ARCADIA, Calif. – Game On Dude was made the early 8-5 favorite in an impressive field of 12 for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, a race he has failed to win in two previous tries for trainer Bob Baffert.
For the second straight year, the gelding will be running on his home track, where he is 8-1.
Game On Dude’s only loss at Santa Anita came in last year’s 1 1/4-mile Classic, where he was seventh behind Fort Larned.
Baffert is winless in the Classic, but he has trained Game On Dude to a 5-0 record this year heading into Saturday’s race. Mike Smith, the 48-year-old Hall of Fame jockey who has mounts in 13 of 14 Breeders’ Cup races, will ride Game on Dude.
Fort Larned, who won last year’s Classic by three-quarters of a length over Mucho Macho Man, is back to defend his title. Mucho Macho Man returns, too, with Gary Stevens up.
Baffert also will saddle Paynter at 12-1 odds.
Fort Larned drew the No. 7 post and was listed at 6-1 odds. Mucho Macho Man will break from the No. 6 post at 5-1.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas has Will Take Charge in the Classic at 12-1 odds. Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice is 10-1.
The Irish father-son duo of trainer Aidan O’Brien and jockey Joseph O’Brien team up with 10-1 shot Declaration of War.
Reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan was made the even-money favorite in the 10-horse $2 million Mile, where the 6-year-old gelding will try to improve to 6-0 on the turf this year while facing nine rivals.
Wise Dan will be ridden by John Velazquez, who was aboard for the gelding’s only loss in his last nine starts earlier this month at Keeneland, where the race was moved from the turf to the synthetic surface.
Cleburne and Havana – both 2-0 – will put their undefeated records on the line in the $2 million Juvenile, which drew a full field of 14.
Stevens, who launched a successful comeback earlier this year at 50, has nine mounts Friday and Saturday.
The two-day, $25 million championships open Friday with five races, including the Distaff, which has reverted to its original name after being the Ladies’ Classic since 2008.
Two-time defending champion Royal Delta was made the early 8-5 favorite among a heavyweight field that includes 9-5 second choice Princess of Sylmar, who has won six stakes this year, and last year’s BC Juvenile Fillies winner Beholder, third choice at 5-2.