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Bloodhorse

Photo courtesy of Benoit & Associates

By Jack Shinar 

Game On Dude put his disappointing Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) behind him with a gritty front-running win in the $250,000 Native Diver Stakes Presented by the Oak Tree Racing Association (gr. III) Dec. 1 at Betfair Hollywood Park.

Confronted with a strong challenge from Nonios at the furlong pole, Game On Dude responded to left-handed urging from jockey Mike Smith to pull away in deep stretch to win by 1 1/4 lengths.

It was the first start for Game On Dude since he failed to factor while a distant seventh as the 13-10 favorite in the $5 Million Breeders' Cup Classic Nov. 3 at Santa Anita Park.

This year's Native Diver received a boost in purse from $100,000 last year.

Owned by Joe Torre’s Diamond Pride, Lanni Family Trust, Ernie Moody’s Mercedes Stable, and Bernie Schiappa, Game On Dude surpassed the $3 million mark with his 10th lifetime win in 22 starts.

Bob Baffert trains the 5-year-old son of Awesome Again - Worldly Pleasure, by Devil His Due. Bred in Kentucky by Adena Springs, Game On Dude becomes sire Awesome Again's third $3-million earner, following Ghostzapper and Ginger Punch.

Racing on a heavy Cushion Track after quite a bit of rain fell in the preceding days in Southern California, Game On Dude was timed in a slow 1:52.27 in the Native Diver. The imposing dark bay posted his fifth win in seven tries at the 1 1/8-mile distance.

Leaving from the rail as the 3-10 choice in the field of five, the 124-pound highweight Game On Dude was typically slow into stride as Nonios zipped to the front. Heading into the clubhouse turn, Smith pushed Game On Dude through at the rail, brushing Nonios to take the advantage. Game On Dude then dictated the pace from the inside, leading by about a length over Nonios while posting quarter-mile fractions of :24.52, :49.81, and 1:14.97.

Nonios and defending Native Diver champion Kettle Corn came under encouragement on the far turn to draw closer to the leader. Nonios went on with it through the homestretch to reach even terms with Game On Dude approaching the eighth pole. But Game On Dude responded as he usually does when challenged and prevailed over the game challenger.

The 3-year-old Nonios, ridden by Martin Pedroza, was a clear second by 4 1/4 lengths over Kettle Corn. It was 10 lengths back to multiple grade I winner Richard's Kid, who failed to menace after trailing the field into the stretch. Make Music for Me was last.

Game On Dude, who captured the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) and Californian Stakes (gr. II) earlier this year, is now 3-for-4 over the Hollywood Park main track. His only defeat came in a nose loss to Baffert stablemate First Dude   in a memorable 2011 Gold Cup.

Boosting his career earnings to $3,132,158, Game On Dude paid $2.60, $2.20, $2.10. Nonios, who was coming off a sixth-place finish in the BC Classic, returned $3.20 and $2.40 in his 10th start of the year for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. Nonios received five pounds from the winner. Kettle Corn, who also toted 119, paid $3 to show.

For an equibase chart, click here.

GAME ON DUDE (inside) TURNED AWAY NONIOS IN THE STRETCH

Native Diver Inside

Photo courtesy of Benoit & Associates

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