First Dude Wins At Hollywood

First Dude edges Game on Dude as Baffert runs 1-2 in Gold Cup

Donald R. Dizney's homebred FIRST DUDE (Stephen Got Even) closed dramatically to nip pacesetter Game on Dude (Awesome Again) on the wire in Saturday's $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup (G1), providing trainer Bob Baffert with a one-two finish in a thrilling edition of the 1 1/4-mile event. The surging four-year-old colt recorded his third straight victory and established himself as the West Coast's leading contender for this year's Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs.

"When they hit the wire, I knew I'd won it. I just didn't know which one. I was hoping for a dead heat," Baffert said. "That would have been really cool."

Second in the Preakness (G1) and third in the Belmont S. (G1), First Dude placed in six straight graded stakes last season as only a maiden winner, but his losing streak reached 10 when opening 2011 with a fourth in the Sunshine Millions Classic. Dizney decided to transfer him from Dale Romans to Baffert and First Dude lost his first outing for the Hall of Fame conditioner, finishing sixth in the Santa Anita H. (G1). However, the bay Kentucky-bred has turned things around in phenomenal fashion since then, winning an April allowance at Santa Anita prior to his victory in the May 6 Alysheba S. (G3) at Churchill.

One change Baffert made was run style. After racing on or close to the lead last year, First Dude now does his running from off the pace. He returned from a 64-day freshening in the Gold Cup and dropped back to fifth with jockey Martin Garcia as Big 'Cap winner Game on Dude led the way early, posting an opening quarter-mile in :23 2/5.

Game of Dude, who broke from post 4 with Chantal Sutherland, crossed over in front of even-money favorite Twirling Candy (Candy Ride [Arg]) entering the clubhouse turn and maintained a one-length lead on that rival through a half-mile in :47 3/5 and three-quarters in 1:12. Twirling Candy advanced on the far turn to draw even turning for home, and the stage was set for an exciting finish.
First Dude has developed into one of the top older horses this year for Bob Baffert (Benoit Photos)

First Dude entered the stretch in sixth, with plenty to do on the far outside as the front runners threw down the gauntlet with a quarter-mile remaining. Twirling Candy had everything opportunity but could not get past Game on Dude, who appeared poised to steal the race inside the sixteenth pole, but First Dude gamely reeled in his stablemate in deep stretch, sticking his nose in front in the final stride.

He stopped the teletimer in 2:01 2/5 on the Cushion Track.

"In the morning they've been finishing together and they both ran a great race today,’ said Baffert, who leads the meet in both wins (34) and stakes victories (seven). "First Dude is just a big old horse and you've just got to let him settle. You just have to ride him with a lot of confidence and that's what Martin did."

Off as the 4-1 second choice in the eight-horse field, First Dude paid $10.20, $4.80 and $3.20. Game on Dude, the 9-2 third choice, edged Twirling Candy by a neck, and it was another 2 1/4 lengths back to 6-1 fourth choice Setsuko (Pleasantly Perfect). Awesome Gem (Awesome Again) checked in fifth in his title defense and was followed by Dark Cove (Medaglia d'Oro), Miss Match (Arg) (Indygo Shiner) and Soul Candy (Birdonthewire).

First Dude has now earned $1,442,140 from a 17-4-5-4 career line. His aforementioned stakes placings at three included the Travers (G1), Blue Grass (G1), Haskell Invitational (G1) and Pennsylvania Derby (G2).

Bred in Florida and produced by the minor stakes-placed Run Sarah Run (Smart Strike), First Dude is a half-brother to the stakes-winning Via Venato (Orientate) and a yearling colt by Dixie Union. This female family is responsible for multiple Grade 3 winner Bettarun Fast (Kelly Kip).

Baffert recorded his third victory in the signature race of the Hollywood Park spring/summer meet, winning previously with Real Quiet (1999) and Congaree (2003), and became the first trainer since the late Bobby Frankel in 2001 to achieve the Gold Cup exacta.

Baffert mentioned the $1 million Pacific Classic (G1) at Del Mar on August 28 as a possible target for First Dude.



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