DEL MAR, CA – Gary and Mary West’s Game Winner lived up to his name after he chased down a loose-on-the-lead Rowayton in deep stretch to Monday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Del Mar Futurity Stakes.
After refusing several times to load into the far gate, Game Winner finally entered and broke under Mario Gutierrez at odds of 8/5, then jostled about with Sigalert and Spin Lightning while Rowayton shot out strongly to a 4-length lead and posted fractions of :22.53 and :45.35. Racing alongside his Bob Baffert stablemate Roadster through the far turn, the two drew closer but still had work to do. Urged forward, Game Winner was able to collar Rowayton inside the final 1/16 and drew off late to win by 1 1/2 lengths in a final time of 1:23.18 for the 7-furlong main track event.
“He (Baffert) told me, ‘You know how to ride good horses; go ahead and ride him like you can,’” Gutierrez said. “He said he wanted me to give him a little help out of the gate, then he said he thought he’d be strong for the finish. He was so right. I’m so happy for this opportunity; I’m so happy this worked out this way.”
Though no match for the victor, Rowayton held off the 3/5 favorite Roadster by a 1/2-length. Much farther back, Sigalert crossed in fifth ahead of Spin Lightning and Sparky Ville to complete the order of finish. Savagery was scratched.
“I’m a little disappointed in (Roadster), but it was only his second outing,” Baffert said. “Sometimes, the second out when you break their maidens, they can get a little flat on you.”
Game Winner’s win was his second in as many starts following a nearly-6-length victory on debut here just 16 days ago. The 2-year-old son of Candy Ride, purchased as a yearling for $110,000, has now earned $216,000.
“Going down the backside, that other horse (Rowayton) was way out there, and sometimes if you get out there like that, you can steal a race,” said Baffert, who won his record 14th Futurity. “I just hoped my guys knew they were in good spots. I knew they’d have to sprint home. I knew coming in that (Game Winner) was coming back a little quick, but he’s a big, strong, heavy horse, and I knew he could handle it. I’d rather run him again than keep working him.”
Game Winner returned $5.20 to win, $3.20 to place, and $2.10 to show. Rowayton brought back $5 to place and $2.40 to show, while Roadster paid $2.10 to show.