Bob Baffert trains Game On Dude, Martin Garcia works him, and Mike Smith rides him. It’s a winning combination, one Smith would like to continue Saturday when he rides the 7-year-old gelding in the Grade I, $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita for 3-year-olds and up at a mile and a quarter.

Smith has had but a nodding relationship with Game On Dude the past two months.

“I haven’t been on him since I rode him in the Charles Town Classic (April 19), but he looks good from what I’ve seen,” the Hall of Fame jockey said of Game On Dude, winner of 16 of 32 career starts and earner of more than $6.4 million. Smith has ridden Game On Dude in his last five races and 10 times overall, winning six.

“I’ve been up close to him,” Smith said. “He’s holding his flesh well and he looks great. He doesn’t seem to be losing a step. He ran really well in his second-place finish at Charles Town (to Imperative), even though it certainly wasn’t his ‘A’ race.

“He’s durable, well-balanced, sound. So far, good Lord willing, he’ll stay that way. He’s doing well. He’s ready to run big again. If there’s pace in there (with Fury Kapcori), that’s fine. It doesn’t matter as long as Game On Dude is happy. Whenever he’s happy, he runs.”

The field for the Gold Cup, race eight of 10: Game On Dude, Mike Smith, 4-5; Fury Kapcori, Gary Stevens, 9-2; Clubhouse Ride, Joe Talamo, 9-2; Imperative, Kent Desormeaux, 4-1; Salto Del Indio, Brice Blanc, 8-1; Majestic Harbor, Tyler Baze, 12-1; and Lideris, Juan Enriquez, 20-1.


Saturday’s $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race with the winner receiving an automatic berth, and fees paid, into the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic to be run on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita as the climactic race of the 31st Breeders’ Cup World Championships.

The Gold Cup will also be televised live on NBCSN (4-5 p.m. Pacific Time) as a part of the “Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In” from the NBC Sports Group.

The Gold Cup will be the second of 11 live telecasts in the series, which will include 18 “Win and You’re In” races on NBC and NBCSN. The Gold Cup is also one of seven Grade I Challenge races for automatic berths into the Classic this year. Moonshine Mullin, winner of the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs on June 14, was the first to qualify.

The next five televised Classic qualifiers are: William Hill Haskell at Monmouth Park July 27 (NBC); Whitney at Saratoga Aug. 2; TVG Pacific Classic (NBCSN) at Del Mar Aug. 24; and Jockey Club Gold Cup (NBCSN) at Belmont Park and Awesome Again (NBCSN) at Santa Anita Sept. 27.

The complete "Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series” television schedule is available at

Saturday’s telecast will be hosted by Laffit Pincay, who will be joined by analysts Jerry Bailey and Randy Moss, and reporters Nick Luck, Carolyn Manno and Eddie Olczyk. Olczyk, lead analyst for NBC Sports Group’s hockey coverage and a veteran horse racing enthusiast, makes his on-air horse racing coverage debut on Saturday’s telecast.


Kim Lloyd knows his way around the race track.

If vaudeville was his game, they’d say he was born in a trunk. As it is, the 59-year-old Oklahoma native is a died-in-the-wool race tracker.

“I was 60 days old when I had my first picture taken in the winner’s circle,“ said Lloyd, currently in his seventh year as General Manager of Barretts Sales and Racing in Pomona.

“I trained about 25 years, but worked on the backside forever,” said Lloyd, owner of 10 percent of the stretch-running stakes sprinter Sahara Sky, whose nose victory in the Grade I Metropolitan Handicap last year is his most prestigious victory.

A 6-year-old Florida-bred horse by Pleasant Tap out of the Storm Cat mare Seeking the Sky, Sahara Sky seeks his second Grade I win in Saturday’s Triple Bend Stakes at seven furlongs. To date, Sahara Sky has won eight of 20 starts and earned $1,145,328 for Lloyd, who races as Sweetwater Stable, and majority owner Jerry Hollendorfer, who also trains the horse.

Surprisingly, Lloyd says Sahara Sky is not the best horse he’s been associated with.

“That would be Skipat,” Lloyd said. “I was her assistant trainer and we ran her all over the country back in the late 70s and early 80s. She was the best horse I was ever around. She never won a Grade I, but when she was on her game, she was unbeatable.”

A 17.1 hands chestnut daughter of Jungle Cove bred in Connecticut, Skipat won 27 of 45 career starts over six years and earned $614,215 before she was retired in 1981, but soon thereafter accomplished a remarkable feat. Not only did she win the Grade II Barbara Fritchie Handicap in 1979, she won it again in 1981, after she had been retired, bred and foaled.

In August 1989, Skipat was struck by lightning and killed in her stall in Kentucky. Her foal (Skilaunch) was standing next to her, survived, and went on to produce five stakes winners from five foals.

“I was stabled with Skipat at what is now Parx, but back then it was Keystone in Bensalem, Pa., on the outskirts of Philly,” Lloyd said. “Based at Keystone were My Juliet, Dainty Dotsy and Gallant Bob, who was champion sprinter in 1975, so four top sprinters came out of there and Skipat was one of them. Danny Hasbany trained Skipat. I was his assistant, but I was also her groom.”

Lloyd was a seedling in the Sooner State but his memories still bear fruit.

“I’m from Western Oklahoma and there’s a town there called Sweetwater,” Lloyd recounted. “I was just five years old living in a place called Laverne, and it seemed like that whole town would go to Sweetwater to watch girls play softball.

“A girl named Betty Lou something--I forget her last name--pitched for our softball team who was unbeatable. She was like Nolan Ryan. She won every night she pitched. They just couldn’t hit her. It was a big event for us to go to Sweetwater and watch our heroine pitch.

“So Sweetwater has fond memories for me and that’s how I came up with Sweetwater Stable as my racing name.” Sahara Sky certainly has done the name proud.

“He’s been wonderful,” Lloyd said. “He’s such a smart horse with a great desire to win. His San Carlos (victory on March 8) was an incredible race. He was in trouble, dropped back to last at the head of the lane, and just bulled his way through the field.

“That’s the type of horse he is. Trouble motivates him. He’s a tough battler.”

Just like Skipat.

The field for the Triple Bend: Declassify, Martin Garcia, 5-2; Drill, Mike Smith, 8-1; Gladding, Fernando Perez, 15-1; Sahara Sky, Joe Talamo, 8-5; Indexical, Mario Gutierrez, 15-1; Cyclometer, Edwin Maldonado, 5-2; and Wine Police, Victor Espinoza, 9-2.


Mike Machowsky hopes to extend three-race winning streaks with Kathleen Rose and Rovenna when they run in the Grade II Royal Heroine Stakes and the Grade III Senorita Stakes, respectively, on Saturday.

Kathleen Rose, a 4-year-old California-bred daughter of Good Journey, seeks her first stakes win in the Royal Heroine, a one mile turf event for fillies and mares, age three and up. The chestnut filly has three straight daylight wins against lesser company at one mile on turf.

Rovenna, a Cal-bred daughter of Vronsky, also has three wins in a row, two in stakes, but eyes her first graded victory in the Senorita for 3-year-old fillies at one mile on the grass.

“Kathleen Rose just keeps getting better and better,” Machowsky said. “She’s training well and we hope she keeps improving.

“Rovenna ran real good the one time I ran her on the grass (third in the California Cup Oaks in January). I don’t think the surface will make a difference.”

The field for the Royal Heroine: Stormy Lucy, Joe Talamo, 4-1; Dancingtothestars, Mario Gutierrez, 12-1; Wishing Gate, Gary Stevens, 5-1; Redressthebalance, Corey Nakatani, 30-1; Moulin de Mougin, Mike Smith, 12-1; Moone’s My Name, Victor Espinoza, 9-2; Habibi, Brice Blanc, 6-1; Dutchessa, Kent Desormeaux, 8-1; Kathleen Rose, Edwin Maldonado, 6-1; and Parranda, Elvis Trujillo, 3-1.

The field for the Senorita: Miss Machiavelli, Kent Desormeaux, 12-1; Sheza Smoke Show, 6-1, Joe Talamo; Disregarded, Martin Garcia, 12-1; Morning Fix, Elvis Trujillo, 5-1; Burning Arch, Mike Smith, 10-1; Sushi Empire, Corey Nakatani, 6-1; Famous Alice, Gary Stevens, 7-2; Clenor, Tyler Baze, 4-1; Rovenna, Victor Espinoza, 9-2; supplemental nominee Lemon de Oros, Agapito Delgadillo, 12-1; and My Monet, Tiago Pereira, 20-1.


Dan Hendricks sends out Irish Surf in Sunday’s traditional closing-day feature, the Grade II, $200,000 San Juan Capistrano Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at about a mile and three quarters on turf.

If he wins it, Hendricks will need only 13 more to tie Charlie Whittingham’s record of 14—count ‘em—14 San Juan victories.

“The distance won’t pose a problem for him,” Hendricks said of the 4-year-old Giant’s Causeway colt, who was fourth in the Grade II Charles Whittingham Stakes at a mile and a quarter last out on May 24.

“The horse has always acted like he wanted to go further and further and further, so we’ll get our test. We’ll find out Sunday.”

The field for the San Juan: Bailoutbobby, Mike Smith; Lideris, Juan Enriquez; Irish Surf, Elvis Trujillo; Dr Action, Martin Pedroza; Big Kick, Victor Espinoza; American Act, Martin Garcia; Black Spirit, Kent Desormeaux; Quick Casablanca, Joe Talamo; and Starspangled Heat, Corey Nakatani.


Santa Anita will lose one of its most valued employees Sunday when Cece Connor, the Paymaster of Purses who has worked at Santa Anita for 33 years, will retire.

“I love it here, but I’m old enough to retire, so why not go,” said Connor, who was born in nearby Pasadena and raised in Arcadia, home of The Great Race Place. “I don’t really have a plan, but I will visit my daughter, Leslie, in Henderson (Nevada).

“I’d like to do some volunteer work helping others, but I don’t have anything specific in mind right now.”

Working diligently while buried in the bowels of the track adjacent to the Racing Office, Connor was responsible for paying owners, trainers and jockeys for money they earned while racing at Santa Anita.

Attributes of a good employee are many, including loyalty, dependability, patience, accuracy and geniality, all of which Connor possessed in kind.

Santa Anita will honor her as its Employee of the Meet on Sunday and along with a multitude of horsemen and fellow employees, wish her all the best in retirement.

FINISH LINES: Jockey Rafael Bejarano, who suffered multiple injuries in a riding mishap on May 10, was a visitor at Clockers’ Corner Thursday morning, looking fit enough to resume his career, which he is expected to do when Del Mar opens July 17. “He presently is in therapy for a week and a half and is scheduled to ride at Del Mar opening day,” said his agent, Joe Ferrer. “A few days before Del Mar I’ll start exercising and working horses,” said Bejarano, the perennial leader on the Southern California circuit, who won Santa Anita’s Winter Meet title in runaway fashion with 93 victories . . . Richard Mandella reports that the cut on Beholder’s left hind pastern “is just about healed. We’re waiting for one spot to close in and she’ll be able to train. It might be another week. We’re way ahead of the game. When it happened, I thought she might be out two months.” The two-time Eclipse Award-winning filly came out of her fourth-place finish in the June 7 Ogden Phipps with the injury . . . Corey Nakatani will be at Belmont Park July 5 to ride Bluegrass Stakes winner Dance With Fate for Peter Eurton in the Belmont Derby Invitational and Central Banker for Al Stall in the Belmont Sprint Championship . . . William Antongeorgi is back riding full time in Southern California after a successful run in the Bay Area. “I’ll ride here for the summer and if things go well, I’ll be here to stay,” said the 27-year-old rider, whose agent is Susan McBrayer . . . With four racing days remaining, Joe Talamo holds a 39-27 lead over runner-up Tyler Baze in the Spring Meet jockey standings, while Doug O’Neill, in pursuit of his fourth Santa Anita crown, leads Peter Miller, 25-22. Talamo leads all jockeys in stakes wins with eight. Bejarano, Martin Garcia, Edwin Maldonado and Nakatani are tied with three each . . . Tom Quigley’s guests handicappers in the East Paddock Gardens at 11:50 a.m. will be Damian Roncevich, winner of the Santa Anita Preakness Day Challenge Tournament, on Saturday, and Bob Ike of and, on Sunday . . . Santa Anita will present the California Philharmonic on Saturday and again on July 12 and 26, and August 9 and 23. Maestro Victor Vener and his California Philharmonic will perform in Santa Anita’s bucolic Infield. There will be on-site gourmet dining, a full bar, a jumbo video screen and a wide range of seating options to make it an outdoor concert experience beyond compare. For tickets, call 626 304-0333 or visit Use promotional code SEABISCUIT2014 to save 25 percent on select seats . . . Fans can take advantage of mandatory payouts closing day, Sunday, June 29, on the Pick 6, the Pick 5, and the Super High 5. First post time is 1 p.m. Gates open at 11 a.m. Santa Anita resumes racing at its Autumn Meet on Sept. 26, continuing through Nov. 2, highlighted for the third straight year by the Breeders’ Cup World Championships Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.