Mon, 07/15/2019 - 15:00

Sent off at a nickel on the dollar for Saturday’s GIII Los Alamitos Derby, Gary and Mary West’s reigning champion 2-year-old male Game Winner (Candy Ride {Arg}) bounded home to his first victory as a sophomore, earning a trip to the GI Runhappy Travers S. in the process.

Drawn the rail in a field of four and racing with the blinkers back on, Game Winner was away without incident, but was content to drop back into third, allowing stablemate Kingly (Tapit) to set the pace unopposed up front. Well held by regular rider Joel Rosario and guided into the three path for the run up the backstretch, Game Winner was ridden along three wide at the midpoint of the hairpin turn. Carried a bit wide into the stretch by Parsimony (Dominus) as Kingly plugged on gamely enough at the fence, the heavy chalk lugged in a bit with an eighth of a mile to travel, but he kicked away from there to win with something in reserve.

“I think this was a perfect race for him,” trainer Bob Baffert commented. “I put the blinkers back on him because I wanted him to get a little bit more focused leaving the gate and into the race a little bit more. He was falling back a little too far. He had worked exceptionally well coming into this. I think that break really helped him. I love the way he finished the last eighth of a mile. I told (Rosario) to give him an easy out, but try to get something out of the race and have a little foundation.”

Perfect in four runs as a juvenile, including a 2 1/4-length success in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Game Winner lost his unbeaten record by a nose to Omaha Beach (War Front) in a division of the GII Rebel S. at Oaklawn Mar. 16. Second by a half-length to barnmate Roadster (Quality Road) in the GI Santa Anita Derby Apr. 6, the bay endured a tough trip–though remained clear of the well-documented interference–in the GI Kentucky Derby and finished sixth, beaten under four lengths, before being promoted to fifth.

Pedigree Notes:

Game Winner is out of an unraced daughter of Eclipse Award winner Fleet Indian, a dual Grade I winner and victorious in the 2006 GII Delaware H., who was acquired privately after RNA-ing for $3.9 million at the 2007 Keeneland November Sale. Game Winner is her last listed produce.