Joe Torre and Deborah Lanni talk to Mike Smith, Game On Dude's jockey, after a win in Southern California. (Photos courtesy of Benoit & Associates)
When Game On Dude enters the starting gate for the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Nov. 2, the experience for part-owner Joe Torre will be similar to his days as the manager of the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Torre, who races as Diamond Pride, co-owns seven-time Grade 1 winner Game On Dude in partnership with the Lanni Family Trust, Mercedes Stable, and Bernie Schiappa.
Torre won four World Series Championships as manager of the New York Yankees. A nine-time All-Star as a player and the 1971 National League Most Valuable Player, Torre took some time to adapt to managing, reaching the postseason only once in his first 14 seasons that included a stretch as a player-manager.
Subsequently, in 12 seasons at the helm of the Yankees and three managing the Dodgers, Torre’s teams made the playoffs 14 times as he established himself as one of the best at his craft.
He earned a reputation as a player’s manager, which in baseball parlance basically means he treated his players as professionals. As long as they took care of business on the field, he allowed them plenty of room to do what they do best. After the hard work of Spring Training was done, Torre wrote up the lineup card each day, managed the bullpen and capably handled the media as well as a locker room full of multi-millionaire egos.
Once the game started each day, much of the action was out of Torre’s control, which is very much like Thoroughbred racing. Once the horse is led out of the paddock and onto the track, there really is nothing trainers and owners can do except watch and hope. He did both, in person, when Game On Dude won the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic Stakes in April.
“My heart was pumping,” Torre said at the time. “It’s a helpless feeling because you can’t do anything about it but watch. It’s sort of the same thing when [New York Yankees closer] Mariano Rivera goes out to the mound. You put your hands in your pocket and hope for the best.”
Interestingly, Game On Dude is not unlike the aforementioned Mariano Rivera, widely considered the best closer in baseball history and a surefire future Hall of Famer.
TORRE AND BERNIE SCHIAPPA LEAD GAME ON DUDE AND MIKE SMITH INTO THE WINNER'S CIRCLE
What separates Rivera from his peers is his remarkable consistency from year to year.
Game On Dude also has been extremely consistent during his career, winning at least one graded stakes race in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 while compiling 15 wins from 27 starts. The 6-year-old Awesome Again gelding has finished in the top three 21 times in his career and has won nine of his last 11 races.
Torre, who now serves as executive vice president of baseball operations for Major League Baseball, has been in the headlines recently after handing Boston Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster a 5-game suspension for hitting Alex Rodriguez with a pitch after whipping a baseball behind the controversial slugger earlier in the at-bat.
Torre will be back in the spotlight at the Breeders' Cup when Game On Dude goes for his first win in the race.
Like his managing days, Torre will have to be content to just sit back and watch. But when the outcome is dependent upon a star like Mariano Rivera or Game On Dude, that’s a pretty nice position to be in.
Interested in learning more about how to become a racehorse owner? Learn more about the thrills and excitement of owning your own racehorse or joining a partnership or syndicate at: https://www.ownerview.com/getting-started/journey