Game Winner

One of the most exciting colts during the 2018 and 2019 seasons, this Bob Baffert trainee loved to win races. And he did so from the very start.

Game Winner sported a perfect record in his 2018 campaign, and he established himself as a versatile colt early on. Not afraid to battle in the stretch, Game Winner won races at six and seven furlongs, as well as a mile and a sixteenth. As far as tracks went, he visited the winners' circle at Del Mar, Santa Anita and Churchill Downs. And he captured no less than three Grade I races in the Del Mar Futurity, American Pharoah Stakes and Breeders' Cup Juvenile while going on to be named Champion Two-Year-Old at the Eclipse Awards.

But Game Winner showed more in his freshman season, for he won while stalking the pace or coming from several lengths behind. Not only that, he shipped well, the confirmation being his Breeders' Cup score. Not only that, he raced wide throughout the Juvenile, but showed resolve to defeat his rivals in a terrific performance on one of the sport's biggest stages.

A debut winner like his sire, Candy Ride, Game Winner was a horse to watch going into 2018.

Willing to battle in the stretch when he was two, Game Winner did so again in his sophomore debut. Sent to Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, Game Winner's sophomore debut came in a division of the Grade II Rebel Stakes, a Kentucky Derby prep race. He experienced his first defeat that day, losing to the highly talented Omaha Beach. But it was a solid return for Game Winner, who missed by a nose after engaging the winner in the stretch during the race's final seconds. That set him up for his next start, the Grade I Santa Anita Derby.

The race was similar to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, for Game Winner raced wide for much of the mile and one-eighth event. The pink silks with black diamonds of owners Gary and Mary West were prominent in the stretch, but Game Winner again had to settle for second, this time to stablemate Roadster, who overtook him in the stretch.

Even so, it was a fine runner up finish, and Game Winner was still a contender for the Kentucky Derby. He was bred for the mile and a quarter distance, too, being a son of 2003 Pacific Classic winner Candy Ride and 1992 Breeders' Cup Classic champion A.P. Indy. With his prep season done, Game Winner headed for Louisville.

Among the top choices for the Kentucky Derby, the race proved to be eventful for the bay colt. Just as he had six months earlier in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Game Winner found himself racing wide for much of the way, only this time it was on an off track. Adding to that was how he was next to last in the field of nineteen entering the backstretch.

But Game Winner was not going to yield to adversity. Not without a fight, at least. With Joel Rosario in the saddle, Game Winner dug in, racing wide in the far turn and the stretch to get up for sixth place (which later became fifth place after the disqualification of Maximum Security). It was a loss, but Game Winner was battle tested thanks to his wide trips. Adding to that his fearlessness, he put together a performance deserving of acclaim in the sport's biggest race.

Two months after the Kentucky Derby, Game Winner was back in California. More specifically, he was at Los Alamitos for the Grade III Los Alamitos Derby. He took on a small field of three rivals, but Game Winner was all business. He tracked a slow pace (he could handle quick and slow fractions when competing) and seized the lead in the stretch to win going away for his fifth and final career win.