Game On Dude (right): produced a career best in the Pacific ClassicPICTURE: Alex Evers/EquiSport Photos
Game On Dude smashes rivals in Pacific Classic
Report: USA, Sunday
Del Mar: Pacific Classic (Grade 1) 1m2f, AW, 3yo+
CALIFORNIA'S best horse Game On Dude (Bob Baffert/Martin Garcia) produced probably the best performance of an illustrious career on Sunday when he routed his Pacific Classic rivals for a record eight and a half length triumph in Del Mar's $1 million signature event.
British-trained Farraaj, a quietly fancied 7.2-1 chance, was never a factor, racing in mid-division before weakening back through the field in the stretch to beat only one home.
With Martin Garcia deputising for the injured Joel Rosario on Game On Dude, the 17-10 favourite was hustled to the lead from the 11-hole and proceeded to grind out fair fractions (24.19s 47.96s 1m12.61s) for the 1m2f trip.
A couple of his rivals, notably the top turf performers Jeranimo, sensed the pace was nothing like fast enough to fry the favourite but their challenges were short-lived and Game On Dude had plenty left for the stretch, where he drew away right away under slight urging to fill a notable hole on his cv.
As the popular six-year-old landed his seventh Grade 1 triumph, he also became only the second horse to win all three of southern California's most prestigious older-horse races - the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup and Pacific Classic - in the same year. Lava Man accomplished the feat in 2006.
San Diego Handicap winner Kettle Corn won the distant race for second place by a nose over You Know I Know, who was the same margin in front of fourth-placed Richard's Kid. Last year's winner Dullahan, who beat Game On Dude a half-length in 2012, was a disappointing eighth of 13.
Winning trainer Bob Baffert sensed Game On Dude was enjoying himself more on Del Mar's Polytrack surface, which had never before seen him in his best light.
"He has been working well and you could tell he's a different horse this year here," said Baffert, who had won the Pacific Classic three times before.
"He was just doing everything so smoothly. I loved the way he was in the paddock today. He wasn't too keen he was real relaxed. I ran the race in my mind and there was so much other speed. But at the end of the day, I told Martin: ‘You have the fastest horse so don't be afraid to get bold with him.'"
Also on Sunday
Del Mar: Del Mar Mile (Grade 2 hcap) 1m, turf, 3yo+
Breeders' Cup Mile third Obviously (Mike Mitchell/Joe Talamo) completed back-to-back successes here, leading all the way for a hard-earned victory in which he held off He Be Fire N Ice (receiving 8lb) by a half-length.
Del Mar: Pat O'Brien Hcap (Grade 2) 7f, AW, 3yo+
Odds-on favourite Goldencents was overhauled inside the final furlong by the rallying Fed Biz (Bob Baffert/Martin Garcia), who came with a late rush from well back. Sent off nearly a 7.8-1 chance, the four-year-old broke the track record for 7f with a time of 1m21.12s as he became his trainer's fifth successive winner in the $250,000 contest.