Game On Dude: won eighth Grade 1 with Big 'Cap victoryPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Game On Dude back to brilliance in Big 'Cap
Report: USA, Saturday
Santa Anita: Santa Anita Hcap (Grade 1) 1m2f, dirt, 4yo+
GAME ON DUDE (Bob Baffert/Mike Smith) earned a place in US racing history when he led all the way to become the first horse ever to win the storied Santa Anita Handicap three times.
In an impressive display, the seven-year-old comprehensively turned the tables on those who had thrashed him over course and distance in the Breeders' Cup Classic as he scored by a length and three-quarters over Will Takes Charge. Classic winner Mucho Macho Man, the 6-5 favourite, faded to fourth behind Blingo, himself eight lengths adrift of the runner-up.
Sent off at 3.8-1, Game On Dude stopped the clock in a lightning-fast time of 1m58.17s which was a stakes record time, eclipsing the 1m58.60s set by Affirmed in 1979, and just off the track record of 1m57.80s.
He recorded the eighth Grade 1 success of a career also featuring wins in 2011 and 2013 in this celebrated contest known colloquially as the Big 'Cap.
"It was exciting - I was in awe of the horse watching him come down the stretch," said winning trainer Bob Baffert. "What an amazing animal!"
Jockey Mike Smith added: "He was on his toes today, he was on fire. He's like that when he runs well. He ran big; I just had that feeling that he was going to. Down the backside he was happy, he was cruisin', he was well within himself. He was throwing numbers, I knew we were going fast."
Mucho Macho Man's trainer Kathy Ritvo was at a loss to explain the below-par performance of the five-year-old, and said the result will: "take time to figure out."
Also on Saturday
Santa Anita: Kilroe Mile (Grade 1) 1m, turf, 4yo+
After being sent to the lead from the gate, former Argentine champ Winning Prize (Neil Drysdale/Corey Nakatani) had enough left in reserve to outfinish recent Grade 1 winner Lochte in the final furlong.
Returned a 38-10 chance, the four-year-old was scoring for the fourth time at the top level, having won three Grade 1s in his native Argentina before being switched to California.
Santa Anita: San Felipe Stakes (Grade 2) 1m½f, dirt, 3yo
The 7-5 favourite California Chrome (Art Sherman/Victor Espinoza) dazzled with a spectacular wire-to-wire romp in this $300,000 Kentucky Derby trial, powering clear in the stretch to score by more than seven lengths over Midnight Hawk. The Santa Anita Derby on April 5 beckons.
Santa Anita: San Carlos Stakes (Grade 2) 7f, dirt, 4yo+
Met Mile winner Sahara Sky (Jerry Holldendorfer/Joel Rosario) rocketed from last to first from behind a wall of horses at the top of the stretch to complete back-to-back successes.
Gulfstream Park: Gulfstream Park Hcap (Grade 2) 1m, dirt, 4yo+
A really game effort from Belmont Stakes victor Palace Malice (Todd Pletcher/John Velazquez), running for the first time since finishing sixth in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Having challenged three wide on the far turn, the four-year-old was all out to fend off Golden Ticket and Uncaptured in a driving finish.
Tampa Bay Downs: Tampa Bay Derby (Grade 2) 1m½f, dirt, 3yo
Local knowledge counted for plenty here as Daniel Centeno, five-time leading rider at Tampa Bay, stole the track's biggest race on maiden winner Ring Weekend (Graham Motion).
The surprise 14-1 winner was sent straight to the front and established a huge advantage down the back stretch that his opponents never looked likely to retrieve. He won by three over Vinceremos.
Tampa Bay Downs: Hillsborough Stakes (Grade 3) 1m1f, turf, 4yo+ f/m
After being sent off 6-5 favourite, Ribblesdale Stakes winner Riposte did not get going until too late and could take only third in a race that developed into a sprint as Cloud Scapes (Graham Motion/Erick Rodriguez) completed a Tampa hat-trick.
>>Royal Ascot target Bobby's Kitten (Chad Brown/Javier Castellano) was untroubled to land a 1m turf allowance event at odds of 2-5 on his seasonal debut earlier at Tampa.