Updated on 10/31/2013 2:38PM

Breeders' Cup: Game On Dude's bid for Horse of the Year in Classic is highlight of Saturday card

Barbara D. Livingston
Game On Dude, perfect in five starts this year, could earn Horse of the Year honors with a win in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Classic.

ARCADIA, Calif. – For the past three years, Game On Dude has ranked as one of the best older horses in the country. But like the Buffalo Bills teams that went to four straight Super Bowls in the early 1990s and lost them all, Game On Dude has yet to win the one event that would finally bring him an elusive championship.

In 2011, at an overlooked 14-1, Game On Dude led the Breeders’ Cup Classic until deep stretch at Churchill Downs but was passed by Drosselmeyer, costing Game On Dude the title of champion older male and perhaps Horse of the Year.

Last year, Game On Dude was sent off as the 6-5 favorite in the Classic, at his home track at Santa Anita, and ran one of the worst races of his career, finishing seventh.

He has not lost since.

Game On Dude comes into this year’s $5 million Classic on Saturday at Santa Anita much as he did last year, as the leader for Horse of the Year and as the race’s favorite. He has a chance to go home with his first Eclipse Awards, or, for the third straight year, absolutely nothing.

That is the beauty, or the curse, of the Breeders’ Cup, which annually helps decide the sport’s Eclipse Award winners. Many dreams will be realized, and many more will be dashed, Saturday afternoon.

The Classic could decide Eclipse Awards for Horse of the Year, older male, and 3-year-old male.

If Game On Dude wins, he is Horse of the Year and champion older male, for he comes into the day widely perceived as the strong front-runner for Horse of the Year. In the most recent National Thoroughbred Racing Association poll of media members published Monday, Game On Dude was voted first by 37 of 43 voters.

If he loses, though, the debate rages.

Fort Larned and Mucho Macho Man, who finished first and second in last year’s Classic, would put themselves in the conversation for at least champion older male should either win.

Palace Malice and Will Take Charge are the two leading candidates for champion 3-year-old male. If either wins, he will wrap up that title and perhaps get votes for Horse of the Year.

[BREEDERS’ CUP 2013: Fields with DRF odds and comments]

The other Horse of the Year candidates will have come into focus in races preceding the Classic, beginning Friday with Princess of Sylmar – third in the NTRA poll – staking her claim in the Distaff.

Wise Dan, the defending Horse of the Year, would keep alive his hopes to repeat if he wins the Mile for the second straight year. He was second in the most recent NTRA poll.

In addition to Fort Larned and Wise Dan, other 2012 Breeders’ Cup winners trying to repeat Saturday are Groupie Doll (Filly and Mare Sprint), Mizdirection (Turf Sprint), Little Mike (Turf), and Trinniberg (Sprint). Secret Circle also is seeking a second BC win. He won the Juvenile Sprint – a race since discontinued – in 2011 and tries this year in the Sprint.

The Classic is the last and richest of nine Breeders’ Cup races to be run Saturday, and of the 14 BC races over the two-day event. It is the final race of a 12-race card that begins at 10:15 a.m. Pacific.

The first Breeders’ Cup race is race 4, the 1 1/16-mile Juvenile Fillies, at 12:05 p.m. That race will be shown live as a cut-in on NBCSN’s Notre Dame-Navy football pregame show.

Following the Juvenile Fillies are the Filly and Mare Turf, Filly and Mare Sprint, Turf Sprint, Juvenile, Turf, Sprint, Mile, and then the Classic.

NBCSN will televise the Breeders’ Cup live from 12:30 p.m. until 5. The Classic will be shown in prime time on NBC from 5-6 p.m. Post time for the Classic is 5:35. Sunset is 5:59.

There is a pick six with a guaranteed pool of $2.5 million beginning with race 7, the Turf Sprint. If no one were to hit the pick six Friday, there would be a carryover to Saturday. And if no one hits the pick six Saturday, there will be a carryover, and a mandatory payout, on Sunday’s closing-day card at Santa Anita.

Also Saturday, there is a $3 million-guaranteed pick four on races 9-12. The Classic is the final leg of both the pick six and that late pick four.

There is a pick five beginning on the day’s first race with a guaranteed pool of $500,000, and a pick four on races 4-7 that has a pool guaranteed at $1 million.

In addition to the action on the track and at the betting windows, there is a concert in the infield featuring Toni Braxton, Kristin Chenoweth, and Jakob Dylan.

The forecast for Saturday is outstanding, with a high temperature of 81 degrees and no chance of rain, according to The Weather Channel.