WHO WILL WIN THE DUEL AT DEL MAR
This might not exactly be Wyatt Earp versus Billy the Kid, but the 24th running of the Pacific Classic has all the makings of a West coast shootout. Other Thoroughbreds will be running for a share of the million-dollar purse, but two of the entrants in particular are making for a rather interesting showdown for supremacy in the Golden State. Deciphering this pony preponderance will not be easy.
Game On Dude, a 7-year old gelding, represents one half of the tandem while 3-year old speedster Shared Belief is the other gunslinger. Young versus old has always been a battle since time began and that may be the most intriguing aspect as Del Mar’s signature race plays host to another epic showdown between combatants. Each of course has their attributes, so like moonshine out of my Uncle Onzie’s still, let the good times flow. Here is a brief breakdown why each could be the last horse standing…in the winner’s circle that is.
First we have to start with Game On Dude. Yes, we know he is 7, but us older athletes (I have been compared to a Thoroughbred before…or at least a part of a horse) understand there is no substitute for experience. With 33 career starts and 14 wins he obviously has been there, done that. Speaking of which, the Dude won the 2013 Pacific Classic in one of the most dominating performances in the illustrious history of the race. The conditioner of the Dude is certainly another plus. Bob Baffert has won the Pacific Classic four times and is fantastic at getting his horses ready for a big race. Lastly, let’s think about the bloodlines here. As the son of Awesome Again he has proven to be full of run, but his great grandma on his mammy’s side is Plenty O’Toole and you got to respect that name of James Bond fame.
So now we look at Shared Belief. As the new kid on the block, this gloriously fast gelding has made a name for himself despite having only five career starts. Of course youthful enthusiasm is always a plus (or so I think because I have often been referred to as acting like a child) and can make up for a lack of experience. Unbeaten and very impressive, the injury that kept the 2013 Juvenile champion off the Triple Crown trail seems but a distant memory. In the irons for Shared Belief will be hall of fame rider Mike Smith. As perhaps the best “big game” rider in the country and a three-time winner in the Pacific Classic, Smith is certainly a jockey that knows what it takes to win. If we talk family heritage, Belief’s pappy provides all you need to know. Candy Ride was bred in Argentina and then sweetly ran into the hearts of many with a huge run in the 2003 Pacific Classic. Setting a stakes record on the dirt track of Del Mar, he covered the mile and a quarter in a swift 1:59.11.
So now that we have built this into a gunfight at the O.K. Corral, let us understand it is anything but a match race between these two very talented runners. Dangerous foes like Clubhouse Ride(son of Candy Ride and half bubba to Shared Belief), Imperative, and Irish Surf will be lurking in the shadows. Could they become so entangled in their own battle that one of the other entrants grabs the glory? It is a horse race after all. Because of the class of both Shared Belief and Game On Dude, you gotta figure one of them will be there at the end if not both.
So who will come out on top in this duel at Del Mar? Youth or long in the tooth? To come with an answer, yours truly turned to one of my most trusted handicapping advisors. When queried, my lovely little daughter looked at both of the horses, heard a few facts and came up with this conclusion. “Shared Belief is prettier, but you should take the old geezer because he is kind of like you Daddy,” she said.
After collecting my thoughts for a moment, I decided she was right. Me and Game On Dude are alike…proven winners!