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The 34th running of the Native Diver Stakes

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Published on Dec 1, 2012

Game On Dude rebounded from a poor performance in the Breeders' Cup Classic Nov. 3, winning the $242,500 Native Diver Stakes -- Presented by the Oak Tree Racing Association -- Saturday at Betfair Hollywood Park.

The 10th lifetime victory for the 3-10 favorite did not come easy. The 5-year-old Awesome Again gelding was challenged by 5-1 shot Nonios.

At the finish of the Grade III, Game On Dude, who is trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert for a partnership that includes Joe Torre's Diamond Pride LLC, Lanni Family Trust, Ernie Moody's Mercedes Stable LLC and Bernie Schiappa, prevailed by 1 ΒΌ lengths, completing the 1 1/8 miles over Cushion Track in 1:52.27.

Ridden for the first time by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, Game On Dude, who is out of the Devil His Due mare Worldly Pleasure, boosted his bankroll to $3,132,158 in 22 starts. The win was his third in four races over Cushion Track. The Kentucky bred won the Grade II Californian and the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup during the Spring/Summer meet.

Nonios, who won the Grade III Affirmed Handicap locally June 3, broke in front of Game On Dude Saturday, but Smith moved inside of the son of Pleasantly Perfect to gain the advantage on the clubhouse turn, then got the dark bay to relax through 49.81 and 1:14.97 fractions through six furlongs.

Game On Dude appeared ready to take charge of the Native Diver approaching the quarter pole, but Nonios was resurgent, drawing along side the public choice in the final eighth of a mile, but Game On Dude, who spotted the runner-up five pounds (124-119), edged away in the closing yards.

Favored for the seventh consecutive time in the United States, Game On Dude paid $2.60, $2.20 and $2.10, making him the shortest priced winner in Native Diver history -- Twilight Agenda paid $2.80 when he won in 1991.

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