Game On Dude locks up spot in Breeders' Cup Classic
Game On Dude returned to the winner's circle under new jockey Rafael Bejarano, taking the Awesome Again Stakes by 31/4 lengths at Santa Anita on Saturday in Arcadia, Calif.
The 5-year-old gelding improved to 5-0 at his home track for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who replaced Chantal Sutherland with Bejarano after Game On Dude lost the Pacific Classic by a half-length last month at Del Mar.
Game On Dude earned an automatic berth in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Nov. 3, a race he finished second in last year at Churchill Downs.
The victory capped a stellar day for Baffert and Bejarano, who teamed to win three of the five Grade 1 stakes worth $250,000 each, with Breeders' Cup berths awarded to all the winners. Bejarano won the $70,000-added Unzip Me Stakes in the finale.
Nonios, a 10-1 shot, was second. Richard's Kid, third in the Pacific Classic, finished in the same spot Saturday in front of 17,565 who endured temperatures in the low 90s.
Game On Dude ran 11⁄8 miles in 1:49.98 as the 1-5 favorite.
Bejarano is the top rider for Baffert's stable, and the trainer said he made the change because he wanted his No. 1 jockey on his top horses. Sutherland had no mounts on Saturday.
Bejarano returned a day after escaping serious injury when he was thrown in the fifth race Friday.
In the other stakes:
■ Executiveprivilege improved to 5-0 with a 61/4-length victory in the Chandelier Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, securing a spot in the BC Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 2. Ridden by Bejarano, Executiveprivilege led all the way in running 11⁄16 miles in 1:44.95 while trying two turns for the first time.
■ Power Broker won for the first time in four starts, surging through the stretch under Bejarano to capture the FrontRunner Stakes for 2-year-olds by 61/2 lengths. Know More, the 8-5 favorite running on dirt for the first time, finished second.
Carving, co-owned by Olympic champion skier Bode Miller and Baffert's wife, Jill, led much of the way before fading to fourth in his first loss in three starts.
■ Love and Pride won the Zenyatta Stakes by 31/4 lengths for trainer Todd Pletcher, who shipped the filly in from New York to get familiar with Santa Anita before the Breeders' Cup.
Joyful Victory, who shipped in from Kentucky for trainer Larry Jones, was second and Include Me Out was third. Include Me Out was already qualified for the Nov. 2 Ladies' Classic, while Love and Pride earned the automatic berth.
Zenyatta honored at Santa Anita
Retired superstar Zenyatta was honored with a life-sized bronze statue unveiled on Saturday at Santa Anita. The mare's owners, Jerry and Ann Moss, were on hand in searing heat to see the 1,200-pound statue that captures Zenyatta in her trademark prancing pose.
"It's beautiful, absolutely beautiful," Jerry Moss said.
Zenyatta had a career record of 19-1, including a victory against male horses in the 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic, and was named 2010 Horse of the Year.
Now 8 years old, Zenyatta is a broodmare at Lane's End Farm in Kentucky. She gave birth to a colt sired by Bernardini in March and is pregnant with her second foal after being bred to Tapit.
Jerry Moss said the colt has been weaned, adding, "He's looking great." Nicknamed Baby Z, he has yet to be named.
Hamlin wins pole; Johnson starting 11th
Trying his best to adjust his approach toward his least favorite track, Denny Hamlin produced fantastic results Saturday when he turned a lap of 159.299 mph to win the pole at Dover International Speedway. Hamlin has been open in his disdain for the 1-mile concrete oval and knew he'd have to conquer his Dover demons to keep his bid for his first career Cup championship rolling along.
"I think that right now we have everything rolling," Hamlin said. "That part of it is giving me a ton of confidence."
Hamlin is six points behind Brad Keselowski and seven points behind leader Jimmie Johnson.
Johnson starts 11th as he chases history at Dover. He raced his way into the track's history books in June with his seventh win on the concrete, matching the mark held by Hall of Fame drivers Richard Petty and Bobby Allison.
No active driver owns the track like the five-time Sprint Cup champion. Johnson led 289 of the 400 laps and looked every bit like the driver who swept the two Cup races at Dover in 2002 and 2009. Johnson also won at Dover on Sept. 26, 2010, and he won the September 2005 race.
Dover has traditionally given Hamlin fits. He has an average finish of 20.5 in 13 career starts at Dover. He finished 36th or worse during a four-race stretch from 2007 to 2009.
■ Joey Logano dominated on the concrete Saturday to win the Nationwide Series race at Dover International Speedway.
Logano led 184 of the 200 laps in the No. 18 Toyota and raced to his series-leading seventh victory of the season. He won his 16th race in 105 career Nationwide starts. Logano moved into a tie for 16th on the career victory list in Nationwide.
"My monster trophy from last time was lonely and needed a friend," Logano said. "I'm glad I was able to get one for him."
Paul Menard was second, followed by Michael Annett, points leader Elliott Sadler and Kyle Busch.
Sadler has a nine-point lead over Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the points race. Stenhouse was ninth in the race.
■ Danica Patrick appears set to work with Ryan Newman's crew for her full-time Sprint Cup ride in 2013. Stewart-Haas Racing would like to ease Patrick's transition by letting her work with crew chief Tony Gibson and his team. Newman, who drives the No. 39 for SHR, would then be in the market for a new crew chief.
"I'm just kind of looking at what's best for her, surrounding her with the best people we can that are upbeat and positive," said Greg Zipadelli, Stewart-Haas Racing competition director.
Zipadelli said Saturday that all options are being considered and a decision could be made in the next week or two. But the move is all but official.
Check Me Out headliner at Red Mile
Harness racing's No. 1-ranked horse, 3-year-old filly trotter Check Me Out will be in action Sunday at Lexington's Red Mile.
Sunday's card, which begins at 1 p.m., features three Bluegrass Stakes divisions for 3-year-old filly trotters and three divisions for 3-year-old male trotters. Check Me Out, driven by Tim Tetrick for trainer/co-owner Ray Schnittker, races in the third division for the fillies and faces a field that includes multiple-stakes-winner Maven and recent Simcoe Stakes winner Valdonna.
Check Me Out enters Sunday's start off a 1:54 win against older male rivals in the Open at Tioga Downs, setting the track record for 3-year-old filly trotters despite a surface labeled "good." Although she started from the outermost spot on the gate, post nine, she won by a half-length over Scorpion Moon, an 11-year-old gelding with nearly $1 million in career purses.
For her career, Check Me Out has won 24 of 28 starts, finished second on three occasions, and earned $1.74 million for Schnittker and co-owner Charles Iannazzo.
Also racing Sunday is 4-year-old male trotter Chapter Seven, who will face six foes in the open handicap. Chapter Seven, who is ranked second to Check Me Out, has won four of six races this year and finished second twice for trainer Linda Toscano and driver Tetrick.
The last word
Minnesota Viking running back Adrian Peterson claims he isn't fully recovered from January surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament. But Detroit Lions linebacker Justin Durant isn't buying it:
"If he's not 100 percent, he's a lot of people's 100 percent. ...He's doing all the same things, all the cuts. He's breaking all the tackles. He looks explosive."