Thoroughbred Racing

Up the Backstretch: Next stop Breeders' Cup

By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

(Sports Network) - The major races have been run and now the horses are in their final preparations for the 29th Breeders' Cup World Championships to be held at Santa Anita Park Nov.2 and 3.

The two-day event will conclude with the running of the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at 1 1/4 miles. The top returning horse from last year's race will be runner-up Game On Dude, trained by Bob Baffert.

Game On Dude, currently second in the NTRA Poll, was defeated in last year's Classic at Churchill Downs by longshot Drosselmeyer. This year, however, the 5-year-old gelding will be racing on his home track Santa Anita.

Baffert's horse won the Awesome Again Stakes comfortably in his last start prior to the Breeders' Cup. Game On Dude captured the stakes in 2011 by a half- length when it was known as the Goodwood. This, year he posted a 3 1/4-length win.

The gelding began 2012 with a victory in the San Antonio Handicap at Santa Anita and went on to win the Californian and Hollywood Gold Cup followed by a second in the Pacific Classic. His only poor outing was a 12th in the Dubai World Cup.

A win in the Classic would virtually assure Game On Dude of being voted Horse of the Year.

Unfortunately, the gelding won't have a chance to take on the current top horse in the NTRA Poll, Wise Dan. Also a 5-year-old gelding, Wise Dan will start in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Mile on Santa Anita's famed turf course.

Wise Dan, trained by Charles Lopresti, is a versatile horse, posting wins on dirt, synthetic and grass. The gelding won the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland as his final test before heading to California and is on a three-race win streak, having earlier captured the Fourstardave and Woodbine Mile.

The leading female thoroughbred is Royal Delta, winner of last year's Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic as a 3-year-old. The filly could become the fourth straight filly or mare to be named Horse of the Year with a repeat in the Ladies' Classic, but that would only happen if both Game On Dude and Wise Dan throw in clunkers at Santa Anita.

Trained by Bill Mott, Royal Delta has registered three wins and two seconds in six starts this year. And like Game On Dude, her lone misstep came in the Dubai World Cup, when she finished ninth.

However, until her 9 1/2-length win in the Beldame on Sept. 29, Royal Delta had not exhibited domination the prior two starts. She barely held off Tiz Miz Sue in the Delaware Handicap and got beat by Love and Pride in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga.

Mott will have potentially three solid candidates for the Classic versus Game On Dude. The Hall of Fame trainer, who won last year's Classic with Drosselmeyer, will saddle two-time Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Flat Out, Woodward winner To Honor and Serve and Santa Anita Handicap champ Ron the Greek.

10/18 12:48:35 ET