Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

Awesome Dude!

Posted by Brian Appleton on July 11, 2011

The Hollywood Gold Cup (gr.1) stole the spotlight Saturday, putting the final touch on a strong, stimulating weekend of racing. In what will surely go down as one of the most thrilling Hollywood Gold Cup runs of the decade, First Dude proved his status as the nation’s leading Older Male horse with a perfectly timed closing rush to steal the victory by a nose of Game On Dude with Twirling Candy just a neck back in third.

Santa Anita Handicap (gr.1) winner Game On Dude jumped to the early lead with Chantal Sutherland with Twirling Candy hot on his heels at the rail with Miss Match between. Setsuko was close behind in fourth as they rounded the first turn while First Dude and Martin Garcia sat in behind the top four. It was a gap of three lengths back to defending Hollywood Gold Cup winner Awesome Gem and Dark Cove with Soul Candy trailing the field. The opening quarter was run in :23.42 over the Cushion Track as Game On Dude continued to show the way, Twirling Candy stalking a close second. Down the backstretch Setsuko moved to within two lengths of the lead, edging Miss Match for the third running spot with First Dude cruising back in fifth, six lengths off the lead. After the half in :47.75 Miss Match began to slowly fade as Twirling Candy and Setsuko gradually closed the gap on Game On Dude. First Dude began to rank things up as the final turn approached, gunning for the leaders and moving into fourth position. Coming off the turn nothing separated Game On Dude and Twirling Candy. Setsuko fell back as First Dude came five wide off the turn with Martin Garcia riding him for all his worth. Twirling Candy and Game On Dude exchanged blow for blow down the stretch, neither one willing to give an inch. First Dude appeared too late to make an impact but continued to close the gap, extending his lead even more as Game On Dude thrust a neck in front of Twirling Candy. With the wire only seconds away First Dude surged forward to the frantic cheers of the crowd, overtaking the courageous frontrunners to post a thrilling victory by a nose over Game On Dude, making for a powerful 1-2 punch for trainer Bob Baffert.

The final time of the 1 ¼ mile Gold Cup was an excellent time of 2:01.57, less than a second off the track record of 2:00.75 set by Rail Trip in 2009. Setsuko finished fourth, 2 ¼ lengths ahead of defending Gold Cup champion Awesome Gem in fifth. Twirling Candy failed once again as the favorite to get the 1 ¼ miles, but still proved himself a worthy candidate of the distance. It’s clear he is better at shorter distances where his speed doesn’t have to be stretched out and rationed. Game On Dude showed exceptional courage staying on the front end for so long and denying Twirling Candy the lead throughout before getting nabbed in the final jump by First Dude. Chantal Sutherland was the first female jockey in history to have a mount in the Hollywood Gold Cup and ran a stellar race with Game On Dude, coming oh so close to becoming the first woman to win the Gold Cup. First Dude has now won three straight races this year, starting with an allowance win at Santa Anita in early April, then capturing the Alysheba Stakes (gr.3) by a nose over a strong field for the first graded stakes win of his career. With his win in the Hollywood Gold Cup the Stephen Got Even colt captured the first Grade 1 win of his career and is now the front runner for the Older Male championship. The Hollywood Gold Cup win also means First Dude earned an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr.1) at Churchill Downs on November 5th.

It seems like First Dude has finally been able to put it all together this year after his very competitive but frustrating season in 2010 where he finished second three times, third four times and won once in a maiden race. During his run he competed in six consecutive Grade 1’s. After running on or close to the lead last year, First Dude and trainer Bob Baffert have discovered great success with his newfound closing running style.

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