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Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:03

A Look at the Favorites for the 2012 Breeders' Cup Classic

By | Sports

SANTA ANITA - Many horses racing this weekend made a big impression at the Spa this past summer and Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita is no exception.


Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott enters three horses with To Honor and Serve, Ron the Greek and Flat Out.

To Honor and Serve is the enigmatic winner of the Grade 1 $750,000 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga. It seems that one day he shines and the next he throws in a clunker.

With plenty of time off since his last effort, he looks sharp and ready to run his “A” race. He turned in a sizzling four-furlong breeze in 47.72 at Belmont Park last Sunday, which signifies he’s ready to fire. Stablemate Flat Out went in 48.01, Ron the Greek in 47.83 and the filly Royal Delta drilled in 48.96.

Mott is loaded for bear. Flat Out (Post 2) gets 5-1 on the morning line and Ron the Greek (Post 10) is at 6-1. To Honor and Serve (Post 12) is 8-1.

Fort Larned, winner of the Grade 1 $750,000 Whitney Invitational Handicap and trained by Ian Wilkes, drew Post 4 and got 5-1 odds on the morning line.

Alpha, winner of the Jim Dandy and co-winner of the $1 million Travers Stakes at the Spa, drew Post 3 and is 20-1 on the morning line.

Those horses had the greatest impact on Saratoga this past summer, but none of them are the favorite. That goes to the Bob Baffert-trained Game On Dude. Game On Dude was last year’s runner up in the Classic to a late-charging Drosselmeyer. Game On Dude is fresh off of a win in the Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita.

Game On Dude worked seven furlongs at Santa Anita under regular rider Rafael Bejarano on October 28. He covered the distance in 1:25. Most trainers drill horses four or five furlongs a week out from a big race, so this extra turn of the screws could mean the 9-5 favorite needed just a little bit more fitness to cover the 1 ¼ classic distance.

“He worked like he’s been working right along,” Baffert said. “It was his last workout [before the Classic]. So far, so good.”

Game On Dude has had a demanding 2012 season. He went to Dubai in March to compete in the $10 million Dubai World Cup where he finished 12th in a field of 13. Beyond that he won the Hollywood Gold Cup, the San Antonio Stakes and the California Stakes. He finished second in the $1 million Pacific Classic, beaten by a length by artificial track warrior Dullahan.

Other contenders for the Classic are Handsome Mike and Richard’s Kid—both trained by 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness-winning trainer Doug O’Neill. Mark Casse sends out Pool Play. Jerry Hollendorfer enters Nonios and Tom Albertrani throws in Brilliant Speed.

The Ladies Classic, run on November 1, promises to be one of the best if not the best of the weekend. Bill Mott’s Royal Delta is the 9-5 favorite coming off a 9 ½ length win in the Grade 1 Beldame at Belmont Park. She was cross entered in the Classic against the boys, but her connections opted to keep her in her own class. Her one try against the boys was a seventh-place finish in this year’s Dubai World Cup. The goal, if she can make it a year, is to run her in the Classic. But until then, she looks to defend her Ladies Classic title from a year ago.

Stronach Stables undefeated filly Awesome Feather tries to run the table against Royal Delta and others. She’s a perfect 10-for-10 in her three-year career. She’s lightly raced and gets the deft hands of trainer Chad Brown.

Stonestreet Stables’ My Miss Aureli comes into the race a perfect six-for-six, recently winning the Cotillion Stakes this year and the Juvenile Fillies a year ago.

Questing, the blazing winner of the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga, aims to bounce back off a runner-up finish to My Miss Aurelia in the Cotillion. She will likely be on the front end and has proven capable of carrying a field around the oval from gate to wire.

Grace Hall, Class Included, Include Me Out and Love and Pride round out that field.

Thoroughbred racing fans will surely remember the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom. He came out of the 2011 Belmont Stakes with an injury and wasn’t seen until early this winter where he made his return on turf. Sidelined again, he makes his return off a long layoff in the mile against world-beater Wise Dan (9-5) and drew Post 5 for trainer Graham Motion.

“I don’t think I could have scripted it better,” Motion said. “I like that he’s right in the middle. I think it’s perfect.”

Wise Dan has been on a roll in 2012. He comes in off three dashing wins on turf in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile, the Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile and the Grade 2 Fourstardave at Saratoga. He’s a deserved favorite with brilliant rides and day-light wins in back-to-back Grade 1’s.

The stars of next year’s Triple Crown take the stage in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Shanghai Bobby, trainer Todd Pletcher’s stellar colt and ridden by Rosie Napravnik, won the Hopeful at Saratoga and the Champagne at Belmont Park. Shanghai Bobby drew Post 4.

“It seems fine to me,” said owner Jack Wolf about drawing the fourth post. “I was talking to my wife this morning and I said anything between three and seven would be fine to me. I haven't really looked at the speed, but I'm sure it's better than the one or two.”

The Breeders’ Cup takes place over two days and is the richest event in North American racing.

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