Game On Dude, who topped the first edition of the Longines World's Best Racehorse Rankings for 2014, heads the seven-horse field for the 75th renewal of the Gold Cup at Santa Anita Handicap June 28 at Santa Anita Park.
The Gold Cup, which will air on NBCSN from 7-8 p.m. (EDT), is a Breeders' Cup Challenge Series "Win and You're In" race that will award the winner an automatic berth to the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita.
Game On Dude, who has earned $6.4 million, will be seeking his third consecutive victory in the 1 ¼-mile, $500,000 race that was run as the Hollywood Gold Cup at the now-shuttered Hollywood Park when he won in 2012 and 2013. The 7-year-old Awesome Again gelding is trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert.
The Gold Cup was first run in 1938 and has been won by such legendary horses as: Seabiscuit (1938), Noor (1950), Citation (1951), Swaps (1956), Round Table (1957), Gallant Man (1958), Native Diver (1965, '66, '67), Ack Ack (1971), Exceller (1978), Affirmed (1979), Ferdinand (1987), Best Pal (1993), Cigar (1995), and Lava Man (2005, '06, '07).
GOLD CUP AT SANTA ANITA HANDICAP
Co-highweight at 124 pounds and the 4-5 morning-line favorite, Game On Dude will break from the rail and face six rivals, including Imperative, who defeated Game On Dude by 1 ½ lengths in the Grade 2, 1 ⅛ miles Charles Town Classic April 19. The heavy 3-5 favorite at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, Game On Dude battled head and head with Imperative, but was outrun in the final sixteenth of a mile while conceding five pounds in the weights to the winner.
Game On Dude was rated the world's top racehorse earlier this year on the basis of his impressive record third win in the Santa Anita Handicap March 8. Owned by Joe Torre's Diamond Pride LLC, the Lanni Family Trust and Bernard Schiappa, Game On Dude will be seeking his 17th career win from 33 starts Saturday. With eight wins from 11 starts at Santa Anita, Game On Dude is 32-16-7-1 overall.
Imperative, who will have Kent Desormeaux aboard at 119 pounds, will break from the 4 post in the Gold Cup. The Charles Town victory at 26-1 odds was the first in six starts for the 4-year-old gelded son of Bernardini since he was claimed for $50,000 Dec. 21 at Hollywood Park.
Imperative, who is at his best when assuming a close-up stalking position, now races for KM Racing Enterprise and is trained by George Papaprodromou. Previous to that race, he finished seventh, beaten 17 ¾ lengths, in Game On Dude's Big 'Cap victory after four consecutive placings, including a close second, in the San Antonio. Imperative, previously trained by Eoin Harty for co-breeder Darley, is 15-3-4-1 with earnings of $1,134,620.
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer's Fury Kapcori, who had a five-race winning streak snapped when finishing second at odds of 1-2 in the 1 ⅛ miles Californian, drew post position 2 and is expected to provide pace pressure to Game On Dude. Ridden by Corey Nakatani in the Californian, the 4-year-old colt by Tiznow will be handled in the Gold Cup for the first time by Gary Stevens.
With four wins and a second from five starts this year, Fury Kapcori has banked $218,800 in 2014 and will be going 1 ¼ miles for the first time. Owned by Rick Awtrey, Hollendorfer, and George Todaro, Fury Kapcori is 15-6-5-1 overall with earnings of $519,880.
Trainer Craig Lewis' Clubhouse Ride, who ran an even fourth, beaten five lengths by Imperative in the Charles Town Classic, returned from that East Coast journey with a gutty half length win in the Californian at odds of 6-1 and will try to post another upset in the Gold Cup.
Second to Game On Dude in last year's Santa Anita Handicap and Charles Town Classic, the 6-year-old horse by Candy Ride has one second-place finish from two tries at 1 ¼ miles. A distant last early in the Californian, jockey Joe Talamo may employ similar tactics in the Gold Cup and hope that a fast pace develops. Owned by Six-S Racing Stable and Niko Petralia, Clubhouse Ride is 37-5-8-10 overall with earnings of $1,220,132.