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Monday, March 10, 2014

Weekend Stakes - Game On Dude, Palace Malice, And More

So there certainly appears to be ample life in the old boy Game On Dude. He was dismissed at odds of 7-2 in the Santa Anita Handicap....and dismissed is certainly the correct way to describe those odds.  Baffert's seven-year old gelding had not gone off at odds higher than 8-5 since the 2011 Breeders' Cup Classic, when he finished second to Drosselmeyer at 14-1. He had a three-race losing streak coming into the race - his first since the fall of 2011 - and his 5th place finish in his seasonal debut didn't inspire much confidence.  Nor did the fact that he finished some 11 lengths behind Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge over the same track, and at the same distance, in the Classic just a little over four months prior.

But on Saturday, Game On Dude did not have to deal early on with the speedy likes of Moreno and Fort Larned as he did on that Breeders' Cup day.  Other than a futile early charge by Hear the Ghost, which fizzled out when that one went wide on the turn, Mike Smith pretty much had things his own way.  I think that his third and fourth quarter splits were the decisive ones here.

Screen Shot 2014-03-10 at 10.50.52 AM

That split of 24 seconds flat represented a nice breather on the backstretch. Then, when Will Take Charge and Mucho Macho Man were trying to close ground around the turn to the quarter pole, he was able to pick up the pace to 23.18, forcing the others to respond in kind, and effectively bottoming them out.  Even as Game On Dude tired to a final quarter of 25.60, only Will Take Charge - bless his little equine heart - was able to make it respectable with his usual honest and gallant effort.  The runner-up's speed figure was upgraded a point from a raw final time number of 124.  As we know, that upgrade is based on pace, but I'd give him an extra point just for trying hard.

Game on Dude earned the top speed figure of 2014 with his 127, and it was his best dirt figure since the 132 he got for winning this race last year.

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