocco missing his sixth racing day since he was injured in a pre-race gate mishap last Sunday … Churchill Downs-based horses won both of the rich races for 2-year-olds on Saturday’s Delta Jackpot program at Louisiana’s Delta Downs. Paul and Andrena Van Doren’s Rise Up won the $1 million Delta Jackpot by six lengths for trainer Tom Amoss. Coastline, the Mark Casse-trained favorite and winner of Churchill Downs’ Street Sense overnight stakes, stumbled at the start and finished eighth. Robert Masterson’s Tepin, also trained by Casse, led a 1-2 Churchill Downs finish in the $500,000 Delta Princess for fillies when she defeated the Bret Calhoun-trained Bahnah in that one-mile race … Jockey Jon Court celebrated his 53rd birthday on Saturday with a victory aboard Patricia Blass’ Majestic Shoes in the first race. Court just missed winning the day’s feature, the $100,000-added River City Handicap (GIII). He rode Set the Sail, the runner-up to longshot Potomac River ($93.40) in the 1 1/8-mile turf race.