Advisory: This is the 1st of 16 weekly news releases focusing on the horses and races leading to the 30th Breeders' Cup World Championships on Friday, November 1 and Saturday, November 2 at Santa Anita Park. The Breeders' Cup will be televised live by the NBC Sports Group.
Full recap of the 2012 Breeders' Cup.
Road to the Breeders' Cup Classic Is Heating Up
The 2013 countdown to a wide open $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park picks up in earnest on the West Coast Saturday with the $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup (GI) at Betfair Hollywood Park. The Classic, the highlight of the 30th Breeders' Cup Friday November 1 and Saturday November 2, will anchor the Saturday card and be televised live on NBC from 8-9pm, EST, which rates it as the only primetime Thoroughbred broadcast in the United States.
For the 3rd year in a row, talk of the Classic - and the 1 1/4-mile Gold Cup - centers on Bernie Schiappa, Diamond Pride, Lanni Family Trust and Mercedes Stable's GAME ON DUDE, the perennial West Coast handicap leader for trainer Bob Baffert. The 6-year-old son of 1998 Classic winner Awesome Again will run in the Gold Cup for the third straight year, having finished second in 2011 before winning the race last year. Game On Dude is also a Breeders' Cup veteran, as he ran second in the Classic at Churchill Downs in 2011 but disappointed as the favorite when he finished seventh at Santa Anita last year.
Game On Dude, a winner of 13-of-25 starts, has won all three of his starts this year, including a rousing 7 3/4-length win in the Santa Anita Handicap (GI) in March. The multiple Grade I winner will likely follow a similar path to the Classic as last year, with potential stops in the TVG Pacific Classic (GI) at Del Mar August 25 and Awesome Again (GI) September 28 at Santa Anita. Last year Game On Dude was second in the Pacific Classic before winning the Awesome Again. Both races are "Win and You're In" races for the Classic, with the winner guaranteed a starting berth at Santa Anita.
The East Coast contingent is led by Janis Whitham's homebred and defending Classic winner FORT LARNED, who has endured an up and down season but got untracked with an eye catching 6 1/4-length win in the "Win and You're In" Stephen Foster (GI) at Churchill in his last start June 15. The Ian Wilkes-trained 5-year-old son of E Dubai threw jockey Brian Hernandez in his seasonal debut in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (GII) in March then was 5th in the Oaklawn Handicap (GII) in April but flashed his Classic winning form at Churchill. Wilkes has indicated Fort Larned will follow a similar schedule as he did last year, which will include potential starts in Saratoga's Whitney (GI) August 3 and Belmont Park's Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI) September 28. Fort Larned, a winner of 9-of-22 career starts, won the Whitney last year and finished 3rd in the Gold Cup. Like last year, both races are "Win and You're In" events for the Classic.
While Game On Dude and Fort Larned may be clubhouse leaders at this point in the season, there are plenty of Classic contenders looking to throw their hat into the ring. The most intriguing is Zayat Sable's PAYNTER, a Grade I winning 3-year-old who battled back from a severe case of colic last summer and won his return in a 7-furlong allowance race at Hollywood Park in devastating fashion June 14. The son of 1998 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Awesome Again was second in the Belmont last year and won the Haskell (GI) at Monmouth Park before going to the sidelines for Baffert but has his sights firmly on the Classic this fall. Paynter has won 4-of-7 seven lifetime starts and should be a major presence in the Classic Division in the second half of 2013.
Morton Fink's reigning Horse of the Year and defending Breeders' Cup Mile winner WISE DAN would rate a major player in the Classic should trainer Charles Lopresti call an audible and point to Santa Anita's main track. The 6-year-old homebred son of Wiseman's Ferry was a turf superstar last year, wining all four of his grass starts, including the "Win and You're In" Woodbine Mile (GI) and Shadwell Turf Mile (GI) at Keeneland before completing his season with a course record in his win at Santa Anita.
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Wise Dan was also second in Churchill's Foster last year and won the Clark (GI) there in 2011, which could leave the door open for a potential Class start. The gelding has picked up right where he left off this year, with wins in Keeneland's Maker's 46 Mile (GI) and Churchill's Firecracker (GII) Saturday night (see race recap below) and may follow a similar path to Santa Anita this year. Wise Dan has won 16-of-23 career starts and has Lopresti looking towards Saratoga and a start in either the Whitney Handicap or the Fourstardave (GII) on the turf August 10, a race he won last year, with the Breeders' Cup the ultimate goal.
Wise Dan has won 10 of his last 11 starts dating back his win in the Fayette at Keeneland on October 29 of 2011, with last year's Foster as his lone defeat during this stretch.
Lopresti said, "I'd really like to keep him undefeated and I'd like to win a Grade I on dirt with him this year." "If we get a Grade I on dirt with him and then keep him going and get a few wins on the grass and then get to the Breeders' Cup, maybe he'll get Horse of the Year again."
Trainer Todd Pletcher holds a hot hand on the East Coast, with GoldMark Farm's freakishly fast CROSS TRAFFIC and Twin Creek Racing Stable's accomplished GRAYDAR. The former has yet to win a graded stakes but was beaten just a nose in Belmont's Met Mile (GI) in May and will make his next start in the Whitney, while the latter won the Donn (GI) at Gulfstream in February and the New Orleans Handicap (GII) at Fair Grounds in March, and is expected to rebound from an ankle chip in time to aim for the Classic.
Preston Stable's FLAT OUT and Brous Stable, Wachtel Stable, Jack Hammer and Gary Barber's RON THE GREEK give trainer Bill Mott a formidable 1-2 punch and both have Classic experience. The former, a 7-year-old son of Flatter, is a multiple Grade I winner who was fifth in the Classic in 2011 and third in the race last year while the latter, a 6-year-old son of Full Mandate, is also a multiple Grade I winner who was fourth in the Classic last year.
Though Game On Dude is the undisputed leader of the West Coast, Six-S Racing Stable and Nikolas Petralia's CLUBHOUSE RIDE has had a stellar year running second to that rival three times and got a long overdue stakes win in the Californian Stakes (GII) at Hollywood June 1. The 5-year-old son of Candy Ride (ARG) will test Game On Dude again in the Gold Cup for trainer Craig Lewis.
The 3-year-olds have a storied history of success in the Classic and this year's group is long on talent and versatility. While a divisional leader has yet to be established, 2013 Kentucky Derby winner ORB , Preakness winner OXBOW and Belmont winner PALICE MALACE all rate as viable Classic contenders and figure to tangle on more than one occasion this summer, with Saratoga's Travers (GI) August 24 looming as the pivotal showdown.
View a complete list of 2013 Graded Stakes Race Results
Phipps Stable and Stuart Janney's homebred Orb blitzed through the winter and early spring for trainer Shug McGaughey, winning the Fountain of Youth (GII) and Florida Derby (GI) at Gulfstream Park before rolling home to win the Derby. The son of Malibu Moon flattened out in the Preakness, running fourth, then came back to finish a late-closing third in the Belmont. Orb will likely take the Saratoga path this summer, with a potential start in the Jim Dandy (GII) August 27 preceding a Travers Stakes run.
Calumet Farm's Oxbow was a stalwart the entire Triple Crown season for trainer D. Wayne Lukas and saw his efforts pay off with a front-running score in the Preakness. The son of Awesome Again was sixth in the Derby and second in the Belmont and also won Fair Grounds' LeComte (GIII) in January. Oxbow could start next in the Haskell July 28 before reacquainting himself with his Triple Crown rivals in the Travers.
The Jim Dandy is also the next likely start for Dogwood Stable's Palace Malice, who tired badly in the Derby are setting a torrid early pace but rebounded with a game win in the Belmont for Pletcher. The son of 2007 Classic winner Curlin picked the right time to beat winners for the first time in the Belmont and will take the Jim Dandy-Travers path this summer.
While the three classic winners are the most accomplished of their generation, there are several candidates looking to step up in the second half of the season. Grade I winners VERRAZANO and GOLDENCENTS lead the list, while Grade I-placed runners NORMANDY INVASION, MYLUTE and GOLDEN SOUL also merit consideration.
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