Game On Dude is reported to be doing well following his disappointing run in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade I) and trainer Bob Baffert said Wednesday that it was “all systems go” for a journey by his veteran to Churchill Downs for the $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) on Friday, Nov. 29.
Baffert said the only issue that could derail plans for Game On Dude’s cross-country journey would be a disagreeable Clark Handicap weight assignment for the 6-year-old Awesome Again gelding.
Weight assignments the 19 3-year-olds and up that were nominated to the 140th running of the Clark are scheduled to be announced on Friday, Nov. 22.
"The weight is a factor,” Baffert said. “He’s coming off a loss, so I guess he’ll get some consideration.”
Game On Dude finished ninth as the favorite behind Mucho Macho Man and expected Clark rival Will Take Charge, who were separated by a nose in the Nov. 2 race at Santa Anita. Prior to that performance he had reeled off six consecutive wins dating to a seventh-place finish to Fort Larned in the 2012 Classic, which was also run at Santa Anita.
The winning streak included Grade I triumphs in the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup and Pacific Classic.
Game on Dude carried a career-high 127 pounds in the Gold Cup.
Owned by Diamond Pride LLC, the Lanni Family Trust, Mercedes Stable LLC and Bernard Schiappa, Game On Dude’s career record stands at 28-15-5-1 with earnings of $5,602,138 heading into the Clark.
Baffort’s star has run twice at Churchill Downs. He was runner-up to Drosselmeyer in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic and ran fifth to Hurricane Ike as a 3-year-old in the 2010 renewal of Derby Trial (GIII).
Game on Dude returned to serious training following the Breeders’ Cup on Sunday, Nov. 17. He worked six furlongs in 1:12.60 at Santa Anita, move that was the fastest of nine on the day.
“He’s doing really well,” Baffert said, “so right now all systems are go.”
Baffert indicated that Game On Dude would have one more pre-Clark work this weekend. He will ship to Kentucky next Wednesday.
A victory by Game On Dude would be Baffert’s third in the Clark. He won the race in 1998 when Robert and Beverly Lewis’ Silver Charm, winner of the 1997 Kentucky Derby, became the first Derby winner since Calumet Farm’s Whirlaway to take both races. Whirlaway won the Derby and Triple Crown in 1941 and returned to take the Clark the following year.
Baffert also won the race in 1996 with Terry Henn and Mike Pegram’s Isitingood, his first starter in the Clark.
He saddled Misremembered in the 2009 Clark and lost by a head to Blame, who would win the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2010. Other Baffert runners in the Clark have included Tribunal, who finished 10th and last in the 2001 renewal; During, who finished 12th in 2003; and Prayer for Relief, who was trained by Baffert when he ran ninth in the 2011 Clark won by Wise Dan, who would earn “Horse of the Year” honors the following year.
WISE DAN TO BE PARADED AT CHURCHILL DOWNS ON NOV. 30 – Reining Horse of the Year Wise Dan, a leading contender to repeat that honor after a second straight win in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI), will be paraded in the paddock at Churchill Downs on closing day, Saturday, Nov. 30.
Trainer Charlie LoPresti will van Wise Dan from his Keeneland barn in Lexington to Churchill Downs so that area fans can show their appreciation to the 6-year-old gelding. The special appearance is likely to occur between Races 3 and 4 around 1:15-1:45 p.m. ET.
Wise Dan, owned and bred by Mort Fink, won six of his seven starts this year, including a pair of stakes at Churchill Downs: the $546,400 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI) on Kentucky Derby Day and the $168,450 Firecracker Handicap (GII) in late June.
His three-quarters of a length victory over Za Approval in the $1,840,000 Mile at Santa Anita on Nov. 2 improved his overall record to 19 wins in 27 starts. His $6,293,610 career bankroll ranks 22nd on the North American all-time earnings list.
Wise Dan, a six-time winner at Churchill Downs dating back to 2010, ranks third on the most current “Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings” – behind Black Caviar-AUS and Treve-FR – which ranks 3-year-olds and up that raced between Jan. 1 and Oct. 6.
WORK TAB HEAVY WITH CANDIDATES FOR THANKSGIVING WEEKEND STAKES RACES – The Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday work tabs at Churchill Downs were dotted with contenders for the four stakes races that will be run during the three-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend that will close out the Fall Meet.
Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) – Zayat Stable LLC’s multiple graded stakes winner Prayer for Relief prepped for an expected run in the 1 1/8-mile Clark with a six-furlong breeze in 1:12.80 over a good track on Monday. The Steve Asmussen-trained veteran finished fifth to Fort Larned in his most recent outing in Churchill Downs’ Homecoming Classic.
Neck ‘n Neck breezed five furlongs in 1:01 on Tuesday for trainer Ian Wilkes. Wilkes had been pointing A. Stevens Miles’ homebred son of Flower Alley toward the Clark, but is now considered unlikely for the race because Wilkes was unable to find a prep race for the colt. Neck ‘n Neck has had only one race since he was injured last November at Churchill Downs while training for the 2012 Clark.
Voodoo Storm, nominated to the Clark after an easy win in the Mountaineer Mile, breezed a half-mile on Tuesday in :48.80 for trainer Tim Glyshaw.
Suns Out Guns Out, fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon (GII) last time out and nominated to the Clark by trainer Dale Romans, breezed four furlongs on Wednesday in :48.20.
Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) – Dobra Historia, runner-up to KJC contender Almost Famous in a recent Churchill Downs allowance race, breezed four furlongs in :48.80 on Tuesday for trainer Bill Mott. Also working for Mott was Churchill Downs’ maiden winner Matuszak, who breezed a half-mile in :49.40.
Bump Start, who dead-heated for third behind Almost Famous, breezed four furlongs in :49.40 for trainer Kellyn Gorder on Wednesday.
Ron Winchell’s Tapiture, third in the Iroquois (GIII) for trainer Steve Asmussen, breezed six furlongs in 1:12 over a fast surface on Monday.
Golden Rod (GII) -- Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Vexed, runner-up in Churchill Downs’ Rags to Riches, breezed five furlongs in 1:02.60 for trainer Al Stall Jr. on Tuesday.
Trainer Ian Wilkes breezed his pair of Golden Rod candidates on Tuesday. Playful Love worked five furlongs in 1:02.60 and Bird Maker breezed a half-mile in :49.80. Both are considered likely for the 1 1/16-mile Golden Rod.
HORSES & HOPE RETURNS SUNDAY – “Horses and Hope,” the initiative created in 2008 by Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear with the Kentucky Cancer Program and the Pink Stable, will return on Sunday (Nov. 24). The mission is to increase breast cancer awareness, education, screening and treatment referral among Kentucky’s horse industry workers and their families. The color of pink will be scattered throughout Churchill Downs that day, including saddle towels for a featured race, jockey arm bands, groom’s vests, outriders, the bugler, flags, bunting and trophies for winning horse owners. To help celebrate, Churchill Downs’ world famous Twin Spires will be bathed in pink light, as well. Also, the 2014 Kentucky Oaks Lily glasses will debut that day.
BARN TALK – Belated birthday wishes to trainer Steve Asmussen, who celebrated his 48th birthday Monday, and jockey Ricardo Santana Jr., who turned 21 on Tuesday … Jockeys Leandro Goncalves, Brian Hernandez Jr. and Rosie Napravnik are booked to ride mounts on Friday’s opening day card at Fair Grounds … Robby Albarado, Shaun Bridgmohan and Miguel Mena will be at Delta Downs on Saturday for stakes riding engagements … Reserved indoor premium seating at Churchill Downs is going fast for closing weekend. Thanksgiving Day is nearly sold out. Some $37.50 seats with Chef’s Table dining in Skye Terrace 6 and the Winn Show Place Lounge on the second floor clubhouse remain for Friday, Nov. 29. Inventory is still available for Saturday, Nov. 30, which doubles as Stars of Tomorrow II and Closing Day … A reminder: Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager will be held Wednesday, Nov. 27 through Saturday, Nov. 30. The 23 individual wagering interests will be announced Monday (Nov. 25). The pool will open Nov. 27 at noon and close Nov. 30 prior to post time for either the Remsen at Aqueduct or Kentucky Jockey Club, whichever comes first … Sunday’s final Family Fun Day Presented by Kroger of the Fall Meet will feature a petting zoo, pony-pulled sleigh rides and a special appearance by Santa Claus. Kiddos also can decorate holiday ornaments. The activities will take place in the Plaza and Plaza Balcony from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
WORK TAB (Track: FAST) – Golden Soul, runner-up in the 2013 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI), breezed four furlongs in :48.80 for trainer Dallas Stewart … Charles Cella’s Cyber Secret, winner of the Oaklawn Handicap (GII), breezed four furlongs on Tuesday for trainer Lynn Whiting … Cathy and Bob Zollars’ Daddy Nose Best breezed four furlongs on Tuesday in :50 for trainer Steve Asmussen. The 4-year-old son of Scat Daddy, who finished 10th in the 2012 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI), will run in Saturday’s $100,000-added River City Handicap (GIII) on the Matt Winn Turf Course … Calumet Farm’s Skyring, winner of the 2012 Dixie (GII) at Pimlico and 10th in the recent Breeders’ Cup Turf (GI), breezed five furlongs on Tuesday in 1:03.80 for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Skyring also is bound for the River City … River City contender Coalport breezed a half-mile on Tuesday for trainer Wayne Catalano in :49.80 … Trainer Charlie LoPresti worked his pair of expected River City contenders over Keeneland’s Polytrack surface on Tuesday. Villandry breezed a half-mile in :48.40 and Set the Sail covered the same distance in :48.60 … Dogwood (GIII) winner Sky Girl breezed five furlongs on Tuesday in 1:02 for trainer Bill Mott … Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Teardrop, who has not raced since a seventh-place finish in the Debutante, breezed five furlongs on Monday in 1:00.60. The move for the Steve Asmussen-trained daughter of Tapit was the fastest of 21 at the distance.