But it is multiple Grade 1 winner Game On Dude who remains the anchor of Sutherland’s professional life.
The Awesome Again gelding’s victory in the 2011 Santa Anita Handicap made Sutherland the first female rider to win the prestigious event, a milestone she hopes to duplicate in the upcoming Grade 1, $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup, which will be run for the 73rd time Saturday, July 7.
Sutherland has now ridden Game On Dude eight times and has four victories and two seconds. His only poor effort was in the Dubai World Cup March 31st, where the 5-year-old finished 12th of 13.
“There were a couple of things about Dubai,” Sutherland told Hollywood Park Publicity. “I think the humidity had a lot to do with his poor performance. As a runner, I know that when you go from a climate like we have here and try to jog where there’s a lot of humidity, you sweat so much more. The electrolytes and everything are different. It takes them a while to adjust. It’s a lot easier on them when they come back to this kind of environment.”
Game On Dude worked five furlongs in :58 3/5 seconds June 18 and: 59 4/5 June 25, both at Santa Anita, following an eye-catching 7 ¼-length victory in the Grade 2 Californian June 2.
“I haven’t worked him,” Sutherland continued, “but I get reports on how he’s doing. I get to ride him, and that’s the fun part. I genuinely love this horse. He recognizes me and he’s like having a dog that wants to please you. He’s a very sensitive horse. When I go to ride him, the first part of the race I stay quiet. When I get to the quarter pole or have to make a move, he pins his ears, puts his head down and he just knows. I just think go and he goes.
“His last race (Californian) was so easy. I think I raised my stick and put it in my left hand, but that’s all I did.
Her praise for Bob Baffert is heartfelt and her assessment comes from carefully observing the trainer.
“Bob’s an amazing trainer and he’s very particular with what he wants,’’ she said. “He likes to stick to one or two jockeys. They get to know his system. He just wants you to ride a certain way and do things within his system. He had Martin (Garcia) and Martin’s gone now. Rafael (Bejarano) is in there now. I’ve been working horses all week at his barn. Will it come to fruition that I’ll ride more for him? I don’t know and I could never be so presumptuous. Of course, I’d love to. I’d work every day at his barn if that’s what he wanted.”
When she returned from Dubai, Sutherland changed agents from Brian Beach to Tommy Ball. “I already knew that I would be making a change before I left,” explained the rider. I like Brian, but sometimes it works and sometimes there’s just no chemistry.”
Sutherland’s romance with Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith was chronicled on the Animal Planet series “Jockeys.” The two have been apart for a couple of years and the 36-year-old married Dan Kruse March 21.
“We’re not planning to have children,” Sutherland said. “If I did, I would definitely have to stop racing. Dan has two daughters, Mandy and Dani. They’re 18 and 21. They come and they go and I kind of enjoy it. That’s enough work for me.”
–Hollywood Park Publicity contributed to this report.
Chantal Sutherland aboard Game on Dude/Benoit photo