DUDE DESERVES A FOND FAREWELL
The recent retiring of Thoroughbred racing hero Game On Dude makes me wonder something aloud. Will this Dude now get the respect he deserves?
As the most recent Rodney Dangerfield of the sport, the very gutty Game On Dude has been getting no respect for several years now. Despite the fact he won 8 grade 1 races and is the only pony to pull out three wins in the Santa Anita Handicap, somebody always seemed ready to saddle him with doubt. But facts are facts and the accomplishments of Game On Dude are in black and white for all to see.
“This is a remarkable race horse and he deserves to have a good life and be rewarded for what he has done,” says co-owner Bernie Schiappa. “We knew eventually his career was going to come to an end and we want him to be happy and healthy. He is like a member of the family so this was not a tough decision as far as his retirement is concerned. We are very thankful for all he has given us and we can all sleep at night knowing we did what was best for him.”
For several years, the Bob Baffert trained Game On Dude did what was best for his many followers. With 16 wins in 34 lifetime starts that spanned a 5 year period, this son of 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Awesome Again gave the common sports fan a horse they could identify. Because he always seemed to be there, the average Joe knew him and grew to love him. His catch me if you can style demonstrated the pure power of a real warrior and often left an unprepared opposition breathing his dust. If it were a big race on the left coast, the Dude was going to be there and that meant a familiar face for the fans. As a gelding, he couldn’t leave a long-lasting effect on the game with off springs, so he did it with superior efforts.
“It is sad to know we can’t watch him go on through breeding,” says Schiappa. “He is such a wonderful horse with just a fantastic disposition. The fans always loved him and they are going to really miss him around the barn.”
As a turf writer, I was able to see the Dude run on several occasions. Early on, I too was a bit skeptical, probably because I just hadn’t seen him run enough. Flashes in the horse-racing pan happen all the time. But as the years rolled by and he time and again brought the bacon, I understood he really was a horse with a hankering. The 2013 Pacific Classic was one of his finest races ever as he just flat toted the mail. Smashing an accomplished crew in gate to wire fashion and by record margin…Dude got his Game On! His final race however, may be what put the icing on his cake. Indeed he finished fourth in the 2014 Pacific Classic, but for the opening mile of the race he gave everything he had in an all-out drive for victory. With an unquenchable thirst to be first, Game On Dude was his own worst enemy as he helped defeat himself by setting suicidal fractions early. He may not have won, but Game On Dude proved once again he was one of the most courageous warriors in the sport as he was going to win or give everything he had trying.
“We want to thank all of those that have honored Game On Dude over the years,” says Schiappa. “I give all the credit to Bob for always getting him ready and to the Dude for always running his heart out.”