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SANTA ANITA HANDICAP QUOTES
BOB BAFFERT, GAME ON DUDE, 13-10 FAVORITE, WINNER, AND GUILT TRIP, FIFTH: “He’s always been able to go a mile and a quarter. I think Mike (Smith) really gets along with him well. He must have given him a breather along there somewhere . . . but the thing about ‘Dude,’ he’s got to go along at a fast clip. The horse is just a great horse. What he showed today was amazing . . . I give a lot of credit to Mike Smith, but everybody who rode him got along with him well.
Asked if this was his best race: “When he won the Santa Anita Handicap (in 2011), that was a great race, too. He did all that bumping and came back. That was a great race. He’s had some great races. He’s getting older, he’s getting better, he’s been training well.”
Asked about getting an early lead: “I was waiting to see what was going to happen. Mike didn’t see anybody going, so he just took the lead. He was going to cruise right along there (anyway). If you go with him, you’re not going to get anything. He likes competition, and he was still going pretty fast. I’m so proud of him the way he’s developed into such a great horse.
“At the top of the lane I was watching my other horse (Guilt Trip) and hoping he would run second, and he looked like he was battling a little bit, but he’s still a young horse. He’ll get better in time.”
Asked what might be next: “I don’t know. Charles Town (Classic on April 20) is really enticing. It’s a million (dollars) to the winner and we know he likes that track (he was second in the race in 2011). I’ll see how he comes out of this race . . . We’ll see what happens.”
As for the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita in November: “Hopefully, we’ll keep him healthy and keep him at this level. He’s going to have to take a break somewhere along the line. . . but the way he’s running right now is pretty incredible.”
CRAIG LEWIS, CLUBHOUSE RIDE, SECOND: “I’m proud of him; he ran well.”
NICK CANANI, CALLED TO SERVE, THIRD: Asked if the horse had any trouble: “No, it looks like he ran well.”
MIKE SMITH, GAME ON DUDE, WINNER: “I looked over at the screen I was counting the poles, even, even, odd, and I thought this is great man, this is perfect. Then, going into the far turn when they were starting to catch me, he takes this big breath, and he just takes off.”
(How would you compare today’s Big ‘Cap win with others you have ridden in, or even seen?)
“He knocked it out of the park today, he really did, it was extremely impressive. He broke really well today. I basically waited a little to see what Handsome Mike was going to do (out of the gate) and when I saw that I had the jump on him, the advantage, I got on over as quick as I could just to impede him a little bit without bothering him in any way, and it worked out really well. He got into this great rhythm he has, he’s got a real high cruising speed, and he was well within himself the whole way around really.
He’s learned how to breathe, he really has. If you sit real still on him, when he is switching leads, you can feel him do it. He takes in a whole lot of air, and once he does that, I feel like I’m loaded again, like I could do whatever I want at that point. He sometimes does it on the backstretch, sometimes on the turn. Today, it was on the turn. Whenever he saw horses run up on him, and get within a length of him, right in there he did it.
“On race day, like Bob (Baffert, trainer) said, he’s a cool, calm horse, but once you saddle him and get him out onto the track, and especially into the gate, he’s really ready and he hears everything. There’s a lot of noise that goes on once he was in the gate, he would just rock back n’ forth, and I think a lot of times they would catch him on the rock back (when the gates opened.) Every now and then, they would catch him on the rock forward, so he would break well. When you pick their tail up it tips them up a bit and makes them stand still. He used to rock, but today, he was really good. It’s a Quarter Horse thing too, if you just pick their tail up, it helps. He’s not crazy or anything like that, he was just ready to go at all times. This just makes him stand real still. I talked to John Lopez (assistant starter) about it, and Bob started taking him over in the morning (to the gate) to work on it, and so far, so good.”
RAFAEL BEJARANO, CLUBHOUSE RIDE, SECOND: “I had a good ride. I knew the favorite was going to be in the lead. My horse, he ran really, really strong at the end and he deserved to finish second.”
GARY STEVENS, CALLED TO SERVE, THIRD: “There was no beating him (Game On Dude). I should have been an easy second. We got in tight at the three-eighths pole and he doesn’t like it down inside. When I got him out, he re-broke for me. It took him a while to get his momentum going again. I’m disappointed we didn’t finish second; I know (trainer) Nick (Canani) is too. The horse needs to be on the outside and I flat couldn’t get him there until it was too late. He’ll run on the inside, but at the three-eighths pole, it got very tight and he didn’t like it in there. It should have been an easy second, but no one was beating the Dude today. No one.”
(When did he realize Game On Dude was uncatchable?): “About an eighth of a mile out of the starting gate.”
JOSE LEZCANO, RON THE GREEK, SECOND FAVORITE, FOURTH: “That horse (Game On Dude) has a lot of speed. I got my horse in a position he wanted to be in, and he gave me a good race. The only thing is that (Game On Dude) is so fast--nothing compares. We ran hard the whole way, but we couldn’t keep up with him. We broke well, and got in the position we wanted to be in, but what can I say?”
MARTIN PEDROZA, DEACON SPEAKIN’, EIGHTH: “Well, my horse was 70-1, so I don’t know how much my trouble out of the gate affected him. My saddle came forward and I just had no control. As it kept coming forward I was hoping they would go quicker so I wouldn’t clip heels.”
OWNER/CO-BREEDER JOHN HARRIS ON THE MORNING SCRATCH OF CALIFORNIA-BRED JOHN SCOTT: “He’s OK,” Harris said by telephone. “We were playing a little poker. We just decided we didn’t want to put up the money (to run, $8,500). This is a tough race with top handicap horses and everybody decided to stay in.
“We’ll point for a couple of turf route races. I couldn’t be there (Santa Anita) today and this was Carla’s (Gaines, trainer) decision. I left it up to her.”
NOTES: Game On Dude’s winning margin of 7 ¾ lengths was a record for the race, eclipsing the former mark of six lengths by Bobby Brocato in 1956.
The winning owners are Bernie Schiappa of Las Vegas, the Lanni Family Trust, Joe Torre (Diamond Pride) and Ernest Moody and Maria Mercedes Vila (Mercedes Stable) of Las Vegas.