Joel Rosario, who guided Dullahan to victory in the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic in 2012, will ride Game On Dude instead in the 23rd edition of the signature event at Del Mar Aug. 25.
Trainer Bob Baffert broke the news on the morning of July 28 via Twitter. Ron Anderson, agent for Rosario, provided confirmation. The opening aboard Game On Dude was created when Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith committed to ride Royal Delta in the $600,000 Personal Ensign Invitational Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on the same day as the Pacific Classic.
"I had an opportunity to ride Dullahan or a real good Mark Casse horse [Delegation] coming in from Canada," Anderson said in reference to Rosario. "But Game On Dude may be the best horse in the country and I would think he'd be a huge favorite [for the Pacific Classic]."
The departure of Rosario creates an opening for Dullahan. Trainer Dale Romans said it will not affect previously announced plans for a title defense.
"No one monkey stops my show," Romans said. He indicated a new rider for Dullahan will be named soon.
Game On Dude, who is the early favorite for this year's TVG Pacific Classic, has run in the last two editions of the race. He was fourth in the 2011 running to Acclamation and second to Dullahan in last year's race.