Game on Dude, Mike Smith up.
Tomorrow, Game on Dude looks to make history. Last year, he tied the record for most wins in the Santa Anita Handicap at 2; he also won it in 2011. Now, here we are, 2014, and Game on Dude is looking for his 3rd win, what would make him the stand-alone record holder. Now, yes, he has some obstacles to overcome. This is, definitely, the toughest field of the ‘Big Cap he has ever faced, and one of the toughest fields he has ever faced in his career. This field is “tough” only because of two other horses: Will Take Charge and Mucho Macho Man.
Will Take Charge, last year, won the Travers Stakes and the Pennsylvania Derby. He then lost the Breeders Cup Classic by a nose, only to later beat Game on Dude at the wire in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs.
Mucho Macho Man, on the other hand, was the horse that took down the ‘Charge in the $5,000,000 Breeders Cup Classic. I was skeptical of Mucho Macho Man after he became what I called “The least impressive Classic winner I have yet to see.” He took the lead at the eighth pole and only held on to a nose to a horse that swung out 5 paths wide and had trouble accelerating due to his large stature and only beating Declaration of War, who was on the wrong lead, by a half-length. I was not impressed, but I was wrong about this horse. A month and a half ago, he won the Sunshine Millions Classic by a monstrous 14 lengths easily.
Game on Dude may, by good reason, seem like a tough horse to have faith in right now. He hasn’t won since August last year. While Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge were noses apart in the Classic, Game on Dude bombed the race and finished 9th. He then ran a good, but not good enough race in the Clark Handicap a few weeks later when Will Take Charge nosed him out at the wire. A month ago, he got into a speed duel with Blueskiesnrainbows in the San Antonio and faded to 5th.
So, the big question: Who is my Pick? Will it be the reigning 3 year old champ Will Take Charge? Will it be defending Breeders Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man coming off a 14 length win? Or will it be Game on Dude, loser of 3 straight races, not running a decent one in two of those losses?
Call me crazy, but I am picking Game on Dude.
In what is either a curse or blessing, I am very loyal to my favorite horses. Even when I knew he wouldn’t win, I cheered for Orb as he placed last in the Jockey Club Gold Cup last September. But this time, I am doing it out of loyalty and logical reason.
Think about it, Game on Dude can only win when he gets an uncontested lead. In the Classic, he lost the early lead to Fort Larned and Moreno and ended up ninth. In the Clark, he lost the early lead to Our Double Play and ran a good but somewhat disappointing second to Will Take Charge. In the San Antonio, he cooked himself fighting for the lead with Blueskiesnrainbows, went way too fast, and flopped to be fifth.
Entering every one of those races, the only concern for the ‘Dude was wether or not he could get the lead. There was always another frontrunner that would fight him for that early lead. Tomorrow, on paper, Game on Dude is the only frontrunner. No one will pressure him to a fast pace, which allows him to save his energy for later, and no one should be able to catch him.
Mucho Macho Man is in a tough spot. Stay too far behind the lead, and he might not catch the ‘Dude. But stay too close, he could pressure both him and Game on Dude to a fast pace and be vulnerable to Will Take Charge.
This may seem to easy, but I think the trifecta will be among these three horses. The rest of the field, I believe, won’t get in the way of the “Big Three.” Again, we may be in for a shock if a longshot fools all of us. But I have faith in Game on Dude. I had a bad feeling about how he would break in the San Antonio. I didn’t know why, but I had a bad feeling he would come off a step slow. As it happened, I was exactly right. He has formed a habit of coming off a step slow and chasing quickly to the lead. He used to break the quickest and never lose the lead. However, I feel that tomorrow, he will break just fine.
I was almost going to do what I call the “Three Picks.” That is, by my definition, where I pick three horses to win in the race. If any win, I consider that a winning pick. I was considering doing that with Will Take Charge, Mucho Macho Man, and Game on Dude, but that would be too easy.
Tomorrow, I think it will be all Game on Dude. I’m not sure what, but I think something big will go down tomorrow. It will be, by all accounts, a colossal clash of these titans, these heroes.