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Submitted by John Conte on Thursday, April 17, 2014 at 12:00 AM

Game On Dude faces six challengers in Charles Town Classic


After claiming his third straight victory in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap last month, Game On Dude will go for his second straight success in the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic on Saturday night, when he takes on six rivals in the $1.5 million race run at 1 1/8 miles around three turns.

Game On Dude, a 7-year-old Awesome Again gelding trained by Bob Baffert, drew post 3 in a seven-horse field that includes 2013 Charles Town Classic runner-up Clubhouse Ride, 2013 Travers and Pennsylvania Derby runner-up Moreno, and Grade 3 Excelsior runner-up Long River. Adding some intrigue to this year’s race is the presence of locally based Lucy’s Bob Boy, who is 17 for 21 at Charles Town, mostly in races restricted to West Virginia-breds.

Imperative and Ruler of Love complete the field.

After Game On Dude won last year’s Santa Anita Handicap by 7 3/4 lengths, he had to work harder than expected to win the Charles Town Classic, chasing Percussion early and then holding off Clubhouse Ride late to win by a half-length as the 1-5 favorite. After the race, Baffert revealed that Game On Dude ran in that race with glue-on shoes.

“He had plastic shoes with no toe-grabs,” Baffert said Wednesday from California. “He’s got toe grabs this time.”

Game On Dude is coming off a 1 3/4-length victory in the Santa Anita Handicap in which he defeated Will Take Charge, last year’s 3-year-old champion who came back to win last weekend’s Oaklawn Handicap.

Should Game On Dude win Saturday, he will earn $1 million and become, according to Equibase, the 15th Thoroughbred to top $7 million in career earnings.

Mike Smith will ride Game On Dude, the 123-pound highweight. He will spot the rest of the field five pounds.

Moreno, who won last year’s Grade 2 Dwyer at Belmont, was scratched from the Oaklawn Handicap after developing shipping fever when he first arrived from California. On Sunday, he shipped to Keeneland, where he worked a half-mile Tuesday before shipping to West Virginia later that day.

“He’s really good,” trainer Eric Guillot said Wednesday. “He worked in 49 at Keeneland in a gallop, came back good, and ate up everything. You got to start somewhere.”

Joel Rosario will ride Moreno from post 2.

Clubhouse Ride, who nosed out Ron the Greek for second in this race last year, will break from the rail under Tyler Baze. He is coming off a third-place finish in the Santana Mile at Santa Anita on March 30.

Long River will break from post 5 under Irad Ortiz Jr. Long River had won three straight before losing a neck decision to stablemate Romansh in the Grade 3 Excelsior.

Lucy’s Boy Boy, 17 for 23 lifetime, comes off an 8 1/2-length allowance win sprinting March 29. Last year, Lucy’s Bob Boy won the Confucius Say Stakes on the Classic undercard.

The Charles Town Classic will go as the 12th race on a 14-race card that includes five other stakes, topped by the $200,000 Sugar Maple for fillies and mares at seven furlongs. The Sugar Maple drew a field of 11, including My Pal Chrisy, who was cross-entered in Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct and is expected to run there since she is already in New York.

Quiet Sea, coming off a 9 3/4-length victory in a Delta Downs allowance race; More Than a Cruise, the recent winner of the Conniver Stakes at Laurel; and Flattering Bea, who is 3 for 4 at Charles Town, head the Sugar Maple field.

There be an all-stakes pick four on races 9 through 12 with a guaranteed pool of $100,000.

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