10/28/2013 1:35PM

Breeders' Cup Classic: Baffert's pair of Game on Dude, Paynter ready to go

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Barbara D. Livingston
Game On Dude, with Martin Garcia up, works five furlongs in 59 seconds Monday at Santa Anita.

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.