Game On Dude heads strong Classic


There is no Zenyatta or Curlin in this year's Breeders' Cup Classic. In other words, there is no megastar to grab the attention of the general public. But within the confines of racing, the Classic is a compelling race with nine Grade 1 winners in the field.

Game On Dude, a 5-year-old gelding by Awesome Again, is just a tot in the realm of geldings and a victory in the Classic could not only put him atop the list of contenders for Horse of the Year, but serve as a springboard for a long-lasting career that may ultimately put him in a class with the great geldings of modern times.

He has already captured the Santa Anita Handicap and Hollywood Gold Cup and was narrowly defeated in the final jump of the TVG Pacific Classic, and he also has several other Grade 1 and 2 victories to his credit, as well as a game, second-place finish in last year's Classic at Churchill Downs.

A victory in the Classic would give him a record of six-for-six at Santa Anita Park, making him a true hometown hero. It also would give him a record of five wins from seven starts in 2012, with three Grade 1 scores and a pair of Grade 2s.

Game On Dude, who was made the 9-5 morning line favorite, drew post 5 in the 12-horse Classic field, which pleased his trainer Bob Baffert, who feels the break is more important than the draw.

But even with his home field advantage, the Classic is far from an easy spot, with seven top-class horses invading from the East Coast and another from Canada.

Bill Mott alone will send a formidable army, consisting of two-time Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Flat Out (post 2), this year's Santa Anita Handicap and Stephen Foster Handicap winner Ron the Greek (post 10), and this year's Woodward Stakes winner To Honor and Serve (post 12).

Another horse likely to get a good deal of play is the towering Mucho Macho Man, impressive winner of the Suburban Handicap this year, as well as two other stakes and a neck defeat in the Woodward. The son of Macho Uno drew post 11, which should be perfect for the long-striding colt.

The most unfortunate aspect of this year's Classic is the lack of 3-year-old representation, especially with the lack of representation from the Classics. That can be attributed to injury, which ended the careers of Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and Preakness winner I'll Have Another, Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags , and Derby and Preakness runner-up Bodemeister.

That leaves us with the dead-heat Travers winner Alpha, Pennsylvania Derby winner Handsome Mike, and the Awesome Again and Haskell runner-up Nonios, an up-and-coming son of Breeders' Cup Classic winner Pleasantly Perfect who has run bang-up races behind Game On Dude and Paynter.

Pace is likely to play a major role, with stone closer Richard's Kid's stablemate Handsome Mike nearly a sure thing to set a solid pace and keep Game On Dude and the other tactical speed horses occupied at least for a while. Handsome Mike drew post 7, outside Game On Dude. Let the cat and mouse game begin.