Game On Dude: Gallant and kind at the same time
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Coffee-colored thoroughbred Game On Dude, now residing in splendid retirement in Georgetown, Kentucky at the Old Friends facility operated by Michael Blowen, is still making friends and influencing people. Even though he’s been away from racing since the fall of 2014, Game On Dude continues to gather people of all ages to his list of well-wishers.
Patrons who came to Charles Town to wager on several Charles Town Classics should remember Game On Dude, the intrepid gelding that helped the county track successfully stage several racing nights as its signature racing event.
When the publicized trainer Bob Baffert brought Game On Dude to Charles Town as a four-year-old in 2011, he was leaving his familiar California base and trying to win at a much smaller track than he was used to seeing.
The Charles Town Classic was a grade three race. It was the one event the track wanted to use to prick the ears of the public and get more people to visit on more than just one “Classic” night.
Game On Dude won the 2011 Charles Town Classic.
Baffert was back again in 2013, trying to win with the six-year-old nut-brown runner that time. Game On Dude didn’t disappoint. He won again.
As a seven-year-old, Game On Dude once again returned from southern California, this time trying for a third win in the “Classic.” Winning jeweled-graded races three times wasn’t anything new to Game On Dude. He had posted three wins in the grade one Santa Anita Handicap, known on the West Coast as the “Big Cap.” He was also a two-time winner of the Hollywood Gold Cup.
As a six-year-old in 2013, Game On Dude transfixed the thoroughbred racing community when he had victories in three of California’s most famous grade one stakes — the Santa Anita Handicap, the Hollywood Gold Cup and the Pacific Classic.
Instead of continuing the feel-good theme and cantering off with his third Charles Town Classic in 2014, Game on Dude finished a game second, still showing his mettle and tenacity.
Back in California, he was still competing at the highest level.
Toward the end of the 2014 racing calendar, he finished fourth after engaging in a speed duel that compromised his chances.
Baffert announced Game On Dude’s retirement, and began searching for just the right place for him to finish out his days.
After collecting information from a handful of sources and evaluating several retirement locations, Baffert decided on Old Friends near Lexington, Kentucky.
Game On Dude had ended his on-track career with 34 races that had him win 16 times and earn just shy of $6.5 million.
Baffert and co-owner Joe Torre of baseball fame were quite satisfied with Old Friends.
Blowen, who was the guiding force behind the building and care-taking of the thoroughbred horse facility, has become just as satisfied with “The Dude.”
“He’s probably the most perfect retiree we’ve ever had,” Blowen said. “He makes no demands at all and he’s very, very smart. He loves Jolly Ranchers, the candy. He likes the watermelon a lot.”
Baffert and his wife, Jill, have visited Game On Dude several times, mostly when the Kentucky Derby is raced in Louisville across the elongated state from the Lexington area.
Game On Dude helped bring credibility to the Charles Town Classic in his three visits to that event.
And his temperament and kindness to his handlers and those around him every day made the resolute gelding a favorite even when he wasn’t off racing.