Game On Dude, who won the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup July 7, will try for his third win in four local starts in the $250,000 Native Diver Stakes Saturday at Betfair Hollywood Park.
Owned by Joe Torre’s Diamond Pride LLC, Lanni Family Trust, Ernie Moody’s Mercedes Stable LLC and Bernie Schiappa and trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Game On Dude will be trying to rebound from a subpar performance in the Breeders’ Cup Classic Nov. 3 at Santa Anita. The 13-10 favorite in the Grade 1, Game On Dude lost position early after an eventful start and never threatened, finishing seventh, 15 lengths behind upset winner Fort Larned.
A winner of nine of 21 with earnings of $2,994,658, the 5-year-old Awesome Again gelding out of the Devil His Due mare Worldly Pleasure could become the sixth horse to win both the Gold Cup and the Native Diver. Mast Track was the last to accomplish the double, winning the 2008 Gold Cup and the Native Diver some 17 months later.
Hall of Famer Mike Smith will become the third different rider for Game On Dude in a span of four races. He replaces Rafael Bejarano, who took over for the now-retired Chantal Sutherland.
A win by Game On Dude would be the second in the race for Baffert, who has an Autumn meet leading three stakes victories. General Challenge scored for the trainer in 1999.
Second behind Game On Dude in the Gold Cup when still trained by Baffert, Richard’s Kid will be seeking his first win in his fourth start since joining the Doug O’Neill stable. Owned by a partnership that includes Dave Kenney, Triple B Farms and Westside Rentals.com, Richard’s Kid finished fifth in the BC Classic, seven lengths in front of Game On Dude.
A 7-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid out of the Broad Brush mare Tough Broad, Richard’s Kid has won 11 of 38 and banked $2,286,385. He’s won twice in four races over Cushion Track. A victory by Richard’s Kid would be the third for O’Neill in the Native Diver. He won with Sky Jack (2000) and Slew’s Tizzy (2008).
Defending champion Kettle Corn will aim for his second win of the meet when he returns to the main track for owner Lee and Susan Searing’s C R K Stable and trainer John Sadler.
A winner by a neck as the even-money favorite in a $57,008 allowance on turf Nov. 8, Kettle Corn will try to become the first two time winner of the Native Diver.
Never worse than third in five races over Cushion Track, Kettle Corn, a 5-year-old Candy Ride horse out of the Lil E. Tee mare Somethingbeautiful, has won seven of 19 and banked $364,111.
The last trainer to go back-to-back in the Native Diver was Hall of Famer Richard Mandella, who won three in a row – Gentlemen (1996), Refinado Tom (1997) and Puerto Madero (1998).
From inside out, the field for the 34th Native Diver Stakes: Game On Dude, Mike Smith rides, 124 pounds; Richard’s Kid, Rafael Bejarano, 119; Make Music for Me, Tyler Baze, 117; Nonios, Martin Pedroza, 119 and Kettle Corn, Garrett Gomez, 119.
Game on Dude/Benoit photo