Ron The Greek (right): landed the Big 'Cap at Santa Anita last yearPICTURE: Wendy Wooley/EquiSport Photos
Dude and Greek in
big clash for Big 'Cap
Preview: USA, Saturday 12.30am (Sun) GMT
Santa Anita: Santa Anita Hcap (Grade 1) 1m2f, dirt, 4yo+
GAME ON DUDE and Ron The Greek, the two most recent winners of the Santa Anita Handicap, go head-to-head in Saturday's running of the celebrated California contest.
The $750,000 event known to all and sundry as the Big 'Cap has long been one of the jewels of the US calendar and the 2013 running features the sort of high-profile clash for which the race was inaugurated in the 1930s.
The front-running Game On Dude (Bob Baffert/Mike Smith), who won the Big 'Cap in 2011, shoulders top-weight after a comprehensive victory on his seasonal debut here in Grade 2 company last month. So disappointing as favourite in the Breeders' Cup Classic, the six-year-old is looking for the fifth Grade 1 triumph of his career.
Game On Dude didn't run in last year's Big 'Cap as he went instead to Dubai, leaving the way clear for Ron The Greek (Bill Mott/Jose Lezcano) to record a come-from-behind victory by more than three lengths.
Like Game On Dude, who gives him 3lb, Ron The Greek is a six-year-old and comes here after a runaway victory on his seasonal debut at Gulfstream. This stone closer will need a strong pace to shoot at in a clash of running styles compared to the favourite, sure to be on the front end according to his trainer.
"I'll put it this way, there'll be no rating tactics with him," said Baffert. "He needs to rock and roll. He likes to run like that."
Ron The Greek breaks from the inner in a race where those most likely to trrouble the top two are headed by Strub Stakes victor Guilt Trip (Bob Baffert/Joe Talamo) and Called To Serve (Julio Canani/Gary Stevens), who is on a hat-trick.
Strub runner-up Stephanoatsee (Graham Motion/Julien Leparoux) will appreciate this step up in distance and gets 9lb from Game On Dude.
Santa Anita Hcap
Ladbrokes: 5-4 Game On Dude, 3 Ron The Greek, 7 Called To Serve, Guilt Trip, 12 Stephanoatsee, 16 Richard's Kid, 25 bar
Coral: 6-5 Game On Dude, 3 Ron The Greek, 8 Called To Serve, Guilt Trip, 10 Richard's Kid, Stephanoatsee, 20 Handsome Mike, 25
Also on Saturday
Aqueduct: Gotham Stakes (Grade 3) 1m½f, dirt, 3yo (10.02pm GMT, live on ATR)
A $400,000 prize for what is only a Grade 3 event shows how significant this New York trial can be.
Mike Repole's Overanalyze (Todd Pletcher/John Velazquez) has been done few favours with the outside gate of 12 around this tight inner circuit as he attempts to stamp Kentucky Derby potential following victories in a couple of major juvenile races last autumn.
On his seasonal debut, he gives away 7lb to all his rivals apart from Jerome Stakes victor Vyjack (Rudy Rodriguez/Joel Rosario).
Kiaran McLaughin saddles three, including both Transparent (Irad Ortiz) and Now And Then (Junior Alvarado) for Darley. Expect a switch to Godolphin if either reveals Classic potential. Stablemate Elnaawi (Channing Hill) carries the Shadwell silks.
Ladbrokes: 2 Overanalyze, 4 Vyjack, 6 Elnaawi, 8 Escapefromreality, 10 Now And Then, 12 Transparent, Sky Captain, 16 bar
Santa Anita: Las Virgenes Stakes (Grade 1) 1m, dirt, 3yo fillies 10.30pm GMT)
A major Kentucky Oaks trial in which last year's champion two-year-old filly Beholder (Richard Mandella/Garrett Gomez) bids for revenge against Renee's Titan (Doug O'Neill/Tyler Baze), who lowered her colours last month in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez.