MIKE SMITH, GAME ON DUDE, WINNER: “You know I got pressured, even more so than if it was a full field, believe it or not. In these short fields people make you do things because it’s more of a match race. He has a high, high cruising speed and you just let him get into his rhythm whether that’s up front or off the lead. I let him do his thing today and he ran brilliant to be honest. He stood up over on the turn, took one breath and turned around like it was nothing. They were running quick, but that’s just him.”

(Does it take less out of him to let him run instead of taking too much hold?)

“I think when you grab him . . . he’s naturally quick so when you take hold he gets a bit aggressive and that takes more out of him. When you let him cruise he’ll go faster but he also relaxes so it’s a bit of a catch and you have to figure it out.

(Do you think this race sets him up for the Big Cap?)

“Really well. This is an extremely talented horse, he might even be better this year. I’ve never ridden him last year but I ran against him a few times. The feeling he gave me today was even more so than when I first rode him.”


BOB BAFFERT, GAME ON DUDE, WINNER: “I knew that other horse (Basmati) was probably going to try him a ways. They’re trying to win . . . but Game On Dude, he likes that. He’s competitive. Yeah, if all’s good, that’s where we’re headed (Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap at 1 ¼ miles on March 2, a race Game On Dude won in 2011).

“He grabbed himself a little bit on the ankle coming away from there, but it looked pretty superficial. The horse runs well fresh. I really didn’t want to run that fast early. I wanted him to cruise around there. I wanted a Flashback kind of a win (referring to Flashback’s easy win in Saturday’s Robert B. Lewis Stakes). We’ll see how it takes its toll on him, but he ran a good race.”

RETIRED BASEBALL GREAT JOE TORRE, PART OWNER: “I’ve seen him (run) a number of times, but this is the first time I was able to see him since the Breeders’ (Cup last Nov. 3). Obviously, we were disappointed that day, but he just keeps on going.

“He just seems to be such a great competitor. Again, I’m not authority on horses. I sit next to Baffert whenever I can, and when he told me at the top of the stretch that he’s got plenty left, I sort of relaxed a little bit.”

NOTES: The winning owners are Bernie Schiappa of Las Vegas, Deborah Lanni of Pasadena, Joe Torre (Diamond Pride) and Ernest Moody and Maria Mercedes Vila (Mercedes Stable) of Las Vegas.