Monday Morning Trainer: Father Time

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The time changed sometime between late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, an hour earlier to accommodate the man-made creation that is daylight savings time. The times didn’t change much Saturday afternoon in Southern California though as Game On Dude still showed the Big ‘Cap was his for the taking.

The Santa Anita Handicap, still one of the country’s marquee events, has proven to be one of Game On Dude’s personal showcases through the years. He’s won it three times now, the latest coming Saturday in pretty decisive fashion over champion Will Take Charge. Blingo was third, with Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man an uninspiring fourth of eight and 10 1/2 lengths behind Game On Dude.

Game On Dude’s victory makes him the lone three-time winner of the Big ‘Cap, a remarkable feat considering that one John Henry used to call California home in the 1980s. John Henry won it twice, needing a disqualification of Perrault for his second, and came up short trying for a third in 1984.

Game On Dude won his first Big ‘Cap back in 2011, making just his seventh career start and holding off fellow longshot Stetsuko to win by a nose. The second came last year and it was much easier, by 7 3/4 lengths, and the third in a string of six straight victories.

The shine was off the Awesome Again gelding a little bit heading into the 2014 running, which was all but written off as a rematch of the Breeders’ Cup Classic with Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge in the field.

By the time the 10 furlongs was run in 1:58.17 Saturday afternoon it was clear that Game On Dude isn’t quite done yet and that the younger upstarts will need to do a bit more to knock off him off.

As long as it’s not the Breeders’ Cup.
Watch the 2014 Santa Anita Handicap. …

The weekend’s racing also figured to shake up the Triple Crown picture a little bit and the results of the Grade 2 San Felipe at Santa Anita and Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs did just that.

California Chrome won the San Felipe fairly easily, showing he’s more than just a useful Cal-bred and putting Art Sherman in the mix for the first time since his teenage years working with one of the greatest racehorses ever to set foot on a U.S. racetrack. Plenty will be written about Sherman working for Rex Ellsworth and 1955 Kentucky Derby winner Swaps in the coming weeks, and even more about the Lucky Pulpit gelding California Chrome.

Graham Motion knows all about the Kentucky Derby. He’s three years removed from winning it with Animal Kingdom, but could be on his way back with Tampa Bay Derby winner Ring Weekend.

Ring Weekend, a gelding by Tapit who cost $310,000 as a yearling, looked pretty good winning a two-turn maiden race on the dirt in early February at Gulfstream Park and even better going gate-to-wire to take the Tampa Bay Derby. He was 0-for-3 as a 2-year-old, not running terribly but not hugely inspiring, and was gelded following his third start on the Polytrack at Keeneland.

The $250,000 Calder Derby April 5, four weeks from the Tampa race and four weeks before the Kentucky Derby, looks like the next stop for Ring Weekend. They can go that direction thanks to the 50 points received for the Tampa Bay Derby win.

California Chrome got the same amount and Sherman said the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, also four weeks from the Kentucky Derby, could be next for his colt.
Watch Ring Weekend win the Tampa Bay Derby.
Watch California Chrome win the San Felipe. …

Speaking of breakthrough performances, Lochte registered his a few weeks ago at Gulfstream and proved it was no fluke Saturday when finishing second in the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita. He was a half-length behind Winning Prize and ahead of the likes of Za Approval and Silentio in a race run in 1:32.44.
Watch the Frank E. Kilroe Mile. …

Big efforts in undercard stakes often get overlooked when a race that magnitude of the Big ‘Cap is run and Sahara Sky’s win in the Grade 2 San Carlos was not to be missed. The winner of last year’s Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap flew home to win the 7-furlong race by a half-length in 1:20.84. Jerry Hollendorfer mentioned a defense of his Met Mile victory as a logical spot for Sahara Sky, a race that will be on the Belmont Stakes undercard later this spring.
Watch Sahara Sky win the San Carlos. …