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Mar 14, 2014

Game On Dude wins third Santa Anita Handicap


Arcadia, CA ( - Game On Dude was his old self again Saturday as the gelding captured his second consecutive and third overall $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap over Eclipse Award winner Will Take Charge.

Breeders' Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man was the 6-5 favorite in the eight-horse field for the 1 1/4-mile race. Will Take Charge, second in last year's Classic, was the 3-2 second pick and Game On Dude went off as the 7-2 third choice.

Trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Mike Smith, Game On Dude quickly took the lead out of the gate as the field went under the wire for the first time.

Coming along to pressure the defending winner was 20-1 longshot Hear the Ghost. Mucho Macho Man was third with Will Take Charge fourth as the field went up the backstretch.

Game On Dude, partly owned by Joe Torre, continued to set the pace as the field entered the far turn. Mucho Macho Man, ridden by Gary Stevens, advanced into second with Will Take Charge and jockey Luis Saez coming into third from the outside.

Coming out of the final turn Game On Dude had a short lead over Will Take Charge with Mucho Macho Man dropping off the pace. Entering the stretch it appeared that Will Take Charge was primed to overtake the leader, but Game On Dude found something a little more at the top of the lane.

Game On Dude pulled away from Will Take Charge and posted a 1 3/4-length victory over the Breeders' Cup runner-up. Blingo, who defeated Game On Dude in last month's San Antonio, finished third followed by Mucho Macho Man.

"To me, it's an emotional win for the horse," Baffert said. "It kills me when they knock on him, but we came in here quiet and that's the way I like to come in. We came in under the radar and we were ready for them."

Completing the order of finish were Hear the Ghost, Rousing Sermon, Imperative and American Blend.

The time for the 77th Big 'Cap was 1:58.17 on a fast track.

"I knew they would have to be better than him today to beat him," Smith said. "Like I've said before, when he shows up he can run with anybody in the world. We may throw in a dud every now and then but he makes up for it."

Game On Dude won for the first time since claiming the Pacific Classic at Del Mar in August. The gelding's third Big 'Cap victory was worth $450,000 sending him over the $6 million mark in career earnings.

The 7-year-old won last year's race by 7 3/4 lengths two years after winning his first Big 'Cap. Game On Dude is the first horse to win the Santa Anita Handicap three times

Game On Dude, winner of 16 of 31 lifetime starts, was on a three-race losing streak. He finished ninth to Mucho Macho Man in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic as the 17-10 favorite and was a head back in second to Will Take Charge in November's Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs. The gelding began his 2014 season with a fifth in the San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita.

Game On Dude paid $9.60, $3.60 and $3.60. Will Take Charge returned $3.00 and $2.60, and Blingo paid $5.40 to show.

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