In an otherwise remarkable career, Game On Dude has been known to throw in a clunker now and then, resulting mainly from occasional problems leaving the starting gate.

They should all be behind him now since Mike Smith has taken over as the gelding’s regular rider two races back, both easy victories, in the Grade III Native Diver last Dec. 1 and the Grade II San Antonio Stakes on Feb. 3. Next up: the March 2 Santa Anita Handicap, a race Game On Dude won in 2011 and is favored to win a week from Saturday.

A subtle maneuver with Game On Dude’s tail seems to have rectified previous gate woes and allowed him to “sit” well in the stall until the doors open.

“They’ve been schooling him a lot with his tail,” Smith pointed out. “They hold it up, giving him a light tail and it seems to make him stand still. Before, he was anxious in there. It wasn’t like he wouldn’t fit in there or anything like that.

“He just wanted to go. He’d hear every noise and he was ready. So he would kind of rock a lot. So they started doing a light tail on him and he’s standing better, so hopefully, that’s the answer.”

A “light tail” was explained by Santa Anita starter Jay Slender. “Once the horses are in the gate, an assistant starter will grab their tail when they back up against the gates, and they’re fine. But Game On Dude, he likes to move around a little, so we’ll grab his tail and move it up a bit over the back gate. That flattens out some horses, and with him, it worked.

“Like anything, if it helps, you’ll try it, and if works, you’ll go with it”

“Whatever it is,” Smith continued, “I’m excited to be a part of it. When these kind of horses get a chance to hang around and stay sound and get older, they get stronger. Game On Dude is at a point right now where this could be his year.

“He’s certainly got the ability and seems to maybe even stepped his game up a notch. That would be pretty impressive, if that’s the case.”

Probable for the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap at 1 ¼ miles presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino: Game On Dude, Ron the Greek, Called to Serve, Guilt Trip, Stephanoatsee, Handsome Mike, John Scott, Clubhouse Ride and Tritap.

Not only will Santa Anita present three Grade I races on Big ’Cap Day, fans on track will receive free an attractive Santa Anita tote bag with paid admission while supplies last. Festivities also will include popular premium Food Trucks, a KROQ concert featuring Youngblood Hawk, a microbrew and craft beer presentation and a $400,000 guaranteed late Pick 4 presented by Daily Racing Form

First post time on Big ’Cap is 12 noon. Gates open at 10 a.m.


Garrett Gomez is looking forward to riding Breeders’ Cup Sprint runner-up The Lumber Guy for the first time in a race in the Grade II San Carlos Stakes at seven furlongs on Saturday.

Gomez was aboard the 4-year-old gray son of Grand Slam owned by Barry Schwartz and trained by Neil Drysdale for a five furlong workout at Santa Anita last Saturday in a bullet 58.40, uncharacteristically quick time for a Drysdale worker.

“Neil told me he’s fast and he’s a little aggressive when he was kind of laying out the work he was looking for,” said Gomez, third in Santa Anita’s standings nearing today’s halfway point in the meet with 26 victories. “He told me some of the habits, and about his last work.

“He just wanted something nice. The horse broke off, he towed me up the backside, towed me all the way around there and turning for home, I finally got him to shut off a little without getting him turned off completely.

“Honestly, I thought he went about a minute flat. He wasn’t doing much down the lane, but he was going fast enough where I felt I was hitting that minute. I didn’t want to squeeze him or anything.

“He was traveling well enough where he was doing things just nice. When I came back, Neil thought he went a minute and change. I thought he went a minute and they gave him 58 and two. “We liked the work, we liked the way he did it and hopefully he’ll bounce back and run more like his Breeders’ Cup race.”

The field for the San Carlos: Comma to the Top, Edwin Maldonado, 4-1; Capital Account, David Flores, 4-1; Justin Phillip, Mike Smith, 8-1; Canonize, Jose Valdivia Jr., 15-1; Midnight Transfer, Rafael Bejarano, 3-1; Sahara Sky, Joe Talamo, 6-1; The Lumber Guy, Garrett Gomez, 5-2; and Drill, Julien Leparoux, 12-1.


Joltin’ Joe Talamo and his band of basketball brothers push into Pasadena tonight for their 46th annual charity basketball game featuring Santa Anita’s jockeys and the Holy Angels School. Proceeds benefit the Holy Angels athletic program and the Kentucky-based Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF).

Game time is 7:15 p.m.; doors open at 6:15 p.m.

“I’ll be playing,” co-captain Talamo said Thursday morning as the countdown began for tip off. “I don’t know if you call it playing or not, but I’ll be there. It’s definitely for a good cause. A lot of our guys will show up and it’s always a good time.” and Meticulous Talent Management will co-sponsor the event which will again enjoy the support of a wide spectrum of people from the horse racing industry, including Hall of Fame jockeys Eddie Delahoussaye, Laffit Pincay, Jr., Gary Stevens and Mike Smith. All will be available to autograph photos and other memorabilia at 6:30 p.m.

The event helps raise money for the PDJF and to brings awareness to the Eye on Jacob Foundation, named for Jacob Desormeaux, the 14-year-old son of Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux. Jacob was diagnosed several years ago with Usher’s Syndrome, a rare disorder that causes loss of hearing, imbalance, and eventual loss of sight in approximately 14,000 children in the United States.

In addition to and Meticulous Talent Management, sponsors for this year’s event also include: Hollywood Sports Park, KHS Bicycle, Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, and Temple City Bike Shop.

Those attending will be eligible to win prizes which include: A paint ball package to Hollywood Sports Park, an Electra Townie 3-speed Adult Alumni bike (retails for $550), a kids BMX Free Agent Stiletto bike (retails for $350), and a Half Court Prize, to be determined, by Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, as well as basketballs which will be signed by all jockeys and student-players.

This year’s jockey team is likely to include: Captains David Flores and Talamo, Rafael Bejarano, Alex Bisono, Brice Blanc, Victor Espinoza, Omar Figueroa, Eswan Flores, Martin Garcia, Garrett Gomez, Aaron Gryder, Mario Gutierrez, Kevin Krigger, Julien Leparoux, Modesto Linares, Edwin Maldonado, Orlando Mojica, Corey Nakatani, Alonso Quinonez, Kayla Stra, Mike Smith and perhaps others.

HRTV’s Kurt Hoover will again coach the jockeys’ squad, while Joe Mora, Kathy Rameriez and Austin Puertas will lead the Holy Angel’s crew.

La Salle High School is located at the southwest corner of Michillinda Ave. and Sierra Madre Blvd. in Pasadena, about four miles northwest of Santa Anita Park. Admission is $5.


Megahertz Stakes winner A Jealous Woman, who finished a disappointing sixth by nearly 15 lengths as the 4-1 second choice in Monday’s Grade II Buena Vista Stakes, had an excuse in the one-mile turf race captured convincingly by Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Mizdirection, the 3-5 favorite.

“Apparently she ate a piece of straw that got caught in her throat and caused an infection,” said Eddie Meza, husband of Francis Meza, who trains A Jealous Woman for the Three Cent Stable.

“She was not able to breathe properly in the race,” Francis said. “Brice (jockey Brice Blanc) said she didn’t perform because she was trying to catch her breath. She could have been on the lead with Mizdirection if you look at the (final) time of 1:33.50, because she ran in 1:33 flat when she won the Megahertz.

“But the good thing about it,” Eddie continued, “is she didn’t bleed. Doctors have given her antibiotics and in about five days the swelling will go down. They’ll scope her tomorrow or the next day. If it goes down, we’re safe. If not, we’ll have to do minor surgery to get the infection out.”


Santa Anita will host its sixth Photo Day tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 22, with registration to begin at 7:30 a.m. at Clockers’ Corner, located at the top of the stretch.

Photo Day will include tram tours of the stable area between the hours of 8 and 11 a.m.; photo opportunities of horses on the track from 9 to 9:30 a.m., and breakfast beginning at 9:30, with guest speakers including trainer Simon Callaghan.

With the majestic San Gabriel Mountains serving as a backdrop, photographers have an opportunity to capture some of the nation’s finest Thoroughbreds as they go through their morning paces and when they compete on both turf and natural dirt in the afternoon.

Additionally, Santa Anita, which opened on Dec. 25, 1934, is revered the world over for its unique art deco architecture and picturesque Paddock Gardens and Infield.

Following morning activities, all participants are invited to stay for the afternoon’s eight-race program, which gets underway at 1 p.m. All registered photographers will be granted access to the track’s paddock and winner’s circle areas.

Participants will also be encouraged to submit some of their photos to Santa Anita’s website,, and selected shots will be posted.

Those wishing to pre-pay online can register for just $20 at Walk-up registration the day of the event is $25. Children 17 and under can register for $12. Registration fees cover admission, parking, breakfast and press credentials for the day.

For more information or to purchase tickets, fans can visit the track’s website, or call Group Sales at (626) 574-6400.


Agapito Delgadillo and Bill Spawr have a relationship of mutual respect. Together, the 46-year-old jockey and the 73-year-old trainer are one of the best-kept secrets outside of racing cognoscenti, but the facts are these: through 35 days of Santa Anita’s 71-day meet, Spawr has won with 28 percent of his starters (seven for 25), with Delgadillo winning on six of the 18 horses he has ridden for Spawr.

“He’s a good horseman,” Spawr said of Delgadillo, whose agent is Saul Marquez. “Agapito reminds me of Laffit (Pincay Jr.). He’s that kind of rider. He can come back and tell you something about a horse you wouldn’t expect him to know just from one ride. How? It’s called experience.

“I’m the trainer. I know. He shouldn’t know just being on a horse one time, but he does.”

Delgadillo had 10 wins, seven seconds and 11 thirds from 67 mounts through Monday, with six of the wins for Spawr.

“When I work his horses in the mornings, I get to know them,” Delgadillo said. “Bill knows what he’s doing. He’s a very good trainer. It’s not too tough for me to win races for people like him.

“I won a race for him at Fairplex a couple years ago and I think that’s how I got his attention. Then, little by little, I rode more and more for him and we’ve done very well together.”

FINISH LINES. Slump-buster: When Donato rolled to a front-running three and three-quarter length victory in Monday’s third race, it ended an oh-for-44 drought for trainer Barry Abrams this meet and a one-for-65 skid for jockey Alonso Quinonez. Abrams hopes for another victory Sunday when he sends out Starspangled Heat in the $100,000 Sensational Star Stakes for California-breds at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf. “He should run good,” Abrams said of the 5-year-old Unusual Heat gelding. “He’s training good and he’s happy. He’s ready to go.” . . . Through 35 racing days, according to Santa Anita’s crack statistician Jason Hom, Bob Baffert and John Sadler were in a virtual dead heat for Santa Anita’s training lead, Baffert holding a 21-20 edge over Sadler, with 102 starters compared to Sadler’s 106. Among trainers with at least seven wins, Bill Spawr and Art Sherman at 28 had the best percentage. In the race for leading rider, Rafael Bejarano held a 43-30 lead over runner-up Edwin Maldonado, despite riding 32 fewer horses, 167 to 199. Bejarano was winning at a 26 percent clip. A foursome was bunched behind Maldonado: Garrett Gomez 26 wins from 112 rides, 23 percent; Joe Talamo, 25 for 202, 12 percent; Martin Garcia, 23 for 142, 16 percent; and Julien Leparoux, 23 for 129, 18 percent . . . With seven wins, eight seconds and 14 thirds, Orlando Mojica has caught the eye of trainers and bettors alike. “We’re making progress,” said Dudley Osborne, agent for the 31-year-old native of Puerto Rico. “It’s a grind, but it’s fun. We’re starting to ride a better quality of horses.” . . . Former jockey Goncalino Almeida entered his first two horses as a trainer in Friday’s fifth and sixth races, Cosset in the fifth and Unstopper Topper in the sixth. Garrett Gomez is named on both horses.