• GAME ON DUDE, MIDNIGHT HAWK WORK FOR BAFFERT
• WILLYCONKER TACKLES HEAVYWEIGHTS IN SAN ANTONIO
BAFFERT DUO DRILL FOR WEEKEND STAKES ENGAGEMENTS
Game On Dude and Midnight Hawk took a baby step Sunday morning on potentially a path to greater glory, each working towards weekend stakes engagements for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
Game On Dude, in his final major move for Saturday’s Grade II, $300,000 San Antonio Stakes, went four furlongs under Martin Garcia in 48 seconds flat at the 7:45 a.m. break. The track was closed for training at 8:30 due to an 11 a.m. first post to accommodate fans who wished to be in front of a TV for today’s “Big Game” between Denver and Seattle.
Midnight Hawk worked five furlongs in company with Awesome Baby in preparation for Saturday’s Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes, an important prep for the Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 5. The son of two-time Breeders’ Cup Sprint king Midnight Lute, unbeaten in two starts including the Grade III Sham Stakes, Midnight Hawk was clocked in 1:00.60 for five furlongs, also with Garcia aboard.
Midnight Hawk started some six to eight lengths behind Awesome Baby, closed the gap on the far turn, then wore down his stablemate to finish a half-length in front at the wire. Private clocker Gary Young caught the seven-furlong gallop-out in 1:26 2/5.
“All systems are go,” Baffert said. “We’re all set.”
Game On Dude could face as few as three rivals in the San Antonio, Santa Anita’s final stakes steppingstone to the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap on March 8. In addition to Game On Dude, probable San Antonio entrants include San Pasqual Stakes winner Blueskiesnrainbows, American Blend and Willyconker.
Trainer Patrick Biancone said he has retained the services of Julien Leparoux to ride Oak Tree Juvenile Turf winner Diamond Bachelor in the Lewis.
‘WILLYCONKER’ GAME ON DUDE? TRAINER AIMS TO FIND OUT
Trainer Eric Guillot shoots for the moon next Saturday. The Louisiana native plans to enter former Grade I winner and current claiming horse Willyconker, who has made 30 of his 34 career starts on grass, in the Grade II San Antonio Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on dirt.
Among those expected to line up against the 7-year-old Irish-bred gelding are none other than two of the West’s premier handicap stars, Blueskiesnrainbows and Game On Dude.
Willyconker won the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile in 2012 when trained by Doug O’Neill. In 34 lifetime starts, Willyconker has won 10 times, been second four, third three and earned $504,010.
“The Arcadia (run yesterday at one mile on turf) was too short; he needs to go a little bit further,” Guillot said. “Nobody seems to want to take on Game On Dude, and if I run my horse for fifty ($50,000 claiming), he’s going to win and he’s gonna be gone.
“So I’ll have done all this work since I claimed him (for $62,500 last May) for nothing. This way, if I run third in a race worth $300,000, he’ll get $36,000. If I run second, that’s $60,000. And if I win, I’ll look like a hero.”
Sounds like a plan.
FINISH LINES: Eblouissante, a half-sister to the great Zenyatta, worked five furlongs at Santa Anita Saturday in 1:00.80 for trainer John Shirreffs. “She’s ready to run,” said Dottie Ingordo Shirreffs, Racing Manager for owners Jerry and Ann Moss and Shirreff’s wife, “but we haven’t been able to get a race to fill for her.” To watch her workout, go to HRTV.com . . . Congrats to Alonso Quinonez and Jorge Gutierrez who teamed to end a combined oh-for-61 slump when they won Saturday’s ninth race on 9-1 shot Warren’s Cliff S., who broke his maiden in his 14th start wearing–you guessed it–the No. 14 saddle cloth . . . Monday, Feb. 17, Presidents’ Day, Santa Anita presents another of its popular bargain days. Fans can enjoy delicious hot dogs and thirst-quenching beers and sodas, all for just a buck each . . . Friday was the final day of training at Hollywood Park.