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Features - RACING

Game On Dude, above winning the Pacific Classic, was pegged as the 8-to-5 favorite for the Breeders' Cup Classic. (Benoit & Associates photo)

By Tom Pedulla, America’s Best Racing

ARCADIA, Calif. – Not much gets in the way of the World Series, or the meetings surrounding it, but the Fall Classic paused briefly on Monday for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.

Baseball great Joe Torre, part owner of top Classic contender Game On Dude, broke away from a meeting to field a call from Bob Baffert, his trainer, who wanted to update him on the gelding’s condition.

“Bob, is everything all right?” an anxious Torre asked.

Baffert assured him everything is better than all right.

“He’s really excited about it. He can’t wait,” the Hall of Fame trainer said of his conversation with Torre, one of baseball’s most prominent decision makers. “I told him the horse looks great. We just need some racing luck.”

Hours after that exchange, Game On Dude drew post nine in a field of 12 and was established as an 8-to-5 favorite for the $5 million Classic, one of the few major races that has eluded Baffert during his illustrious career.

Game On Dude may be poised to fill that gap in Baffert’s résumé on Saturday at Santa Anita Park. He rattled off six consecutive victories by a combined margin of 25 ½ lengths since he inexplicably ran seventh as the beaten favorite in last year’s event.


It seemed that everything that could go wrong for the son of Awesome Again did go wrong during his only defeat here. Jockey Rafael Bejarano needed to steady him at the start; they were ultimately carried four wide.

Mike Smith replaced Bejarano and has been aboard for every win but one. Smith had an assignment aboard Royal Delta that forced a move to Martin Garcia, who was aboard for an 8 ½-length joy ride in the Pacific Classic Stakes on Aug. 25 in the gelding’s most recent start. Smith will be back aboard for the Classic, however.

Mucho Macho Man, last year’s runner-up, was made the second choice at 5-to-1 followed by defending winner Fort Larned (6-to-1), who has endured an uneven campaign for trainer Ian Wilkes. Mucho Macho Man prepped for the Classic with a decisive 4 ¼-length victory in the Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita on Sept. 28 for new rider Gary Stevens. He has trained here since to create a home-course feel.

“I think it’s a big advantage to run out of a horse’s stall and now he’s at home,” said trainer Kathy Ritvo.


Draw Inside

Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire

Game On Dude typically is a model of consistency. He owns 15 victories and has been a runner-up five times in 27 career starts for earnings of $5,602,158. One of those second-place finishes came against longshot Drosselmeyer when the Classic was run at Churchill Downs in 2011. He banked $1,475,400 in sweeping seven of eight starts at Santa Anita.

The $2 million Distaff drew only six starters, but the 1 1/8-mile contest more than makes up in quality what it lacks in quantity as the centerpiece of Friday's card. As Richard E. Mandella, trainer of the brilliant Beholder, said, “It’s not a very big field, but it’s very good.”

Princess of Sylmar could conceivably emerge from the fray as Horse of the Year if she is able to handle two-time defending champion Royal Delta and West Coast star Beholder. Royal Delta, bidding to join Goldikova (Mile) as the only horse to win three Breeders’ Cup races, is slightly favored at 8-to-5 with Princess of Sylmar at 9-to-5. Beholder follows at 5-to-2.

“She couldn’t be doing any better,” Mandella said. “I’m sure there are at least a couple of others who could say the same thing.”

Princess of Sylmar, a Pennsylvania bred, is riding high with a four-race winning streak. She pulled what was then considered a tremendous upset when she overtook Beholder by one-half length in the Kentucky Oaks. She then rolled by six lengths in the Coaching Club American Oaks, 2 ½ lengths in the Alabama and bested Royal Delta by two lengths in the Beldame in the most recent start for each.

$5 million Breeders' Cup Classic

Nov. 2, Santa Anita Park, Race 12, Post Time 8:35 p.m. ET

1 1/4 miles (Dirt), 3-year-olds and older

Post Horse Jockey Trainer Odds
1 Last Gunfighter Javier Castellano Chad C. Brown 20-1
2 Paynter Martin Garcia Bob Baffert 12-1
3 Planteur Ryan Moore Marco Botti 20-1
4 Moreno Joe Talamo Eric J. Guillot 15-1
5 Declaration of War Joseph O'Brien Aidan P. O'Brien 10-1
6 Mucho Macho Man Gary Stevens Kathy Ritvo 5-1
7 Fort Larned Brian Hernandez Ian R. Wilkes 6-1
8 Palace Malice  John Velazquez Todd A. Pletcher 10-1
9 Game On Dude Mike Smith Bob Baffert 5-1
10 Will Take Charge Louis Saez D. Wayne Lukas 12-1
11 Ron the Greek Jose Lezcano William I. Mott 8-1
12 Flat Out Joel Rosario William I. Mott 12-1

$2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff

Nov. 1, Santa Anita Park, Race 10, Post Time 7:35 p.m. ET

1 1/8 miles (dirt), fillies and mares, 3 years old and older

Post Horse Jockey Trainer Odds
1 Street Girl Angel Castillo Manuel J. Azpurua 30-1
2 Authenticity John Velazquez Todd A. Pletcher 8-1
3 Close Hatches Joel Rosario William I. Mott 6-1
4 Royal Delta Mike Smith William I. Mott 8-5
5 Beholder Gary Stevens Richard E. Mandella 5-2
6 Princess of Sylmar Javier Castellano Todd A. Pletcher 9-5


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