Below is a preview of the Breeders’ Cup Classic. For analysis, selections, and PPs for ALL Breeders’ Cup races, get the TimeformUS Breeders’ Cup Package.
The Breeders’ Cup Classic
1 and 1/4 Miles, Dirt, 3 and Up
Santa Anita, Saturday, Race 12
1) #9 Game On Dude
2) #5 Declaration of War
3) #6 Mucho Macho Man
Game On Dude capped an extremely disappointing day for trainer Bob Baffert’s stable when he finished seventh beaten 15 lengths as the 6/5 favorite in last year’s Classic.
It was certainly an uncharacteristically dull performance. Game On Dude broke tardily and was pinched back at the start. That poor start left him positioned in mid-pack, where he did not appear to be traveling all that comfortably. It quickly seemed evident that Game On Dude wasn’t relaxing, and jockey Rafael Bejarano steered him from an inside position to a spot several paths outwards, causing him to race wide on both turns but leaving him free of any more dirt kickback to the face.
Game On Dude briefly showed signs of a pulse when Bejarano asked him to pick things up going into the far turn, but he was soon making hard work of it and faded steadily through the stretch.
That lackluster performance, as a strong favorite on a huge stage, did a lot to damage the reputation of Game On Dude. However, he’s been sensational since that defeat, winning six straight races, five of them with speed figures in the 127 to 132 range.
Game On Dude is clearly the best horse in this field on form. He has his doubters, to be sure, but the same was true going into the Pacific Classic last time out. They said, “Excuses or not, he’s failed in his two prior Pacific Classic tries,” and that type of skepticism led to Game On Dude going off at fairly generous odds of 8/5 against a wildly inferior field of horses. He answered his critics that day, winning the Pacific Classic by eight and a half lengths and doing so with devastating ease.
In plain English, if Game On Dude shows up and runs his typical race, only unlucky tactical dynamics or a poor trip can beat him.
Our second selection is the European raider Declaration of War. He is a multiple Group 1 winner in Europe this year and has been assigned excellent figures, in the 125 to 130 range, in each of his last five starts.
Make no mistake, one must always be skeptical of European imports who tackle top-class American horses over a dirt surface.
Indeed, the record of foreign shippers in Breeders’ Cup Classic editions run over a dirt surface is 35 starts, 1 win, 3 seconds, and 2 thirds. Those are obviously weak stats, though the lone winner, Arcangues, did connect at 133/1 odds after receiving a dream trip under Jerry Bailey in a less-than-stellar edition of the Classic.
Still, Declaration of War owns a pedigree well suited to dirt racing. His sire, War Front, and dam, Tempo West (a half-sister to Fountain of Youth/Champagne/Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags), were both North American dirt horses. That fact alone gives him a wildcard look at generous 10/1 morning line odds.
Our third selection is Mucho Macho Man. He was a fantastic second over this trip in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, coming up only a half-length short to a loose-on-the-lead Fort Larned. Mucho Macho Man reaffirmed his love for this track with a dominant win in the local prep for the Classic. If you draw a line through all of his wet-track clunkers, Mucho Macho Man is an admirably consistent horse who is very competitive with these on his best form.
For exotic wagering purposes, we see Last Gunfighter as a very interesting horse who should be used underneath on tickets. From a tactical standpoint, he should drop back early, save ground, and eventually get the run of the race. With Game On Dude likely to get an ultra-aggressive ride from Mike Smith, and with several other quality front-runners in the field, Last Gunfighter could pass a lot of tiring horses in the stretch and significantly outrun his odds.
For our thoughts on other contenders in the Classic field, and for analysis and selections for all 14 Breeders’ Cup races, get the Breeders’ Cup Package.