Chantal Sutherland has a symbiotic relationship going on with Martin Garcia. She rides Game On Dude; he works the horse.
“I know the horse very well,” said Sutherland, who has ridden Game On Dude in five of his 14 career starts, the last four in a row, including a game second-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last out on Nov. 5.
Sutherland will ride last year’s Santa Anita Handicap winner again Sunday when the 5-year-old Awesome Again gelding trained by Bob Baffert makes his 2012 debut in the Grade II San Antonio Stakes, a major steppingstone to the Grade I, $750,000 Big ‘Cap that will be run this year on March 3.
“It’s kind of a touchy situation,” Sutherland said. “Martin is doing his job for Bob, but I’m sure he would prefer to be actually riding the horse, so there’s a bit of competition there and I try not to rub it in. I appreciate what Martin’s done and I’d love to work the horse myself, but you know Bob.”
Game On Dude’s forte is speed, but when the gates open, the rider might have to make a split-second decision, depending on fate.
“With Bob,” Sutherland continued, “it’s kind of like, ‘You’re the pilot, but he’s in the control tower.’ It’s up to him. He could change his mind 10 times between now and Sunday.”
The field for the San Antonio: Tres Borrachos, Rafael Bejarano, 4-1; Uh Oh Bango, Mike Smith, 7-2; Game On Dude, Chantal Sutherland, 4-5; El Gato Malo, Corey Nakatani, 12-1; Ashtar, Kevin Krigger, 20-1; Victory Pete, Martin Garcia, 6-1; and Skipshot, Joe Talamo, 8-1.