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Game on Dude Set for Saturday’s Awesome Again Stakes

game on dude
Game On Dude hasn’t disappointed Bob Baffert often since he took over as trainer of the 5-year-old gelding two years ago.

Game On Dude has lost a few races in that span, but overall, he’s been a consistent money winner against world-class competition, winning eight of 19 career starts, six of them stakes.

Baffert hopes Game On Dude maintains his perfect record at Santa Anita on Saturday when he heads the inaugural running of the Awesome Again Stakes, formerly the Goodwood Stakes, at 1 1/8 miles on the main track.

Game On Dude, winner of the 2011 Goodwood, the 2011 Santa Anita Handicap and the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes, worked six furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Sunday in 1:13.20 under new rider Rafael Bejarano. He takes over for Chantal Sutherland, who had ridden Game On Dude in his last 10 starts and 11 times overall.

“He went nice,” Baffert said of Sunday’s workout on a refreshingly cooler morning Tuesday than Southern California has experienced in the past six weeks. “He worked really well.”

Owned by Bernie Schiappa, Joe Torre’s Diamond Pride LLC and the Lanni Family Trust, Game On Dude has earned more than $2.8 million in his career.

“We gave a lot of money for a gelding, and I think we bought him a week before the Florida Derby,” Baffert said. “This year, he’s really filled out. He’s a stronger horse.”

Joe Ferrer, agent for Bejarano, understandably is happy to be back on Game On Dude, and looking forward to even greater business with the move of main rival Joel Rosario to the East Coast, but not without a caveat.

“The more business you have, the more work there is,” Ferrer said. “Rosario leaving helps guys more down the line. It helps everybody, but more so guys like (Joe) Talamo and (Garrett) Gomez. We’ve got some decent horses to ride in stakes, and Baffert’s got 160 head of runners, so that helps a lot.”

The Awesome Again is one of five Grade 1, “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge Races to be decided on Saturday, second day of Santa Anita’s 24-day Breeders’ Cup World Championship meet that ends Nov. 4.

–Santa Anita Park Publicity contributed to this report.

Game on Dude/Benoit photo