Up the Backstretch: Native Diver is the Dude's to lose
By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor
(Sports Network) - For the second straight Saturday, Breeders' Cup contenders will reassemble in the starting gate for another chance to close out their 2012 season with a stakes victory.
Hollywood Park's Native Diver Stakes follows on the heels of last week's Cigar Mile at Aqueduct which had Stay Thirsty nosing out Breeders' Cup winner Groupie Doll. The Native Diver features Breeders' Cup Classic favorite Game On Dude along with two-time Pacific Classic champ Richard's Kid.
Game On Dude, trained by Bob Baffert, is the 3-5 morning line favorite in the 1 1/8-mile race and has drawn the inside post with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith in the saddle.
The 5-year-old gelding failed miserably in the Classic as the 13-10 favorite forcing Baffert to replace Rafael Bejarano with Smith. The Hall of Fame trainer previously won the Native Diver in 1999 with General Challenge, while Smith goes for his first win in the race.
In the hole right next to Game On Dude will be his former stablemate Richard's Kid. The 7-year-old will be ridden by Bejarano for trainer Doug O'Neill and is the 3-1 second pick.
Richard's Kid has raced against Game On Dude four times this year and has only bettered him in the Classic when 'Kid' was fifth to a seventh by 'Dude'.
At 5-1 are defending race winner Kettle Corn and 3-year-old colt Nonios.
Kettle Corn won last year's Native Diver as an 8-1 longshot and will again be ridden by Garrett Gomez. The pair will break from the outside post in the small field for trainer John Sadler.
To Kettle Corn's inside will be Nonios and jockey Martin Pedroza. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, the colt was sixth in the Breeders' Cup Classic after finishing second to Game On Dude in the Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita.
Completing the small but contentious field is 15-1 longshot Make Music for Me. Making his first start in six months, the 5-year-old will break from post three with Tyler Baze in the saddle.
Trained by Alexis Barba, Make Music for Me has been racing primarily on turf and is winless in three prior starts at Hollywood Park and has not won in eight races on artificial surfaces.
Game On Dude will display his usual speed on Saturday and should easily go to the lead out of the gate from the inside post. Baffert, who was upset when Richard's Kid was taken from him this year, will have an extra shine from his smiling face in the winner's circle.
11/30 16:07:18 ET