Game On Dude and Wise Dan headline Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup card at Santa Anita, and it is likely one of the two will clinch Horse of the Year honors by evening.
Game On Dude is the 8-5 morning line favorite in the $5 million Classic (G1), but faces a stellar field and came up short last year as the betting favorite, checking in seventh. The loss cost the Bob Baffert trainee the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year in 2012.
In the race preceding the Classic Wise Dan will defend his title in the $2 million Mile (G1), the even money favorite in a field of 10.
Princess of Sylmar lost any shot she had of winning Horse of the Year with a disappointing sixth place finish in Friday’s $2 million Distaff (G1). Not only will she not win top honors, she may have lost the Eclipse Award for top three-year-old filly to Beholder, the impressive winner of the Distaff.
The other big story coming into Saturday’s races is how the racing surface will play. There was a strong speed bias on Friday’s card. Speed has held up well in recent weeks at Santa Anita, and the track played to speed last year at the Breeders’ Cup as well.
There are three races on the card before the first Breeders’ Cup race, but two are on turf. The lone main track race is the $100,000 Damascus, but the race drew just five runners.
The speed bias was obvious early in the card when we saw Heir of Storm pull off the upset in the second race paying $77.60 in his gate to wire score, and then in the following race Better Bet was up front and could not be caught late, paying $96.00. We have an $891,813 carryover in the Pick 5 for Saturday.
The first Breeders’ Cup race on Saturday is the fourth race, the $2 million Juvenile Fillies. Sweet Reason is the 5-2 morning line favorite but she is a dead closer, and I have a feeling bettors are going to avoid her like the plague.
The $2 million Filly & Mare Turf drew a field of 10 including a pair of European invaders. The Euros won three of the five races on Friday’s card, and did not have runners in the other two.
Sir Michael Stoute sends out Dank (5-2), who makes her second start since coming to the U.S. She was a much the best winner of the Beverly D. (G1) last out at Arlington Park. Romantica crosses the pond for Andre Fabre and is a Group 1 winner.
Groupie Doll is the defending champion in the Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) but was beaten last out in a third place finish in the Thoroughbred Club of America (G1) at Keeneland over polytrack. The last four winners of the race have prepped in the TCA.
The $1 million Turf Sprint (G1) also has a defending champion back in action. Mizdirection won the race last year off a 5 ½ month layoff and comes into this race off a similar break. She is perfect in six starts over the Santa Anita turf course.
The $2 million Juvenile (G1) drew a full field of 14 led by the Todd Pletcher trained Havana, who is the 5-2 morning line favorite. The colt was one of the most impressive maiden winners at Saratoga this summer and backed it up by winning the Champagne (G1) in his stakes debut.
Little Mike and Point of Entry ran one-two in last year’s $3 million Turf (G1) and are back again this year. Little Mike was on nobody’s radar until a sharp win last out in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) at Belmont Park.
Point of Entry has only made two starts this year, winning the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) in February and the Manhattan Handicap (G1) in June.
The Euros are led by The Fugue, the four-year-old filly a winner against the boys last out in the Irish Champion Stakes (G1) in Ireland.
Trinniberg is back to defend his title in the $1 million Sprint, but he was aided by the bias last year and has lost four in a row since last fall.
Private Zone is the 3-1 morning line favorite for Doug O’Neill, but the colt won the Vosbugh (G1) over a racing strip that was kind to inside speed.
Wise Dan is going to be the chalk in the $2 million Mile (G1) and a win will keep his hopes of repeating as Horse of the Year going. He is only facing two Euros, but Olympic Glory is coming off a victory in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot.
The $5 million Classic lost Ron the Greek to a quarter crack, but it is still a stellar field that includes the top three finishers from last year’s race.
Game On Dude also ran last year, a disappointing seventh as the beaten favorite, and is hoping the third time is the charm. The gelding was the runner up in the 2011 running.
The Baffert trainee is perfect in five starts this year and will lock up Horse of the year honors with a victory.
He faces a tough field that includes last year’s winner Fort Larned, Awesome Again (G1) winner Mucho Macho Man, Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Palace Malice and Travers (G1) winner Will Take Charge.
Adding to the intrigue is the overseas shipper Declaration of War for the Aidan O’Brien barn. The colt is a Group 1 winner on turf but has a solid dirt pedigree and could be heard from.
NBC Sport Network will televise the races live from 3:30-8 pm eastern, and NBC will cover the Classic in a one-hour telecast that starts at 8:00 pm.
Michael’s Breeders’ Cup Report for Saturday includes his selections, analysis, fair odds line, and wagering recommendations for every race on the Saturday card from Santa Anita Park on Nov. 2. In addition, his Report includes a Betting Trends Report on each of the nine Saturday Breeders’ Cup races.
The Breeders’ Cup offers 14 championship races over two days, bringing together the best top horses, trainers, and jockeys from around the world, this year to compete at Santa Anita Park.