Game On Dude dominant in Classic trial
Report: USA, Saturday
Santa Anita: Awesome Again Stakes (formerly Goodwood) (Grade 1) 1m1f, dirt, 3yo+
GAME ON DUDE (Bob Baffert/Rafael Bejarano) looks set to start favourite for the Breeders' Cup Classic after an emphatic victory in the former Goodwood Stakes on a Santa Anita card dominated by his trainer and jockey, who teamed up for three Grade 1 victories.
The rechristened Awesome Again Stakes was won by a talented son of Awesome Again as the race made its debut under its new handle alongside four other Grade 1 events as Santa Anita hosted a dress rehearsal for the Breeders' Cup back at the track on November 2-3.
All five races had new names this year as Santa Anita severed its long-running ties with the charitable Oak Tree Racing Association, whose lease with the course ended in 2010.
As well as Game On Dude, Baffert and Bejarano landed a pair of runaway victories with the juveniles Executiveprivilege and Power Broker.
"With the performances today, we were really happy with all of them," Baffert said, speaking to the Blood-Horse. "Good preparation. Next month is when the real work starts. I'm just glad they all showed up today."
Bejarano recently acquired the plum ride on Game On Dude when the five-year-old's regular partner Chantal Sutherland was jocked off after dropping a rein in the Pacific Classic on the way to an odds-on defeat by Dullahan.
That race was on the Del Mar Polytrack, however, and Game On Dude prefers dirt, and he loves Santa Anita, where he hasn't been beaten in five starts on the main track - an encouraging statistic for his connections as they look forward to the Breeders' Cup Classic.
After tracking Winning Express, he led into the lane before justifying 3-10 favouritism with a three-and-a-quarter length victory over Nonios.
"My horse broke so fast from the gate that I let the other horse send a little bit to make sure I could hold my horse and put him in better position," reported Bejarano. "After that the race was done because he was much the best horse in the race."
Also on Saturday
Santa Anita: Chanderlier Stakes (formerly Oak Leaf) (Grade 1) 1m½f, dirt, 2yo fillies
A commanding victory for top two-year-old filly Executiveprivilege (Bob Baffert/Rafael Bejarano) smashed her rivals by more than six lengths as she made all for a winning debut on dirt, in the process stretching her unbeaten sequence to five.
Baffert was winning the race for the eighth time, while the winner was landing the second Grade 1 success of her short career after last month's Del Mar Debutante.
"She brought me to the lead easy and she was so relaxed," said Bejarano. "I think after this race she'll be ready for the Breeders' Cup. She's going to be tough."
Santa Anita: FrontRunner Stakes (formerly Norfolk) (Grade 1) 1m½f, dirt, 2yo
With speed playing well so far at Santa Anita, there was another Grade 1 winner for the Baffert and Bejarano as 5-1 shot Power Broker broke his maiden at the fourth attempt.
The switch to dirt from turf and all-weather competition clearly paid dividends as the son of Pulpit drew away to a six-and-a-half-length victory over 9-5 favourite Know More to give Baffert a record sixth winner in the race.
Santa Anita: Zenyatta Stakes (formerly Lady's Secret) (Grade 1) 1m½f, dirt,
Love And Pride (Todd Pletcher/Martin Garcia), who had beaten female champion Royal Delta on her previous start in the Personal Ensign, made it back-to-back Grade 1 triumphs as she shipped in from the east coast.
The four-year-old, who was allowed to set a modest pace, earned a fees-paid berth in the Ladies' Classic under the 'Win-and-You're In' programme after her 4-1 triumph over Joyful Victory.
Santa Anita: Rodeo Drive Stakes (formerly Yellow Ribbon) (Grade 1) 1m2f, turf, 3yo+ f/m
After just failing to catch I'm A Dreamer in the Beverly D, even-money favourite Marketing Mix (Tom Proctor/Garrett Gomez) got a Grade 1 success to call her own after closing from midpack to beat Nereid by more than two lengths.