SAN ANTONIO STAKES | PURSE: $200,000 | GRADE 2 | 4-YEAR-OLDS AND UP | 1 1/8-MILES
ARCADIA, Calif. -- Game On Dude took a little longer than expected to start his 2012 campaign, breaking flat-footed when the gate opened for the Grade 2, $200,000 San Antonio Stakes on Sunday at Santa Anita, but he quickly made up for lost time by overpowering his four opponents while rolling to an impressive, 5 1/4-length victory.
Game On Dude, making his first start since the Breeders' Cup Classic, rolls to a 5 1/4-length win under Chantal Sutherland in the Grade 2 San Antonio.
"My heart went right in my throat," winning jockey Chantal Sutherland said of the tardy start. "I could see all the other heads looking, 'Where'd she go?' "
Game On Dude ($2.60), the heavy favorite, knifed his way to second after a quarter-mile, tugged his way to the lead after a half-mile, and, despite blistering fractions, kept on motoring, then galloped out powerfully.
"He was so strong," Sutherland said. "He had a lot left."
Uh Oh Bango rallied for second, 12 1/4 lengths in front of third-place Victory Pete. Skipshot, who had the lead for the first quarter-mile, and El Gato Malo completed the order of finish. Ashtar was scratched Sunday morning, and Tres Borrachos was scratched on Saturday.
Game On Dude completed 1 1/8 miles on the fast main track in 1:46.88 after splits of 45.91 seconds for a half-mile, 1:09.12 for six furlongs, and 1:33.91 for a mile. The race was his first since a second-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic, and puts him in position to defend his title next month in the Santa Anita Handicap.
Sutherland visited with trainer Bob Baffert on Sunday morning, and Baffert warned her Game On Dude might not break sharply.
"I told her if he doesn't break, don't go into panic mode," Baffert said. "She rode a good race. She didn't panic."
Baffert trains Game On Dude for a partnership that includes Bernie Schiappa, Ernie Moody, the Lanni Family Trust, and the Diamond Pride Stable of Joe Torre, who was watching Game On Dude race in person for the first time.
Game On Dude, 5, a gelding by Awesome Again, has now won 6 times in 15 starts. In addition to the Santa Anita Handicap, he won the Goodwood Stakes last year, and missed by a nose in the Hollywood Gold Cup.