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A golden opportunity missed for the Cox Plate? Take a lesson

Lankan Rupee is rated the best sprinter in the world, a title he will look to maintain at the Newmarket Handicap against quality opposition. (Photo: Racingandsports.com.au)
Roar Guru
21st September, 2014
6

Last Friday, to my sadness, I read that Game on Dude, a US people’s champion had been retired.

How can I summarise ‘The Dude’. Well, if you think The Cleaner is a game, full-on, kick-ass frontrunner? ‘The Dude’ would run him into the ground inside 1000m and be wondering what the fuss was all about.

Don’t believe me?

Check out the last two of his three straight victories in the San Anita Hcp Group 1(the Big ‘Cap) on YouTube. Particularly, 2014 and keep an eye on the quarter mile splits (402m) at the top of the screen.

2014 San Anita Hcp Group 1 (in a very serious field)

2013 San Anita Hcp Group 1

Not bad for an old timer, hey?

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He was an eight-time Grade I winner from 34 Starts, featuring 16 wins and over $6 million in prizemoney.

His current official world rating is 124, and to place that in perspective, if he was an Au-horse, that rating would make the seven year-old the best horse in Australasia, a length or so better than Dundeel’s best and a half length better than Lankan Rupee.

“So what?” say the parochial Au-racing Roarers. “Good horses get retired every day … And what the hell has it got to do with the Cox Plate.”

Patience.

The reasons for retirement given by his legendary U.S trainer Bob Baffert, as reported in the Bloodhorse. “Baffert had mixed emotions at the thought of never seeing The Dude race again.”

He went on to say, “I could have freshened him up and run him in the Breeders’ Cup, but with all that speed in there, I just didn’t want to do that to him, especially at his age. He probably could have been competitive…”

When ‘The Dude’ ran, America took an interest.

I wonder if Baffert knew there was a $3m race on offer around a tight track? Where technically, even today and on the slide, The Dude would be the easily the best horse in the country, let alone the Cox Plate.

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Spice it up by showing Bob a few of the vids of probable competitors and probably highlight the next best international being Hong Kong’s Dan Excel, rating 120.

I’m sure he would start having an ‘hmmmmmmm’ moment. Then we pounce! Seal the deal by replaying Baffert previous Cox Plates. He would quickly start thinking… ‘they won’t round up The Dude around that saucer of a racetrack regardless of the surface, especially with Mike Smith (jockey) rating’.

The negative is that The Dude’s only adventure overseas was to Meydan, and an abject failure in the 2012 Dubai World Cup, and he is a dirt horse. But coming to Australia, during spring, would be a different proposition. The relatively short travel from the U.S West Coast is an advantage and with training facilities mimicking the U.S. tracks, the siren-song would have been hard to resist.

The corporates are trying to get Au-people interested in US racing. Convince the books of the solid promotional value if they offered the Yanks a travel-and-board sponsorship. Imagine the positive press that would be generated around the world for our race.

The Cox would have arrived on the world stage a week before one of the world’s biggest meets, the Breeder’s Cup Series.

It didn’t happen (sigh); instead of becoming a walking headline and the banner for the Cox, Dude is lazing about his Californian stable right now although he has only been on the pension for a week or so.

I know, I know, I’m getting to the point.

Is there a lesson to be learned?
The lesson should be learned by the ATC for our Championships.

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There is another classy old-timer nearing the end of his career in the US and maybe the ATC should start the overtures right now!

Wise Dan – winner of six Eclipse Horse of the Year awards – 30 starts for 22 wins – $6 mil in prizemoney – Dual winner of the Breeder’s Cup Mile – US turf champion 2012/2013, and take it from me, it will be 2014 as well. In fact, from 15 starts on the turf so far he has won 14 (all black-type).

In the 2012 rendition of the Breeder’s Cup Mile while recording a sub 1.32 mile (flying start), he beat Animal Kingdom, Excelebration, rated UK’s next best three-yr-old behind Frankel. Incidentally, both those racers are shuttlers at stud in Au. Another runner was Moonlight Cloud, the horse that scared the life out of Black Caviar in the Jubilee before continuing on to be one of Europe’s best.

Wise Dan came back in 2013 to repeat the dose giggling past Olympic Glory, No jet lag, Silver Max and others. No big deal with that lot? Well, he did stumble out of the gates and still won by three quarters of a length as a six-year-old.

To show what a warrior he is, this year he won his first two starts, both at G1-turf, then stricken with colic he underwent emergency surgery. He survived, but many thought that would be it for the fabulous ageing champ but not Wise Dan. He was back three months later, in August, winning a 1800m Group 2 first-up and hasn’t raced since.

Some horse!

I figure he is the type of horse that sets a benchmark on what is called a ‘racing champion’ or more appropriately a ‘racing legend’.

The pitch to Dan’s connections
Easy sell. Tell them he could double his current $6mil prizemoney in six weeks! Tell them that our racing is not the pressure cooker of the states. Tell them anything… just get him here.

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Officially he has rated 129 in each of the last two years. Now a seven-year old he is currently rating 122 even though losing only once in his last 14 starts (10 x G1/4 x G2).

He is a lot better than 122, but his opposition isn’t, and the way he wins races leaves a question mark to Dan-newbies and official ratings.

While 1800m is as far as he has gone, winning many times, connections may consider an Au-2000m more doable than if asked to perform in U.S. And our race is on turf too… and worth $4m.

I have no doubt once the Australian public understand his racing style they will warm to this cheeky bugger.

When an associate told me to check out this average looking chestnut a few years back, I knew the advice wouldn’t be given unless beneficial but I must admit at being initially puzzled.

He seemed wayward, hanging all over the place; seemed to battle to the get the lead and victory, and although winning, he was not very convincing at all. Then he would do it again, and again, and again against all sorts and then I finally got Wise Dan. He was having a bit of fun. At least, in horse terms he was.

Sometimes it looked like he was waiting to be challenged and when tackled he would battle away as if saying to the contender, “Come on, try harder, you can beat me… so close, give it another push, you can get past me… oh here’s the winning post. You just missed, and you tried so hard too. Good effort anyway, better luck next time, now where’s the winner’s stall?”

I reckon trying to get him on a plane is worth a well-planned shot and should be a high priority. Even if he doesn’t go to our QEII, I’m sure the Ryder/Doncaster/All Aged would look mighty appealing as opposed to travelling to Dubai or racing for a quarter of our prizemoney in his home country next year.

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I’m sure Dan’s connections may have similar feelings to Baffert’s reasons for retiring Game on Dude. And that is why an immediate approach is necessary.

What an international drawcard and heralding banner Wise Dan would be for the Championships second year? I have a feeling he will attempt a tri-peat of the Breeder’s Mile.

So get him signed up for the autumn before the October race because if he fails they may very well retire him. Pay their bills, do whatever; he’ll more than pay his way, establishing the Championships big-time.

As for lifting the Cox’s international profile by finding next year’s Game On Dude… oh that’s right! It’s a toughie but I did hear about this old horse called Dan something-or-other who is a bit of a comedian, likes the turf and can run around tight corners… and wins. Interested?