The Gary and Mary West-owned colt was much the best Saturday in a four-horse field in the Grade 3, US$150,000 Los Alamitos Derby.
The son of Candy Ride sped away from Parsimony down the stretch, covering 1 1/8 miles over the Los Alamitos dirt in 1:48.3.
Game winner is trained by Bob Baffert and was piloted by Joel Rosario.
Baffert told TVG after the win that this race would serve as a prep for Saratoga’s US$1.25 million Travers Stakes (G1), which is scheduled for August 24.
That race carries with it a “Win and You’re In” ticket for the Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 2 back in southern California at Santa Anita Park.
The two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer Baffert now owns nine Los Alamitos Derby victories, including three straight.
Baffert hopes Game Winner treads a similar path to West Coast, who in 2017 used the Los Alamitos Derby as a springboard for a Travers victory.
“This should set (Game Winner) up for the Travers just perfect,” Baffert said. “West Coast, we did the same thing with him. Hopefully we’ll have the same kind of year with him. …
“All my good horses, most of them have run here and run well here. It’s a good, safe race track and they come out of it really well.”
Saturday marked Game Winner’s first start since he was elevated May 4 at Churchill Downs to a fifth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
In his two Derby preps, he ran second in both Oaklawn Park’s Rebel Stakes (G2) and in the Santa Anita Derby (G1).
“I’m still a little bit upset – I really thought Iwas going to win the Kentucky Derby this year,” Baffert said.
Game Winner went 4-for-4 as a freshman in 2018, including Grade 1 wins in the Del Mar Futurity, the American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita and in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill. He earned the Eclipse Award for champion 2-year-old colt.