By Kevin Martin

Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic seemed a perfect setup for Game on Dude. The Breeders’ Cup was on his home track at Santa Anita Park where he had never been beaten; the field he faced lacked any committed front runners so it appeared he would get an uncontested lead; and his competition included some solid stakes runners but none on par with “The Dude.” The gamblers all drew the same conclusions and made him a heavy post-time favorite. Even with all the stars aligned for the coronation of a new racing king, Game on Dude lost. Not only did he lose, he ran one of the worst races of his career, finishing seventh and beaten by fifteen lengths.

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Game on Dude returns again to the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park on November 2nd. It will be the third try in the Classic for the six-year-old who will be entering the race off the best year of his career having raced five times in 2013 without a loss. He swept the three major races in California for older horses – the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, and Pacific Classic – becoming just the second horse to sweep that prestigious trifecta in history.

Everything seems to be in place for a coronation of Game on Dude heading into the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic…just like last year.

Who could upset “The Dude”?

Mucho Macho Man – Has been a solid runner against the top tier competition with eighteen top three finishes in twenty-two career starts. He finished second in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic and ran the best race of his career in his last start winning the Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita. Mucho Macho Man appears to be entering the race in top form, on a track he seems to love, and will likely be the second choice among the bettors when the gates on open on Saturday.

Fort Larned – The upset winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic has been inconsistent this year. He finished behind Mucho Macho Man in the Whitney Handicap this summer in their only head-to-head meeting this year. He led every step of the way in last year’s Classic, a scenario that seems less likely this year with the entry of speedster Moreno, but he has the ability to win from off the pace and should be taken seriously to repeat.

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Will Take Charge – One of a trio of 3-year-olds entered in the race, he had a coming out party in the summer after disappointing performances in the Triple Crown races. His win in the Travers Stakes, followed by a win in the Pennsylvania Derby, has indicated that he is a colt on the improve who has a chance to spring a Classic upset.

Palace Malice – The Belmont Stakes winner has lost his last two starts but he broke poorly in the Travers Stakes and made an impressive late charge to finish less than a length behind the winner. His most recent start was a second place finish in the Jockey Club Gold Cup in his first race against older horses. The last three winners of the Breeders’ Cup Classic have come out of the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. 

Breeders’ Cup Distaff

The Classic will headline Saturday’s racing and the Breeders’ Cup Distaff for fillies and mares will top the bill on Friday. This year’s Distaff field will be small but it may include the most talented trio of any 2013 Breeders’ Cup races.

Royal Delta has won the last two editions of the Distaff and will try to become the first ever three-time winner of the prestigious race for female runners. The 3-year-old superstar Princess of Sylmar beat Royal Delta in their last race at Belmont Park. If she wins the Distaff, she would cap the best season by a 3-year-old filly since Rachel Alexandra in 2009. Beholder was last year’s 2-year-old champion and winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. She finished second to Princess of Sylmar in the Kentucky Oaks and won her last start, the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita.

To see a list of the horses entered for all of the Breeders’ Cup races on November 1st and 2nd, check out Hello Race Fans Breeders’ Cup Cheat Sheet. You can also learn about handicapping with Hello Race Fans Beginner’s Corner.

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Kevin Martin is the founder of the thoroughbred racing history site Colin’s Ghost and a contributing editor at Hello Race Fans.