Game on Dude highlights Gold Cup
Game on Dude highlights Gold Cup; I'll Have Another to parade between races
Game on Dude will seek the third Grade 1 victory of his career in the $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on Saturday at Hollywood Park. Set for 1 1/4 miles over the Cushion Track, the 73rd running of the Gold Cup has drawn a field of seven.
However, before the Gold Cup goes off, recently retired Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I'll Have Another will be paraded after the 3RD race, providing fans a final opportunity to see the three-year-old son of Flower Alley before he begins his new career as a stallion in Japan.
Before the races begin, jockey Mario Gutierrez, who won all four times he rode I'll Have Another, and trainer Doug O'Neill, who conditioned the chestnut for owner J. Paul Reddam, will have an autograph session. The pair will be available between noon and 1 p.m. (PDT) near the Paddock Tote Board.
Later in the day, trainer Bob Baffert will seek his fourth Gold Cup victory when saddling both Game on Dude and Richard's Kid in the main event. Game on Dude enters the race off a dominating 7 1/4-length romp in the Grade 2 Californian Stakes over the track on June 2. That was his first race since he finished 12th in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup at Meydan in late March, and the Awesome Again gelding appears to have fully recovered from his overseas travels.
Prior to the Dubai World Cup, Game on Dude captured his five-year-old bow when recording a 5 1/4-length victory in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes on February 5. The dark bay will retain the services of jockey Chantal Sutherland, who has been aboard for his past seven races, including a nose second in the Hollywood Gold Cup last year.
Game on Dude has been assigned the highweight of 124 pound as he seeks redemption from his loss to stablemate First Dude in the 2011 Gold Cup. The last horse to win the Gold Cup a year after finishing second was Ancient Title. That talented California-bred won in 1975 after chasing Tree of Knowledge in 1974.
Baffert, whose three Gold Cup victories are comprised of Real Quiet (1999) and Congaree (2003) prior to First Dude, will also be represented by Richard's Kid on Saturday. The seven-year-old Lemon Drop Kid horse also visited the Dubai World Cup Carnival, finishing fifth in the Group 1 Maktoum Challenge (Round 3) and fourth in the Group 2 Godolphin Mile. He made a successful return to the United States in the Prove It Stakes on June 8, drawing off for a 7 1/4-length score in that 1 3/8-mile contest.
The win by Richard's Kid in the Prove It Stakes was his first since taking the Grade 1 Goodwood Stakes in 2010. That was the dark bay runner's best year as he also successfully defended his title in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic and ran third in the Gold Cup. The Maryland-bred will have Rafael Bejarano aboard Saturday while toting the second-highest impost of 120 pounds.
Game on Dude will face some familiar competition in the Gold Cup as Kettle Corn will be lining up. The Candy Ride five-year-old ran second in the Californian in his last start, and was also third in the Grade 2 Mervyn Leroy Handicap to start the year. The former claimer captured his stakes debut when posting a half-length victory in the Grade 3 Native Diver Handicap on December 3.
The Gold Cup will also feature Love Theway Youare, a four-year-old daughter of Arch trained by owner Myung Kwon Cho. The dark bay miss upset heavily-favored Include Me Out in the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap on June 16, and she'll try to go two better than the last female to compete in the Gold Cup, Life is Sweet, who finished third in 2009. The last distaffer to win the race was Princessnesian in 1968.
Completing the Gold Cup field are Grade 1 conqueror Anthony's Cross, placed third via disqualification following a close fourth-place run last out in the Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap at Golden Gate Fields; dual stakes winner Thirtyfirststreet, fourth in the Mervyn Leroy when last seen in early May; and Grade 3-placed Spud Spivens, an optional claiming victor in his most recent outing.
The Gold Cup isn't the only stakes event Saturday. The 10-race card also includes the Grade 2, $150,000 Royal Heroine Mile for fillies and mares on the turf. All Star Heart, who was successful in her first start of the year in the Redondo Beach Stakes on June 10, will try to remain perfect over the Hollywood Park grass in the eight-furlong contest.
The five-year-old daughter of Arch is currently riding a three-race win streak that is comprised entirely of stakes. All six of her career triumphs have come since the bay mare joined the Ron McAnally barn late in 2010, and she'll try to add to that total while seeking her second graded victory having captured the Grade 2 Las Palmas last November at Santa Anita.
Among those lining up against All Star Heart is the lightly raced Quiet Oasis. The Oasis Dream four-year-old is exiting a close second in the Grade 1 Gamely at 1 1/8 miles in late May, and will be reverting to the distance of her victory in the Grade 3 Wilshire Handicap on April 29.
Briecat is still going strong at the age of seven, but is looking for her first win since taking the Cool Air Stakes in December. Recently, the Vladimir Cerin-trained daughter of Adcat has run third in the Redondo Beach behind All Star Heart and a dead-heat second to Quiet Oasis in the Wilshire.
The remaining entries for the Royal Heroine Mile filed are Grade 2 Buena Vista Handicap queen City to City, fourth in the Gamely last out; Grade 2 victress Up in Time, fourth in the Grade 1 Just a Game in early June; Great Lady M. Stakes upset winner Mega Dream; Wilshire fourth Nereid, seeking her first win since a dead-heat scorer in the Grade 1 American Oaks last July; and Ninth Infantry, who is looking for her first stakes credit.
Dynamite field set for Suburban; Agave Kiss tops Victory Ride
The Grade 2, $350,000 Suburban Handicap will feature one of its deepest fields in recent history Saturday. Grade 1 winners To Honor and Serve and Stay Thirsty highlight the blockbuster cast, but all eight horses bring respectable credentials into the historic 1 1/8-mile event at Belmont Park.
One race prior to the Suburban, Agave Kiss will attempt to keep her record perfect when squaring off against five challengers in the Grade 3, $150,000 Victory Ride Stakes. A smashing 5 1/2-length winner of the May 18 Miss Preakness most recently, the star three-year-old filly sprinter netted a whopping 112 BRIS Speed rating while stretching her win skein to six. The Rudy Rodriguez-trained chestnut is a likely odds-on choice with Ramon Dominguez in the six-furlong test.
To Honor and Serve closed his sophomore campaign with an impressive score in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile, registering a 113 Speed figure, and opened 2012 with an easy 5 1/4-length triumph in the Grade 3 Westchester Handicap. The Bill Mott-trained colt drew the rail against a talented field in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap and never appeared comfortable while in tight quarters most of the way, eventually finishing three lengths back in third. To Honor and Serve is potentially capable of much better from the far outside post Saturday with Jose Lezcano.
After finishing second in the 2011 Belmont Stakes, Stay Thirsty reeled off smart victories in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy and Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga. He caught a sloppy track when third in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and never fired in the Breeders' Cup Classic, but Stay Thirsty remains an extremely promising four-year-old for owner Repole Stables and trainer Todd Pletcher this term. His first start back, a runner-up in the May 17 Vanlandingham, was strictly a prep and the dark bay merits serious respect with Javier Castellano.
The same connections are responsible for the versatile Caixa Eletronica, who sandwiched a fourth in the Met Mile between wins in the Grade 3 Charles Town Classic at 1 1/8 miles and the Grade 2 True North at six furlongs last out. The seven-year-old will run coupled with his stablemate under new rider Eddie Castro.
Hymn Book finished second in the Cigar Mile and opened this year with a terrific win in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park, but the late-running gelding will be looking to rebound from setbacks in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap and Grade 3 Pimlico Special. He caught a slow pace when fourth in the former and experienced a troubled trip when a close fifth in the latter, with both races coming against steep competition, and the Shug McGaughey trainee likes Belmont (3-2-1-0). Alan Garcia rides the intriguing six-year-old.
Mucho Macho Man reeled off three straight nice wins, including an easy tally over eventual Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap and Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap hero Ron the Greek in the Sunshine Millions Classic, prior to a non-threatening third as the 8-5 favorite in the Grade 2 Alysheba last time.
Conditioner Kathy Ritvo has freshened her charge for this race and the multiple Grade 2 victor will receive a rider switch to Mike Smith. Endorsement enters on the upswing for trainer Eoin Harty, posting a convincing win in the Grade 3 Texas Mile prior to a narrow third in the Pimlico Special, and probably will be on or close to an expected legitimate early pace. Once-beaten Trickmeister, who rolled to a 1 3/4-length score in the Vanlandingham, will be be committed to the front end with Ramon Dominguez, and Buffum, who registered a 107 Speed rating when crushing allowance rivals at Belmont May 28, could show some quickness under his light 115-pound impost.
Agave Kiss has captured every race in wire-to-wire fashion and will break running from the rail post in the Victory Ride. Her main rival, Grade 2 winner Gypsy Robin, owns a three-race winning streak, but the Wesley Ward-trained filly is cross-entered to Thursday's Western Larla against males. Other contestants include Churchill Downs allowance winner Jamaican Smoke and multiple Canadian stakes vixen Tu Endie Wei.
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