10/29/2012 2:25PM

Breeders' Cup Classic: Game On Dude favored; Royal Delta and Dullahan opt for other races

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Barbara D. Livingston
Game On Dude at Santa Anita, where he has a 5-for-5 record and has been training impressively for the Breeders' Cup Classic.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Game On Dude drew post 5 on Monday and was installed the favorite for Saturday’s $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, the richest and final race of the 15-race festival at Santa Anita on Friday and Saturday.

A field of 12 went in the 1 1/4-mile Classic after the filly Royal Delta remained, as expected, in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic, and Dullahan opted for the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Jon White, the morning-line maker at Santa Anita, made Game On Dude the 9-5 favorite. Flat Out and Fort Larned are next at 5-1, with Ron the Greek the fourth choice at 6-1.

Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form’s national handicapper, has Game On Dude favored at 5-2, Ron the Greek next at 5-1, and Flat Out and Fort Larned the co-third choices at 6-1.

[BREEDERS' CUP 2012: Race-by-race coverage, video, early odds]

The fields for all 15 races were drawn on Monday. Of the 15 races, five had full fields of at least 14 horses. In three cases – the Juvenile Fillies Turf, Juvenile Turf, and Turf Sprint – more than 14 were entered, so up to two horses in each race were placed on an also-eligible list.

Scratch time for both the Friday and Saturday cards is 9 a.m. Pacific time Friday so that’s how long the also-eligibles in those races will have for an opportunity to draw in.

The Classic is one of eight races with fields of at 12 runners or more. The smallest field is the Juvenile Sprint, which has just seven.

Game On Dude is 5 for 5 at Santa Anita, won the Santa Anita Handicap at 1 1/4 miles in 2011, and has trained sensationally coming into this race, among the reasons for his being the acknowledged horse to beat.

“He’s got a lot of heart, fight,” said his trainer, Bob Baffert. “You give him a fair shot, he will give you everything.”

During Monday’s draw, eight of the 12 Classic runners had been assigned posts - not including Game On Dude - and the number 1 post was still available, a spot that Baffert did not want because Game On Dude often breaks a tad slow. When number 1 was called concurrently with Pool Play, Baffert was relieved. Game On Dude subsequently got post 5.

[BREEDERS' CUP WORKOUTS: Full DRF coverage, Mike Welsch video reports]

“The break’s going to be important,” Baffert said. “I didn’t want the one.”

Alpha drew post 3, a spot that was not perfect for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin but at least was not the rail.

“I was hoping for 11 or 12. I didn’t want him to be in the gate too long,” McLaughlin said. “He can be a little naughty in the gate.”

There were only a handful of horses who appeared to be significantly impacted by their posts in all the races.

California Flag, who won the Turf Sprint in 2009, drew the rail for this year’s race over a course that is usually kinder to those drawn outside.

Trailblazer, the lone Japanese entrant, is stuck in the outside post 12 in the Turf, which has an abbreviated run to the first of three turns.

Teddy’s Promise, who prefers being outside horses, landed the rail in the 10-horse Filly and Mare Turf.

The Filly and Mare Sprint also produced the most prominent defection of the day when Test Stakes winner Contested was not entered following a subpar workout on Sunday.

Several of the races are packed with talent, in particular the Ladies’ Classic, the last of six BC races on Friday, in which the race’s defending champion, Royal Delta, takes on unbeaten champions Awesome Feather and My Miss Aurelia, along with Include Me Out, Love and Pride, and Questing. Royal Delta is favored at 2-1 on the line of Daily Racing Form’s Brad Free, who set DRF's prices for Friday’s races.

The Mile, on turf, features Wise Dan, Europe’s Excelebration, and Animal Kingdom, the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner. Watchmaker, who made the DRF line for Saturday’s races, has Wise Dan the 8-5 favorite.

St Nicholas Abbey is back to defend his title in the Turf against Point of Entry, the best long-distance grass horse in America, as well as Dullahan, Little Mike, Trailblazer, and the European filly Shareta. Watchmaker has Point of Entry the 2-1 favorite.

The Filly and Mare Sprint features the red-hot Groupie Doll, favored at even-money on Watchmaker’s line, against the race’s defending champion, Musical Romance.

The Juvenile Fillies is a championship showdown between the unbeaten fillies Dreaming of Julia and Kauai Katie from the East and Executiveprivilege from the West. Free made Executiveprivilege the 2-1 favorite.

Shanghai Bobby puts his unbeaten record on the line in the Juvenile against Baffert’s tag team of Power Broker and Title Contender. Watchmaker made Power Broker the 2-1 favorite.

Shackleford, the 2011 Preakness winner, is the 5-2 favorite on Watchmaker’s line in the Dirt Mile.

Amazombie, who won the Sprint last year, will defend his title against 13 rivals including Coil, the lukewarm 4-1 choice on Watchmaker’s line.

Other favorites on the DRF lines are Super Ninety Nine (8-5) in the Juvenile Sprint, Worth Repeating (4-1) in the Marathon, Sky Lantern (2-1) in the Juvenile Fillies Turf,  The Fugue (5-2) in the Filly and Mare Turf, Dundonnell (4-1) in the Juvenile Turf, and Unbridled’s Note (4-1) in the Turf Sprint.

At the pre-entry stage last week, horses could be cross-entered in more than one race, and several horses pre-entered in the Classic, including Royal Delta and Dullahan, kept their options open. But Monday morning, final entries were due. Handsome Mike and Nonios were cross-entered in both the Classic and the Dirt Mile, but their trainers in prior days had said they would run in the Classic.

“The opportunity presented itself,” said Jerry Hollendorfer, the trainer of Nonios, who elaborated that running in a $5 million race was preferred to a race worth $1 million, especially considering the distances of the races. “A lot of people thought he’d run a good race in the Dirt Mile, but in my opinion the Mile is a little bit short.”

Dullahan’s three lifetime victories have come on the synthetic surface Polytrack, so neither the Classic, on dirt, nor the Turf, at 1 1/2 miles, seemed ideal. Trainer Dale Romans said he let Jerry Crawford, who heads the Donegal Racing partnership that owns Dullahan, make the call.

Dullahan gave Romans two horses in the Turf after it was decided that Little Mike, also trained by Romans, would got in that race rather than the Mile.

Flat Out, Ron the Greek, To Honor and Serve, and Royal Delta – all trained by Bill Mott – were among a group of 17 horses who arrived Monday morning at Santa Anita following a flight that left in the middle of the night in New York and stopped en route in Kentucky to pick up additional horses. That flight was moved up several hours because of the approach of Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast.

Asecond flight scheduled for Tuesday, which was to follow the same route -- from New York to Kentucky to California – was delayed until Wednesday morning because of the worsening weather. Among the 14 Breeders’ Cup runners scheduled for that flight are Dreaming of Julia, Kauai Katie, Shanghai Bobby, Wise Dan, and Classic runners Brilliant Speed, Fort Larned, and Mucho Macho Man.

The weather at Santa Anita has been ideal in recent days and was so again on Monday, with nary a cloud in the sky, cool temperatures for training in the morning, and an afternoon high of 85 degrees. The forecast for the rest of the week is similar, according to The Weather Channel, with a high of 78 on Friday, and 83 on Saturday, with zero chance of rain.