The Breeders’ Cup will settle this year’s Horse of the Year race. The contest runs directly through Game on Dude, but Wise Dan and Point of Entry are waiting in the wings should the Classic favorite falter.
In the unlikely event that all three lose, Royal Delta can make a case with a Ladies’ Classic victory. Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another also enters the picture as a viable candidate.
Game on Dude put himself in the driver’s seat by virtue of four convincing stakes wins this year, including Grade 1 tallies in the Awesome Again and Hollywood Gold Cup, and the gelding recorded a respectable second in the Pacific Classic over a Del Mar Polytrack surface that doesn’t suit him. He favors conventional tracks, posting a five-for-five mark on Santa Anita’s dirt, and possesses high-profile connections in trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Rafael Bejarano.
Game on Dude looks poised to make amends for a runner-up Classic finish last year at Churchill Downs, training forwardly in recent workouts, and the $2.9 million earner is listed as the heavy 9-5 favorite on the morning line versus 11 rivals Saturday. He will show speed from post 5.
Wise Dan will throw his hat in the ring with a Mile victory and a Classic upset. The 5yo gelding has really come to hand this season for trainer Charles Lopresti, recording four smashing stakes wins, and performed gamely to overcome a troubled beginning in his lone setback, a commendable head second in the Stephen Foster Handicap.
His first two races this year came on Polytrack and dirt – a 10 ½-length whitewashing in the Ben Ali and the aforementioned Stephen Foster – but Wise Dan really discovered his niche when switching back to turf for his last three starts at a mile, easily winning the Fourstardave Handicap, Woodbine Mile and Shadwell Turf Mile, the latter two Grade 1 events. Europeans have captured the last three Miles at Santa Anita (’09, ’08 and ’03) and will send a formidable contingent over this year’s edition, but Wise Dan is bona-fide American turf star who can stand tall with an another impressive performance at Santa Anita.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Royal Delta will race one day earlier than her male counterparts, making a title defense in Friday’s Ladies Classic, and while she may not be able to duplicate her 9 ½-length triumph in the September 29 Beldame, she will have the opportunity to distinguish herself against a stellar field that includes unbeaten champions Awesome Feather and My Miss Aurelia, and top 3yo filly Questing.
She ran poorly in her only match-up against males in the Dubai World Cup overseas and needs some serious help with a Ladies’ Classic repeat – most serious female Horse of the Year candidates have held their own against males at least once; and Game on Dude, Wise Dan and Point of Entry all must fail. Royal Delta rates as a big Horse of Year longshot.
I’ll Have Another never faced older horses this season, a typical characteristic of 3yo Horse of the Year winners, but the dual classic victor did go undefeated this season, winning four times before being retired in early June with a tendon injury. That could carry a lot of weight with Horse of Year voters should Game on Dude, Wise Dan and Point of Entry all come up short, and I’ll Have Another is the clear front-runner if Royal Delta also stumbles.
Racing after seven years of retirement, Gary Stevens rode Oxbow to a win in the Preakness, justifying his return