Disappointment is part and parcel of The Sports of Kings. For horsemen and bettors alike, there is more losing than winning. Percentages will see to that. As LeRoy Jolley once said, “This game wasn’t cut out for anybody wearing short pants.”

The elite are no exception, so when Game On Dude finished fifth as the odds-on favorite in the San Antonio Stakes on Feb. 8, Bob Baffert was disappointed. But the Hall of Fame trainer and the winner of 15 of his 30 career races and earner of $5,713,893 get right back in the pool on Saturday in the Santa Anita Handicap presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino, which Game On Dude will be trying to win for a record third time.

The 7-year-old Awesome Again gelding, whose front-running style cost him in the San Antonio when he got cooked in a pace duel with committed front-runner Blueskiesnrainbows, should have a more favorable pace scenario in the Big ’Cap. On paper, he looks like the speed of what speed there is.

“Yeah, he’s got to go,” Baffert said when asked about strategy. “Dude, you can’t take him back. You’ve got to let him run. If it works out for him, it works out. If not, it doesn’t.”

Simple enough. But the fact is Big ’Cap rivals Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge have defeated Game On Dude the three times they’ve met. However, Game On Dude has a more favorable pace scenario Saturday.

On paper, at least.

“Game On Dude’s not the type of horse that’s looking to go out there and run in 24 or 49 (for a quarter mile and a half mile, respectively),” said Mike Smith, who has ridden the gelding in eight of his last nine races, winning five.

“He runs numbers. He’s got a high cruising speed and I let him do his thing. He’s just got to run his race. He’s just got to show up tomorrow. If he doesn’t, I can go as slow as I want to go or as fast as I want to go, if he doesn’t show up, it doesn’t really matter.

“He’s got to show up, and if he does that, I think he’ll have just as good a chance as any of them.”

The field for the Santa Anita Handicap, race nine of 11 on a card that starts at 12 noon: Will Take Charge, Luis Saez, 2-1; Mucho Macho Man, Gary Stevens, 9-5; Blingo, Aaron Gryder, 8-1; Imperative, Kent Desormeaux, 12-1; Rousing Sermon, Rafael Bejarano, 12-1; American Blend, Joe Talamo, 20-1; Game On Dude, Mike Smith, 5-2; and Hear The Ghost, Joel Rosario, 20-1.

In other Big ’Cap news:

D. Wayne Lukas was a welcome sight Friday morning back at The Great Race Place where the Hall of Fame trainer has registered many of his significant victories, which he will try to increase Saturday when he sends out Will Take Charge in the Big ’Cap, a race he won in 1991 with Farma Way.

“He’s had a really good two, three months this winter,” Lukas said of Will Take Charge. “He shipped in beautifully and he looks tremendous. I’m very happy with him. Oh, gosh. What a bonanza for the track (to have a race with stars of this magnitude).”

Will Take Charge will break from the inside post position in the Santa Anita Handicap. Jon White, Santa Anita’s oddsmaker, points out that the inside post position has produced just two winners of the race.

“Mr. Right in 1968 and Malek in 1998 are the only two to have ever won the Santa Anita Handicap from the inside post position,” White noted. “And keep in mind only four horses ran in the Big ’Cap the year Malek won it. You sure wouldn’t think that with such a long, straight run before they get to the first turn that there would be just two out of 76 Big ’Cap winners from the inside post.

“But for whatever reason, that’s the case. Ron the Greek won the Big ’Cap in 2012 from post three, then drew the inside post in last year’s Big ’Cap and finished fourth. It will be interesting to see if Will Take Charge can become just the third Big ’Cap winner from post position No. 1.” Retired jockey Richard Migliore, winner of Santa Anita’s George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 2008, is a member of “The Jockey Club Series on Fox” team which is broadcasting the Santa Anita Handicap.

“This opportunity wouldn’t have come along if it weren’t for HRTV giving me the initial chance,” said Migliore, who earned his on-air spurs with HRTV. “For that, I’m forever grateful and happy that I’m still working in some capacity for HRTV with ‘Pursuit of the Crown’ and covering the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup.

“I’m thrilled. I love the Santa Anita Handicap; I love Santa Anita. The history of this race is something that captured my attention when I was 10 years old. So the fact that here I am, almost 40 years later and still involved in it, even if I can’t ride in it, is a great thing.”


If Imperative wins the Santa Anita Handicap, it could prove a bane to headline writers.

Imperative is trained by George Papaprodromou, whose last name is a challenge for any spell check program. Not only is it the longest last name of the 198 trainers listed in Santa Anita’s current condition book, it is the only one with five syllables.

But by a name of any length, George Papaprodromou and the gelding he claimed for $50,000 last Dec. 21 had been flying under the radar until Imperative ran the race of his life, missing a 26-1 upset by a half-length in the Grade II San Antonio Stakes on Feb. 8.

A son of one of the nation’s premier stallions in Bernardini, Imperative will attempt to prove his game San Antonio performance was no fluke when he tackles alpha handicap stars Mucho Macho Man, Will Take Charge and Game On Dude in the Santa Anita Handicap.

“I liked the way he was bred,” Papaprodromou said in explaining his reasons for claiming the 4-year-old bay. “I always wanted to get a Bernardini. Imperative came up in a claiming race for 50 (thousand), I called up my owner (Kenji Morinaga of Arcadia, who campaigns as KM Racing Enterprise, Inc.), and we went for it. We took a shot.” Imperative earned $60,000 for finishing second in the San Antonio.

Bernardini, who stands for $100,000 live foal at Darley, on the Jonabell Farm in Lexington, Ky., has sired 12 graded stakes winners in his first two crops, 11 winning Group or Graded races at ages two and three, more than any stallion in history.

“Imperative ran a great race and came out of the race great,” said the 37-year-old Papaprodromou, who has been training for 11 years, and came up under his father, Andreas, now a septuagenarian living on his farm in Cypress. ”The horse is in top form right now and we’re just hoping he runs another big race like he did in the San Antonio.”

Kent Desormeaux, who was aboard in the San Antonio, will be back on Imperative for the Big ’Cap, which he won in 2002 aboard Milwaukee Brew for the late Bobby Frankel, and was disqualified from first on The Wicked North in 1994.


If anyone knows the condition of California Chrome right now better than trainer Art Sherman, it’s jockey Victor Espinoza.

The 41-year-old rider has been working the son of Lucky Pulpit regularly at Los Alamitos, where the chestnut colt has been headquartered. Espinoza also has ridden California Chrome in his last two starts, both daylight romps against state-breds. He tackles open company in the San Felipe, a Grade II race at 1 1/16 miles which offers a generous 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the winner, virtually assuring a spot in the Run for the Roses on May 3.

“I feel good about how he’s coming up to the race,” Espinoza said. “He’s ready to go and I like my post (four of 10). Everything is good right now. I’m excited about the race.”

The field for the San Felipe, race No. 5: Home Run Kitten, Alonso Quinonez, 20-1; Unstoppable Colby, Luis Saez, 15-1; Rprettyboyfloyd, Corey Nakatani, 12-1; California Chrome, Victor Espinoza, 9-5; Sawyer’s Hill, Martin Garcia, 20-1; Kristo, Joel Rosario, 5-2; Schoolofhardrocks, Joe Talamo, 9-2; Midnight Hawk, Mike Smith, 5-2; and Recanted, Mario Gutierrez, 20-1.

Bayern, the early 8-5 morning line choice, was scratched reportedly due to a possible “deep bruise in a front foot.”


Gary Mandella hopes his patience and persistence is about to bear fruit. The 41-year-old trainer, son of Hall of Fame conditioner Richard Mandella, has been working Silentio like clockwork for Saturday’s Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile since he won the Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park last Nov. 29.

Silentio drew post nine of 10 in the prestigious turf race, not necessarily an advantage, but Mandella preferred to see the glass as half full.

“It depends on how things shape up when the gates open,” said Mandella, who also lends his expertise as analyst on HRTV. “I like that he’ll load towards the end and not have to stand forever in the gate.

“I’ll just have to hope there’s enough speed in there, which on paper it looks like there is, that the field will kind of thin out getting to the first turn, and everybody will be able to get over and nobody gets hung out five-wide, which is my biggest concern.

“But I’ve got Bejarano. I’d rather have Bejarano in the nine hole than a lesser rider in the two hole.”

Meanwhile, Barry Abrams is looking forward to finally seeing Lakerville stretch out beyond 6 ½ furlongs on turf. The son of Unusual Heat has never finished worse than second in eight career starts, winning five times, all in turf sprints. Abrams also has Kent Desormeaux on Lakerville for the first time.

“I thought I’d go with a Hall of Famer,” Abrams said. “Lakerville is bred for a mile. I’ve been trying to stretch him out for two years now, and this is the first opportunity.”

The field for the Kilroe, which goes as race eight: Lochte, Orlando Bocachica, 8-1; Regally Ready, Mike Smith, 8-1; Optimizer, Luis Saez, 12-1; Suggestive Boy, Joe Talamo, 6-1; Za Approval, Joel Rosario, 3-1; Winning Prize, Corey Nakatani, 7-2; Horizontalyspeakin, Edwin Maldonado, 30-1; Tom’s Tribute, Gary Stevens, 10-1; Silentio, Rafael Bejarano, 7-2; and Lakerville, Kent Desormeaux, 8-1.

John Sadler, trainer of Horizontalyspeakin, could scratch. "The race looks awfully tough,” he said. Asked what could be next: “No specific race, but an easier race.”


Fitness was the determining factor in Clubhouse Ride running in the Grade II San Carlos Stakes at seven furlongs Saturday. The 6-year-old Candy Ride horse was also nominated to Saturday’s Santa Anita Handicap at 1 ¼ miles and the Kilroe Mile.

“It came down to fitness,” trainer Craig Lewis said. “He wasn’t fit enough to run in the Big ’Cap at a mile and a quarter. I didn’t get enough bottom into him. He had a layoff and his feet were messed up; he really needed his last race (fifth by about four lengths in the Joe Hernandez Stakes on Feb. 23, his first race in five months).

“A mile and a quarter at this point in time would be just asking for too much.”

The field for the San Carlos, which is the seventh race: Sahara Sky, Joel Rosario, 4-1; Clubhouse Ride, Tyler Baze, 15-1; Zeewat, Corey Nakatani, 10-1; Big Macher, Luis Saez, 6-1; Cyclometer, Joe Talamo, 8-1; Wild Dude, Rafael Bejarano, 7-2; Ready for More, Martin Garcia, 15-1; Let’s Get Crackin, Agapito Delgadillo, 8-1; Midnight Transfer, Victor Espinoza, 8-1; and Shakin It Up, Mike Smith, 3-1.


Dwarfed in recognition Saturday by the Santa Anita Handicap, the San Felipe Stakes, the Frank E. Kilroe Mile and the San Carlos Stakes, but not by potential talent and sheer competitiveness, the $75,000 China Doll Stakes seems lost in the proverbial shuffle.

But the one mile turf test for 3-year-old fillies, which goes as the sixth race, drew a full field of 13. How tough is it? Eleven of the 13 have won at least once in their last two starts. From a handicapping standpoint, it’s perhaps the most challenging of the day’s 11 races.

Trainer Eoin Harty sends out Sushi Empire in the China Doll for owner George (Chip) McEwen III, who races as Wounded Warrior Stables and whose Uncle Sigh continues on the Triple Crown trail in the Wood Memorial on April 5.

Sushi Empire won the Blue Norther impressively at one mile on turf Jan. 1, before finishing seventh and last in her first try on dirt, in the Grade I Las Virgenes on Feb. 1.

Said Harty of the China Doll: “It’s a full field and anyone can win.”

The field for the China Doll: Anniversary Kitty, Corey Nakatani, 12-1; Loan Savant, Mario Gutierrez, 30-1; Sushi Empire, Victor Espinoza, 10-1; Soresca, Chantal Sutherland Kruse, 20-1; Screen Goddess, Joel Rosario, 8-1; Tiz Kissable, Tyler Baze, 30-1; Nashoba’s Gold, Joe Talamo, 9-2; Diversy Harbor, Gary Stevens, 4-1; Uzziel, Brice Blanc, 8-1; Sheza Smoke Show, Luis Saez, 12-1; On the Backstreets, Rafael Bejarano, 7-2; Savings Account, Mike Smith, 8-1; and Full Ransom, Kent Desormeaux, 8-1.


Judy the Beauty makes her first start since finishing second to champion Groupie Doll in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Santa Anita last Nov. 2 when she runs in Sunday’s Grade III Las Flores Stakes for older fillies and mares at six furlongs. She has been working at Gulfstream Park where she shows two bullet drills among her most recent efforts.

Owned and trained by Wesley Ward and bred in Ontario by Frank Stronach, Judy the Beauty will be saddled by long-time Ward friend and associate, trainer Blake Heap.

“She looks real good,” Heap said of the 5-year-old Ghostzapper mare who has never been out of the money in 13 starts, winning five and finishing second seven times. “We re-shod her here, she’s galloping over the track beautifully, she’s eating up, she acts good, she schooled in the paddock this morning; everything’s great.”

The field for the Las Flores, the seventh of nine races: Kinz Funky Monkey, Joe Talamo; Warm Breeze, Leandro Goncalves; Judy the Beauty, John Velasquez; Heir Kitty, Gary Stevens; and Munnings Sister, Luis Saez.


In addition to a blockbuster 11-race card that will include four graded stakes and a $500,000 guaranteed Late Pick 4 pool, the first 15,000 fans through the turnstiles on Saturday will each receive a complimentary ticket good for free admission on Breeders’ Cup Day One, Friday, Oct. 31.

This Breeders’ Cup comp is an official “Thank You” to those fans who choose to attend early on Saturday. Santa Anita will be hosting the Breeders’ Cup World Championships for an unprecedented third consecutive year on Oct. 31 & Nov. 1. Breeders’ Cup General Admission for the 2013 World Championships was $10 per person.

Expectations are very high for the 77th running of the Santa Anita Handicap, as it will be the first time since Alysheba and Ferdinand met in 1988 that the 1-2 finishers (Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge) in the Breeders’ Cup Classic will re-engage in America’s longest continually run hundred grander.

First post time Saturday is 12 noon, with admission gates opening at 10 a.m.


Trainer Doug O’Neill will light up the life of a 23-year-old man with Down Syndrome on Santa Anita Handicap Day tomorrow, as Lawrence Cao has won “A Day With Doug O’Neill,” and will accompany the Kentucky Derby-winning conditioner throughout the afternoon. O’Neill is scheduled to saddle four horses in three different races.

A longtime fan, Cao has accompanied his father for numerous years to the track to watch early morning workouts and often imitated jockeys and their styles of riding as a teenager. Cao has much more than a vicarious association with horses, as he is a member of Move A Child Higher (MACH 1), a riding horsemanship program based at the Pasadena Equestrian Center that offers equine assisted activities to riders with disabilities.

Cao and his parents attended the annual MACH 1 Musical Horse Show last June at Flintridge Riding Club and he won “A Day With Doug O’Neill” via a silent auction certificate.

Cao, who has grown intimately involved with the horses he rides on a weekly basis, cools his “mounts” out following his lessons and grooms them as well.

Cao, who is also hearing impaired, figures to have a busy day with O’Neill, who among his four starters is Recanted in the San Felipe and Loan Savant in the China Doll.

For more information on the Pasadena Equestrian Center, located in Pasadena’s Hahamonga Watershed Park, call (626) 798-1222, or email JOYMACH1@YAHOO.COM.

FINISH LINES: San Vicente Stakes winner Kobe’s Back, prepping for the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park March 15, worked six furlongs Friday in a bullet 1:11 flat under jockey Mario Gutierrez. “Very well” is how trainer John Sadler termed the move, while clocker Toby Turrell who publishes The Yellow Sheet said Kobe’s Back “really stepped it up big. He did it all and more.” . . . Las Virgenes winner Fashion Plate, ticketed for the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks on April 5, went four furlongs for Simon Callaghan in 47.60 . . . Unstoppable Colby, the 3-year-old colt on the Kentucky Derby trail owned by Zayat Stables, LLC, and in Saturday’s San Felipe Stakes, was named for Unstoppable Colby Sawyer, who at age nine was diagnosed with Leukemia on June 19, 2012, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. He has Pre B Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, or ALL. The family was told he would go through treatment for three years and is currently nine months in. In November, the family announced on Facebook that he is in remission and continues to fight the biggest battle for his life. To send prayers, well wishes, or support to Colby and his family, visit them on their Facebook page at ‘Prayers for Colby.’ . . . While his first name is spelled out in its entirety in the fifth race on today’s program, jockey Tiago Pereira prefers to go by the initials T.J. “Everybody in Brazil knows him as T.J.,” said his agent, Michael Burns . . . Daylight Saving Time begins Sunday. Turn your clocks ahead one hour Saturday night.