Belmont Stories: Baffert Goes for the Gold With Game On Dude - NBC New York

Belmont Stories: Baffert Goes for the Gold With Game On Dude



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    Last year, Kent J. Desormeaux rides Summer Bird (L) takes the lead en route to winning the 141st Running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Racetrack.

    Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has a simple philosophy about running Game On Dude in the 1-mile Belmont Stakes on Saturday.

    "Either you can go that far, or you can't go that far,'' Baffert said of the longest and last race of the Triple Crown. "You can't get him fit for it in a few days. I just want to keep him happy and fresh.''

    Game On Dude, 10-1 on the morning line, is making only his third start for Baffert following a private purchase by a group that includes Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre and Las Vegas casino executive J. Terrence Lanni.

    In his Baffert debut, Game On Dude was no factor in the Derby Trial run in the mud at Churchill Downs. The gelding bounced back smartly to win the Lone Star Derby.

    This will be a much bigger, and longer, test around the sweeping turns at Belmont Park.

    "He's a very laid-back horse,'' Baffert said. "He's got a good mind. He's very plain. He's matured since I've had him and he gets over this track really well. It only took him one time around to get used to it.''

    Baffert and jockey Martin Garcia are looking for their second Triple Crown win this year. They teamed up to win the Preakness with Lookin At Lucky, who is not running in the Belmont.

    While Garcia is making his debut in the Belmont, Baffert has plenty of experience in the race. He won it in 2001 with Point Given. Three times Baffert brought horses on the verge of a Triple Crown sweep to the Belmont, only to be denied all three times with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002).


    KEEPING A DREAM ALIVE: Uptowncharlybrown might prove to be the best horse Alan Seewald ever trained.

    Sadly, Seewald didn't live long enough to find out. He died April 12 and the colt was transferred to Kiaran McLaughlin's barn.

    Seewald, 62 at the time of his death, will be very much in the thoughts of everyone connected with Uptowncharlybrown when he runs in the Belmont.

    Uptowncharlybrown is 10-1 on the morning line for the race Seewald was aiming for. He believed the long-striding colt would love the 1{ miles in the final jewel of the Triple Crown.

    "He covers a lot of ground,'' McLaughlin said. "They thought he would get the mile and a half. We don't know that until Saturday afternoon.''

    This will be the colt's first race for McLaughlin after earning two wins in five starts. Uptowncharlybrown was a fast-finishing third in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland in his latest outing April 17.

    McLaughlin hasn't had time for a major overhaul.

    "You know, every trainer does things a little different, so, yes, there's been some changes, but they did a great job with the horse,'' McLaughlin said. "We have a different team of people looking after him now, different feed program and different things that we have done, different blacksmiths. Overall, we just hope that he wants the mile and a half.''

    Uptowncharlybrown has 59 owners, a partnership group assembled by Robert Hutt as the Fantasy Lane Stable. Many of them, especially Hutt, were very close to Seewald.

    "Alan was a friend of mine,'' McLaughlin said. "Not as close as some of these people, like Bob Hutt, who was his best friend, but we were friends when I was training regularly down at Monmouth Park. Uptowncharlybrown was probably the best horse Alan ever bought or raced.''

    Now it falls to McLaughlin to fulfill Seewald's dream.

    "I probably feel a little more pressure, but we put pressure on ourselves every day,'' McLaughlin said. "But there is a lot. It would be quite emotional if we end up in the winner's circle. It would be unbelievable, actually.''


    HELPING THE OLDTIMERS: Rajiv Maragh will be wearing a Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation logo on his pants for the Belmont when he rides Uptowncharlybrown.

    The TRF finds retirement homes for horses after their racing careers.

    "We want the world to know the great things the TRF does for these horses,'' said Bob Hutt, managing partner of Fantasy Lane Stable. "These horses give us so many thrills and each one is a champion in its own right. We're thrilled to help a group that helps these animals. This was simply the right thing to do. I wish more trainers, owners and jockeys would do this.''


    NAME GAME: Some of the runners in the Belmont have colorful names, starting with Drosselmeyer. The original is a character in Tchaikovsky's famous ballet, "The Nutcracker.'' The connection comes through the dam's name, Golden Ballet.

    First Dude has a political hook. His dam is Run Sarah Run, so he carries the nickname of Todd Palin, the husband of former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

    The sire of Make Music for Me is by Bernstein. The colt's name is a tribute to composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein.

    Stately Victor honors a close friend of co-owner Tom Conway's son, Victor Perrone, who was killed in a car accident.

    Interactif was bred and named by the brothers Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, senior members of the French family that owns Chanel, the perfume and fashion company.

    Dave in Dixie is named for the son-in-law of owners Dawn and Ike Thrash from Hattiesburg, Miss.