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Sep 28, 2012

Up the Backstretch: New rider to guide Game On Dude in Classic prep

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

(Sports Network) - It's a difficult time to make a change when a thoroughbred horse is preparing for the biggest race of his career. But that's just what trainer Bob Baffert has decided to do with his leading racehorse Game On Dude.

Baffert announced several weeks ago that there will be a new jockey aboard Game On Dude after the 5-year-old gelding finished second in the Pacific Classic on Aug. 26. The Hall of Fame trainer will give a leg up to Rafael Bejarano, who replaces Chantal Sutherland.

Bejarano will be aboard Game On Dude for Saturday's $250,000 Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita Park. Bejarano won an allowance race with the gelding at Santa Anita on Jan. 27 of last year.

Last year, Game On Dude and Sutherland teamed up to win the Awesome Again when it was known as the Goodwood Stakes. Bejarano had never won the Goodwood.

While the Awesome Again is a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" stakes, Game On Dude's victory in the Hollywood Gold Cup gave him a spot in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Saturday, Nov. 3.

Game On Dude likes to be on or near the lead. Thus breaking from the rail on Saturday will be an advantage for the gelding. Nearly four months ago in the Californian at Hollywood Park on June 2, the gelding walloped three challengers by 7 1/2 lengths after breaking from the inside post.

Owned by Joe Torre's Diamond Pride, Lanni Family Trust and Bernard Schiappa, the 5-year-old will have eight rivals trying to prevent him from garnering a ninth career win and surpassing the $3 million mark in lifetime earnings.

Former Baffert trainee Richard's Kid appears to be Game On Dude's main competition in the Awesome Again. Now trained by Doug O'Neill, Richard's Kid will break from post seven with Garrett Gomez in the saddle.

The 7-year-old, acquired recently by Triple B Farms and Westside Rentals, won the Goodwood two years ago before being sent to Dubai for five less-than- spectacular efforts.

Richard's Kid was third in the Pacific Classic behind Dullahan and Game On Dude, a race he won in 2009 and 2010. The 7-year-old has earned $2.1 million in 36 starts with 11 victories.

Here is the complete field for the Awesome Again in post position order: Game On Dude, Rafael Bejarano; Winning Machine, Javier Matias; Nonios, Martin Pedroza; Groovin' Solo, David Flores; Suggestive Boy, Joe Talamo; Empire Way, Brice Blanc; Richard's Kid, Garrett Gomez; Balladry, Victor Espinoza; and Rail Trip, Jose Valdivia Jr.

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