Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert and Rafael Bejarano teamed to win three of the five Grade 1 stakes worth $250,000 each at Santa Anita on Saturday, including the Awesome Again with Game On Dude.
The five-year-old earned an automatic berth in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita, a race he finished second in last year at Churchill Downs.
"I was hoping for this kind of outcome," Baffert said. "They were all coming
into their races really well. We still have a ways to go, and as long as they all stay healthy and keep moving forward, that's the main goal."
Game On Dude returned to the winner's circle under new jockey Rafael Bejarano after they won by 3 1/4 lengths.
The gelding improved to 5-0 at his home track for Baffert, who replaced Chantal Sutherland with Bejarano after Game On Dude lost the Pacific Classic by a half-length last month at Del Mar.
Berths in various Breeders' Cup races were awarded to all the winners. Bejarano capped his day by winning the $70,000-added Unzip Me Stakes.
"The break was really important for him," Baffert said. "Sometimes he wants to get a little edgy in the gate, but he broke really well. Plan A was if he breaks well, don't move on him. He found a seam right away and got him to the outside. They slowed it down, so he just sat there and waited, then asked him to run in the stretch. It was the prep that you want for a horse like this."
Executiveprivilege improved to 5-0 with a 6 1/4-length victory in the Chandelier Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, securing a spot in the BC Juvenile Fillies.
Ridden by Bejarano, Executiveprivilege led all the way to give Baffert his eighth win in the race, previously run as the Oak Leaf Stakes.
The jockey reported: "She impressed me today. When I saw a lot of scratches in the race, especially the speed, I had no choice but to send her. She brought me to the lead easy and I was concerned a little bit, but after the first turn I knew I had so much horse. She was so relaxed. I think after this race she'll be ready for the Breeders' Cup. She's going to be tough
Power Broker won for the first time in four starts, surging through the stretch under Bejarano to capture the FrontRunner Stakes for 2-year-olds by 6 1/2 lengths.
A run at the Kentucky Derby could be a possibility although Baffert refused to be drawn.
"I was really high on this horse before we went to Del Mar. I thought he was a top horse. He let me down when he ran down there, and I was a little disappointed. Then he came back and he didn't work that well. Then he worked really well the other day. I was thinking of putting him on the grass. After that last race, I switched him up. It worked out, " the trainer added.
Love and Pride won the Zenyatta Stakes by 3 1/4 lengths for trainer Todd Pletcher, who shipped the filly in from New York to get familiar with Santa Anita before the Breeders' Cup.
Martin Garcia, the rider of the filly reported: "The instructions were to let her break and not fight her, just let her be happy. That's exactly how the race turned out. I let her break, sat, then when it was time to go she just finished the job. I'm very lucky to ride this beautiful horse and I will pray to see if I can stay with her."
Marketing Mix and Garrett Gomez won the Rodeo Drive Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths on the turf for trainer Tom Proctor. The 4-year-old filly claimed the automatic spot in the BC Filly & Mare Turf.
"You never know how things are actually going to set up in a race," said Gomez. "I know this mare; she's really handy about what needs to be done at certain parts of the race. She's just pure class. She was able to listen to what I was asking of her. I saw the two leaders hook up early on. They opened up six or seven on us, and I was using the next two horses as my cover but they just couldn't keep up. I enjoy using my cover to pull me to the leader but I ended being the one that was starting to pull the rest of them along. I don't like to do that too much, but you can do that when you have a quality horse, and she's a quality horse. She proved it today."