Game On Dude and jockey Chantal Sutherland headline today’s Californian Stakes (G2) at Betfair Hollywood Park.
The horse and rider make their first start back since a forgettable trip to the United Arab Emirates for the Dubai World Cup in March. The Californian is the final major prep for the Grade 1, $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup July 7.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert for a partnership that includes Joe Torre’s Diamond Price LLC, Lanni Family Trust and Bernie Schiappa, Game On Dude finished 12th of 13 in the $10 million Dubai World Cup March 31 at Meydan Race Course.
The subpar performance – he finished 20 ½ lengths behind winner Monterosso – came only days after Baffert had suffered a heart attack. A 5-year-old gelded son of Awesome Again and the Devil His Due mare Worldly Pleasure, Game On Dude has won six of 16 and earned $2,254,658.
The Californian will be Game On Dude’s second race at Betfair Hollywood Park. He was second – beaten by a nose – by stablemate First Dude in the 2011 Gold Cup while finishing a neck in front of favored Twirling Candy.
The primary threat to Game On Dude in the Californian is Morning Line. A 5-year-old Tiznow horse out of the A.P. Indy mare Indian Snow, Morning Line was successful in his California debut for trainer John Shirreffs, wiring the field in the Grade 2 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap May 5.
Owned by Will Farish, Dixiana Stables and Thoroughbred Legends Racing Stable, Morning Line had been away for nine months prior to defeating Prayer for Relief and seven others in the LeRoy. The Kentucky bred has won five of 13 and earned $1,212,300. Morning Line could become the third horse in nine years to win both the LeRoy and Californian, joining Even the Score (2004) and Rail Trip (2010).
Baffert, who has never won this race, will also be represented by the aforementioned Prayer for Relief. Owned by Ahmed Zayat, the 4-year-old Jump Start colt out of the Mr. Sparkles mare Sparklin Lil has won five of 14 and banked $1,087,225.
–Hollywood Park Publicity contributed to this report.
Game on Dude and Chantal Sutherland/Watkins photo courtesy of Dubai Racing Club