2012 Breeders' Cup Classic preview

Game On Dude - Rob Carr

Game On Dude faces 11 rivals in the 2012 Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita.

Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic
1 1/4 Miles, Dirt
Three-year-olds and up

Day: Saturday, Nov. 3
Post Time: 2:30 p.m. ET

The feature race on Breeders' Cup weekend and the richest thoroughbred race in North America, the Classic field is led by 2011 Classic runner-up Game On Dude who gets a shot at redemption at his home track of Santa Anita.

1-Pool Play (30/1) is an interesting long shot play in a race where things could get crazy in the final furlongs. He's only run on dirt twice in the last 11 races, but both times he won, including on Oct. 6 at the Hawthorne Gold Cup. Is he the most talented horse in this field? No chance. Could he get into the mix in the homestretch? It's not out of the realm of possibility, and he'll likely go off at big odds by the time the field heads to post.

2-Flat Out (5/1) comes into the Classic off of a nice score in the G1-Jockey Club Gold Cup but that was his first victory since winning the same race one year earlier. Flat Out was the 7/2 favorite for the 2011 Classic when he finished 5th.

3-Alpha (20/1) has finished at least first or second in seven of his ten lifetime starts. The only times he didn't finish in the top two are the three races he's run outside of his home-base in New York (2011 BC Juvenile at Churchill Downs - 11th; 2012 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs - 12th; 2012 Pennsylvania Derby at Parx - 6th). That's not a record that you want to get behind when a horse has to fly all the way to Southern California to run in the Classic.

4-Fort Larned (5/1) comes into the Classic off of a bit of a lackluster race in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, but he's in line for improvement in his second race off of a brief rest period. His versatility should allow him to sit just off the pace and he's proven he can get the distance in prior races.

5-Game On Dude (9/5) will be tough on his home track; he's the one to beat, but it's hard to take low odds on a horse in a race as competitive as this year's Classic. He's a perfect five-for-five at Santa Anita in his career and he's won the G1-Awesome Again, the final Santa Anita prep for the Classic, two years in a row.

6-Brilliant Speed (20/1) hasn't run on dirt since he tried the surface three straight times last summer with less than appealing results. He finished 7th in the Kentucky Derby, 3rd in the Belmont Stakes and 5th in the G2-Jim Dandy. Since that time, Brilliant Speed has raced exclusively on grass.

7-Handsome Mike (30/1) enters the Classic of off a two-length victory in the G2-Pennsylvania Derby back on September 22nd. He'll be ridden by Mario Gutierrez, winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness aboard I'll Have Another this past spring.

8-Nonios (20/1) shipped to Southern California in September and ran second to Game on Dude in the G1-Awesome Again later that night, a strong performance over the same surface he'll run on in the Classic. He's a son of 2005 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Pleasantly Perfect and he's shown he can run a good, solid race on a consistent basis.

9-Richard's Kid (12/1) hasn't won a race on dirt since February of 2009 at Laurel Park in an ungraded stakes race. Since that race he's run almost exclusively over synthetic surfaces with moderate success.

10-Ron the Greek (6/1) didn't put in much of an effort in the Jockey Club Gold Cup but he won the Santa Anita Handicap back in early March over the same distance and surface as the Classic. If you toss out the Gold Cup due to the ground (the track was rated "good" that day), he' hasn't finished out of the top two in any race since early July of 2011.

11-Mucho Macho Man (8/1) is a solid colt that gives a good account of himself race after race. He won the G2-Gulfstream Park Handicap in late January and the G2-Suburban at Belmont Park in early July. The last four races on the form are some of the best in his career and his running style should allow him to keep touch with the leaders in the early stages.

12-To Honor and Serve (8/1) struggled in the G2-Kelso in his last start at a mile but he should be in good shape to improve off that effort in his third start since taking a short break over the summer. He finished 7th in last year's Classic at Churchill Downs and there's some concern that a mile and a quarter isn't the best distance for him.

The Pick

This is one of those years where the favorite appears vulnerable and the rest of the contenders all have question marks surrounding their chances. When we talk about a "wide-open" race, this year's Classic fits the definition perfectly.

Fort Larned should get a cleaner trip in this race than in the Gold Cup and he possesses the versatility to sit in any number of spots in the early stages. At 5/1 on the morning line odds he cold be a nice win play come post time.

Game On Dude is the horse to beat, but he's in no way a lock. It will be tough to leave him out of the exotics but if you're strictly looking at a win bet, there's value to be had elsewhere.

I haven't been a big fan of Mucho Macho Man over the past couple of years but there's no denying that he's in the best form of his career and his 8/1 morning line odds are quite attractive.

4-Fort Larned (5/1)
5-Game On Dude (9/5)
11-Mucho Macho Man (8/1)

The Field

Post Horse Jockey Trainer ML Odds
1 Pool Play M. Mena M. Casse 30/1
2 Flat Out J. Roario B. Mott 5/1
3 Alpha R. Dominguez K. McLaughlin 20/1
4 Fort Larned B. Hernandez I. Wilkes 5/1
5 Game On Dude R. Bejarano B. Baffert 9/5
6 Brilliant Speed J. Alvarado T. Albertrani 20/1
7 Handsome Mike M. Guttierrez D. O'Neill 30/1
8 Nonios M. Pedroza J. Hollendorfer 20/1
9 Richard's Kid G. Gomez D. O'Neill 12/1
10 Ron the Greek J. Lezcano B. Mott 6/1
11 Mucho Macho Man M. Smith K. Ritvo 8/1
12 To Honor and Serve J. Velazquez B. Mott 8/1

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