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Breeders' Cup Classic: Baffert's pair of Game on Dude, Paynter ready to go
ARCADIA, Calif. – Their paths to the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic could not have been more different, but both Game On Dude and Paynter indicated they are set for their absolute best on Saturday at Santa Anita with sharp final workouts here Monday morning.
It was a busy day for Classic preparation, because Fort Larned, last year’s winner, worked at Churchill Downs in advance of his flight to California on Tuesday.
Game On Dude was the beaten favorite in last year’s Classic, but he has not lost since and is expected to be favored again this year.
On Monday morning, Game On Dude was given an official time of 59 seconds for five furlongs, but he went out well past the wire with a strong gallop-out after blowing past his overmatched workmate, whom he started the work five lengths behind.
“Perfect. I’m glad that’s over,” said his trainer, Bob Baffert, who exhaled noticeably after the drill.
“I’m glad I got that out of the way,” he said.
Bernie Schiappa, one of the owners of Game On Dude, watched the work near Baffert and said, simply and emphatically, “He’s ready.”
Game On Dude does not often work in company, but Baffert said it was so quiet at Santa Anita on Monday morning he thought it best to have a workmate so Game On Dude “would have something to focus on.”
Paynter’s odyssey to the Classic has been anything but smooth, beginning in the summer of 2012 when he became seriously ill.
“It’s a miracle this horse is in the Breeders’ Cup,” Baffert said.
Paynter has raced four times since returning to action this year, but had a minor setback when failing to handle an off track at Saratoga in the Woodward. Since then, he was second in the Awesome Again to Mucho Macho Man, another Classic entrant.
Paynter worked Monday with the accomplished 3-year-old Flashback, who is returning from a lengthy layoff and is scheduled to race here Saturday in the Damascus Stakes. Paynter started about 1 1/2 lengths in front of Flashback and was about a half-length in front under the wire. Both received official times of 1:00 for five furlongs.
“Beautiful, perfect,” Baffert said via walkie-talkie to jockey Martin Garcia as the work was completed.
Garcia, who will ride Paynter in the race, worked both Paynter and Game On Dude. Erick Lopez was aboard the workmates, Flashback and Amazing Hearted.
“Erick, you did a great job,” Baffert told Lopez.
At Churchill Downs, Fort Larned worked five furlongs in 1:01.80 in his final prep for the Classic.
Brian Hernandez Jr., regular rider for Fort Larned, was aboard. Fort Larned worked by himself.
“Everything’s good. It was a nice work,” Ian Wilkes, who trains Fort Larned, said by telephone. “He came back happy. He wanted to do more.”
Fort Larned was scheduled to fly to California on Tuesday. He is one of five horses – including Game On Dude – that ran in last year’s Classic and were expected to comprise a field of 12 in this year’s race.
Also at Santa Anita on Monday, Flat Out got his first tour of the track after arriving from Saratoga on Sunday. He merely jogged once around the wrong way. Flat Out worked a half-mile in 48.28 on Saturday at Saratoga.
Will Take Charge jogged twice around the outer rail, heading the wrong way, following his final workout over the weekend.
Last Gunfighter and Ron the Greek were scheduled to fly from New York to California on Monday. Palace Malice was scheduled to travel from New York on Tuesday.
Planteur, the European who arrived over the weekend, remained in quarantine, mandated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for all incoming racehorses, and was expected to be on the track by Tuesday.
Declaration of War was en route to California from Ireland on Monday. Under a best-case scenario, he would not be able to leave quarantine to train here until Wednesday.
GOD can't run under 1:11.0 and win at 10f except maybe at Belmont. Last year he went 1:10.3/5 and MMM ran him into the ground... he won't hit the board, but I love the optimism. Which for myself translates into dollars. This is strictly a three horse race for the win, if they all fire RTG,MMM, and FL take the first 3 spots. If one misfires then the 3yo Palace Malice will grab 3rd with Flat Out 4th. Game on Dude needs better internal fractions to win which he's never shown.
That stiff,Mucho Macho Man"can disappoint me once agan,but HEY,it's only money.
It's just amazing Paynter made it back to run in this race. God bless him, and I hope he stays healthy.
post position #9 for GOD. It's over, everybody else is racing for 2nd place.
it will be Will Take Charge as all the speed tries to keep dude honest and they all collapse
i dunno, it all comes down to who do you believe doesn't it? Been that way for eons since back in the day. If you're to believe Baffert, the Dude is a different horse this year, more weight, less racing (by design), no trip to Dubai, happier blah blah blah... If he gets a decent post position (not 1 through 5), a clean break and can run even 46.1 and 1:09.4, he's got such natural speed that I don't know if anybody can run him down, especially if the track is playing typical SA early speed bias. By that I mean within 1-2 lengths of the leader.
Wow, how can Dude lose this race. Fans should be ecstatic. Bet early and often and when and if his price drifts up from 7-5 to 9-5 or more go back to the window and bet with both fists. After the Classic, his price will be 2-5 for every race again until the Classic next year. What a bargain.
Good news for Dude's fans. Would be more than ironic if he lost to Paynter, but what a story that would make! I doubt it will happen though. This is off the topic, but did anyone or everyone read the comment in The Blood-Horse about the debatable two day extension of the BC? It said: "In 2006 at Churchill Downs, eight Breeders' Cup races and several other races produced $140.3 million in total pari-mutuel handle on one day. Last year, with 15 Cup races and some undercard races, total handle for the two days was $148 million". Sort of makes the unnecessary watered down two days seem even more less needed. Also helps with the argument about how it needs to get the hell out of SA.
I'm not betting Game On Dude, but damn he scares me. I'm playing Mucho Macho Man with Stevens up and I know one thing. Gary will have the horse in a spot to win the race if he's good enough. He looks to be coming into this race better than ever. I'm hoping that Fort Larned, Moreno and Game on Dude get to the 3/4 pole in 109 and change with Mucho Maco Man sitting a couple of lengths off ready to blow by in the lane. If Game On Dude gets loose and gets the half in 46 and the three quarters in 10 and change, he's not stopping.