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2013 Breeders' Cup Classic Preview

Wednesday, October 15, 2013 22:45:00

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The Breeders’ Cup Classic is the pinnacle of the jam packed World Championships weekend that will be held at Santa Anita on Friday, November 1st and Saturday, November 2nd.  Naturally, the Classic will headline Saturday’s card and it will be run over the main course at a mile and one-quarter with a purse of $5 million. 

The Classic is already being talked about as wide open while a deep and talented field shakes itself out over the next coming weeks.  It isn’t difficult to predict that Bob Baffert’s Game On Dude will be sent off the post time favorite when the dust settles.  He has reigned supreme as the King of California for years.  His record is unblemished this year.  Not even back-to-back Breeders’ Cup disappointments will be enough for this hometown hero to be denied that role. 

2013 Breeders' Cup Classic Preview

Other main players that will attract support at the tote figure to be the defending champion, Fort Larned who has posted two wins this year, most notably an easy front running victory in the G1 Stephen Foster at Churchill and Mucho Macho Man who ran 2nd in last year’s edition and comes in off a dominant local score in the G1 Awesome Again.

Bill Mott, who always has his horses ready to roll at the right time will send in the duo of Flat Out (3rd last year) and Ron The Greek who exits a surprisingly dominant score in the G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.

Some of the nation’s top three-year-olds also plan to lace it up this year.  Palace Malice is separating himself in some people’s mind as the best in that class.  He won the G1 Belmont Stakes and the G2 Jim Dandy before finding trouble in the G1 Travers and running a nice second in the Gold Cup won by Ron The Greek.  Will Take Charge has a lot to say about that notion though, considering he won that G1 Travers at Saratoga and backed it up with a G2 score in the Pennsylvania Derby.  Moreno gave Will Take Charge a fight in both those, finishing second, but no doubt looking forward to taking another hack. 

Graydar looked like he would be prominent in this division throughout the year, scoring big in the G1 Donn Handicap and following it up with a G2 New Orleans Handicap.  Following that though, he was sidelined for 6-months, but has since come back to win the G2 Kelso Handicap in impressive fashion.  The layoff is a concern, the distance might be a concern, but he is 5-for-6 lifetime and the connections command respect. 

“The other Baffert horse” in this race should get plenty of attention, whether it is at the windows or not.  At this point last year, it looked as if Paynter could suffer an untimely death due to health complications.  Not only did he survive, he has come back to race four times, posting a win in his return, a 2nd in the G2 San Diego Handicap, a troubled 5th in the G1 Woodward, and a sneaky good 2nd in the G1 Awesome Again.  Paynter’s resume will be polarizing to “experts.”  Some will say he’s lost it while some will say he prefers less ground.  Others will see he’s run a great return campaign toward this end goal.  We’ll find out soon enough.

Aidan O’Brien’s seemingly annual shipper comes in the form of Declaration of War.  It looks like he’ll enter this race off a layoff of about 10-weeks due to being unable to find preferable footing.  His G1 score in the 10.5-furlong Juddmonte International suggests he can go all day, but the surface question isn’t one you want to try to answer at the Breeders’ Cup and he has never run on dirt.

The G1 Woodward Stakes winner Alpha and another Euro-shipper Planteur remain listed as possible by some outlets.

Early thoughts:  I’d prefer not to side with a favorite that has already flopped in this spot a couple of times.  Game on Dude has a resume that speaks for itself, but he’ll have his work cut out for him by a trio of horses that will also want that early lead:  Fort Larned (who will likely be forced to use his speed as a one-trick pony), Mucho Macho Man (who has had trouble pairing big efforts – something he will have to do here), and Graydar (who has to answer a serious distance question).  Flat Out seems to have lost a step and is now running closer to the pace.  Ron The Greek is a closer, and while the speed could play to his benefit, the track certainly doesn’t and it’s not too far-fetched to fear he may have overextended himself last out.  The three-year-olds are tough for me to support in this start based on the depth of this water and the level of talent the class holds, which I’m sure not sold on.  The Euro-shippers who have never run on dirt are a wild card that I have no real interest in entertaining.  And like everyone else, Paynter has his issues, but from where I stand now, I can get on board with him at a price.  His comeback in preparation for this, while not flawless, seems calculated.  It would be a surprise if Baffert didn’t have him ready for his top effort on November 2nd.  Thankfully, no final decision needs to be made now.


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