BAFFERT & HOLLENDORFER RENEW RIVALRY AT 1 1/8 MILES IN IMPORTANT BIG ‘CAP PREP
ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 5, 2014)–Considered one of the top older horses in the world, two-time Santa Anita Handicap winner Game On Dude heads a field of seven in Saturday’s Grade II, $300,000 San Antonio Stakes, to be run at 1 1/8 miles. Trained by Bob Baffert, Game On Dude’s primary rival would appear to be Jerry Hollendorfer’s front-running Blueskiesnrainbows, who comes off a pair of impressive graded stakes scores.
A well-beaten ninth as the 8-5 favorite in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Nov. 2, Game On Dude got a measure of redemption in running a gut-wrenching second to eventual 3-year-old Eclipse Award Champion Will Take Charge in the Grade I Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs Nov. 29.
A front-running sort himself, Game On Dude will no doubt have Blueskiesnrainbows to deal with if he is to win the San Antonio, a time-honored prep to the Grade I, mile and a quarter Santa Anita Handicap on March 8.
Owned by Joe Torre’s Diamond Pride Stable, LLC, the Lanni Family Trust, Mercedes Stable and Bernard Schiappa, Game On Dude has seven wins and two seconds at 1 1/8 miles and has amassed a remarkable overall record of 29-15-6-1–good for earnings of $5,707,893.
Including last year’s San Antonio, the 7-year-old Awesome Again gelding rattled off a total of five consecutive stakes wins in 2013: The Santa Anita Handicap, the Grade II Charles Town Classic, the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup and the Grade I Pacific Classic. His wins in the Big ‘Cap and the Pacific Classic were both by record margins–leaving soon-to-be Baseball Hall of Famer Torre to remark on Aug. 25 at Del Mar, “That was goose bump time.”
Hollendorfer, who has seemingly engaged Baffert in nearly all graded stakes competition this winter, trailed the white-haired wonder in the trainer standings 17-16 at the time of entry and had three added-money wins to Baffert’s league-leading five.
Twelfth and last to “Dude” in the Pacific Classic, Hollendorfer’s Blueskiesnrainbows got back on track in his next start, winning the Ralph M. Hinds Handicap at Fairplex. A disappointing fifth as the 3-5 favorite in the Bull Dog Handicap at Fresno, Blueskiesnrainbows then got on a roll–running a big second in the Grade II Breeders’ Cup Marathon Nov. 1 en route to gate to wire victories in the Grade III Native Diver Stakes Dec. 14 and the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes on Jan. 11.
A 5-year-old Virginia-bred horse by English Channel, Blueskiesnrainbows will likely try to dictate terms early with regular pilot Martin Pedroza back in the saddle. Although he’s in peak form, he has yet to prove he can handle the likes of the favorite. Owned by Bad Boy Racing, LLC and Whizway Farms, Blueskiesnrainbows has three wins from seven tries at 1 1/8 miles and is 23-7-3-3 overall. He has earnings of $669,552.
Second at 17-1 in the San Pasqual, trainer Sean McCarthy’s Majestic Harbor will look to step forward in the San Antonio. A close-up fourth early with Tyler Baze, the 6-year-old Rockport Harbor horse can again be attentive to the pace if need be with Baze back aboard.
Well beaten by “Blue” in the San Pasqual at 7-2, Blingo took a minor stakes at 1 1/16 miles two starts back on Oct. 14 at Belmont Park–in what was his first win from two tries on dirt. Trained by John Shirreffs and owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, the 5-year-old gelding is by turf star Artie Schiller.
Blingo will be ridden for the first time by Aaron Gryder and it’s expected he’ll have ample pace to run at.
A sharp second condition allowance winner going 1 1/16 miles Jan. 1, American Blend will be ridden back by Joe Talamo and will try stakes company for the first time. Owned by Mr. and Mrs. Warren B. Williamson and bred in Kentucky by their Williamson Racing, LLC, the 6-year-old Quiet American gelding is trained by Carla Gaines and will be making his 11th career start.
The complete field for the San Antonio, to be run as the fifth on a nine-race program, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Willyconker, Fernando Perez, 118; American Blend, Joe Talamo, 118; Blueskiesnrainbows, Martin Pedroza, 123; Majestic Harbor, Tyler Baze, 118; Game On Dude, Mike Smith, 123; Blingo, Aaron Gryder, 118, and Imperative, Kent Desormeaux, 118.
First post time on Saturday is 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.