OwnerGary and Mary West
BreederSummer Wind Equine
SireCandy Ride (ARG)
One would be hard pressed to find a more aptly-named racehorse than Game Winner. The freshman colt by Candy Ride (ARG) finished off his perfect first season of racing with a flourish when he captured the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile on November 2 at Churchill Downs, his fourth win in as many starts.
A victory for Game Winner in the Juvenile looked like a longshot at the start of the 1 1/16-mile event. Breaking from post nine, he was bumped at the start and got away 10th. He'd only passed a few rivals after a half mile, but was picking up steam steadily under Joel Rosario.
With longshot Knicks Go battling hard to hang onto the lead in midstretch, Game Winner lived up to his moniker to blow on by to win by more than two lengths.
He was four-wide in the first turn, three-wide on the far turn, then bumped with Knicks Go in deep stretch before putting that rival away.
“He broke fine but it looked like they took my spot and I had to go wide,” said Rosario, who also won the Juvenile Fillies earlier in the day with Jaywalk. “He seemed like he didn’t mind that. He was comfortable. That’s why we got him moving at that point, instead of getting inside and taking back. Turning for home the more I rode him the more he gave it to me.”
Trainer Bob Baffert, who earned his 15th Breeders' Cup win with Game Winner, said afterwards, “I was glad [jockey Rosario] was patient with him. I felt a lot of pressure coming here because I have really thought a lot about this colt. I know he is a really good horse. He showed it today; he was much the best.”
Longtime owners Gary and Mary West ponied up $100,000 to buy Game Winner at the 2017 Keeneland September Sale. With the Breeders' Cup win, the colt's earnings are already at $1.5 million.
Game Winner broke his maiden first time out at Del Mar in August, then captured the Del Mar Futurity and American Pharoah Stakes, both also Grade 1 events.
Game Winner won the Juvenile in the first year of the “Future Stars Friday,” in which all five Juvenile races were contested on Breeders’ Cup Friday. It was quite evident for Game Winner, with the first Saturday in May under the twin spires in 2019 a likely goal for his connections. “This horse likes Churchill Downs,” said Baffert. “That’s a good sign.”