ARCADIA, Calif. — Game On Dude was made the early 9-5 favorite in a field of 12 for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, a race he led most of the way last year before being overtaken in the closing strides. This time, he’ll have home-field advantage running at Santa Anita, where the 5-year-old gelding is 5-0.
He will try to deliver a first-time victory in the Classic for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who holds a strong hand heading into the two-day, $25 million world championships. Baffert has finished second twice, including last year.
“He’s a better horse this year,” Baffert said Monday, when Game On Dude drew the No. 5 post for the 11/4-mile Classic. “He seems more relaxed. He’s getting better with age.”
Baffert is taking two shots at winning the $2 million Juvenile with Power Broker and Title Contender. They’ll be facing stiff competition in undefeated Shanghai Bobby, the 2-1 favorite trained by Todd Pletcher. The Juvenile winner is typically tagged as the winter favorite for the Kentucky Derby.
Shanghai Bobby was one of nine New York-based horses scheduled to arrive today, but the flight has been pushed back to Wednesday because of Hurricane Sandy, which slammed into the New York metropolitan area Monday.
Game On Dude, co-owned by retired Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre, heads a field of 12 for the Classic. With Rafael Bejarano replacing Chantal Sutherland in the saddle, the gelding will try to win after getting beaten by Drosselmeyer last year at Churchill Downs.
Flat Out and Whitney winner Fort Larned were the 5-1 co-second choices. Ron the Greek was made the 6-1 third choice.
Trainer Bill Mott, who swept the Ladies’ Classic and the Classic last year, is saddling three horses in Saturday’s Classic – Flat Out, Ron the Greek and To Honor and Serve, the 8-1 co-fourth choice with Mucho Macho Man. Flat Out drew the No. 2 post; Ron the Greek got post 10; and To Honor and Serve got post 12.
“Perfect,” said Mott, who was on his way from New York via Miami on Monday. “They’re good. The post positions are fine.”
In the Juvenile, Shanghai Bobby will be ridden by Rosie Napravnik, who has been aboard for each of the 2-year-old colt’s four victories this year. She could join Julie Krone as the only women to win a Breeders’ Cup race in the event’s 28-year history. Shanghai Bobby will face eight rivals in the 1 1/16-mile race.
Royal Delta, the defending Ladies’ Classic champion trained by Mott, sustained a minor cut on her right thigh while being loaded on a flight from upstate New York on Monday. He said the cut was stitched up and she should be fine.
“It’s no different than a hockey player getting a little cut on his forehead and getting stitched up,” Mott said. “They’re athletes.”
Royal Delta was entered in the Ladies’ Classic instead of running against the boys in the Classic on Saturday. She is the 9-5 favorite under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who won last year’s Classic on Drosselmeyer.
Awesome Feather, undefeated in 10 career starts, was the 3-1 second choice; undefeated My Miss Aurelia and Britain-bred Questing were the 4-1 co-third choices in the field of eight.
Royal Delta was among 17 horses arriving Monday after their flight was moved ahead eight hours to a 1 a.m. EDT departure to beat Sandy.
The flight was moved from an airport on Long Island to Newburgh, N.Y., to avoid strong winds ahead of the storm.
Trainer Dale Romans said Pacific Classic winner Dullahan will run in the $3 million Turf rather than the Classic, where he had been pre-entered. Arlington Million winner Little Mike, also trained by Romans, will go in the Turf after being considered for the $2 million Mile.
The world championships open Friday with six races. Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino owns South Floyd, who drew post four in the seven-horse $500,000 Juvenile Sprint.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees co-owns Worth Repeating in the $500,000 Marathon, which drew a full field of 14.
Saturday’s nine races include the $1 million Turf Sprint, with Mizdirection among the 16-horse field. He’s co-owned by sports talk radio host Jim Rome.