The 2013 Breeders' Cup Classic is shaping up to be one of the best fields in recent memory. Among the horses slated to participate, we'll see the returning champion in Fort Larned, recent Grade 1 winner and Kentucky Derby show finisher, Mucho Macho Man, and the hottest horse on the planet in Game on Dude.
For those unfamiliar with the race, the Classic is one of the most prestigious races in the thoroughbred racing community. The 1 1/4 mile race will be run on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California, and features a $5 million purse.
Though there isn't a "bad" horse in the race, some figure to have a much greater chance at capturing victory than others. In this article, we'll break down the five horses that you need to know prior to this year's Classic.
Let's get started.
For a look at the entire Breeders' Cup Classic field, visit www.breederscup.com.
For additional race info and past performances, visit www.horseracingnation.com.
The first member of this list, Mucho Macho Man, is a five-year-old son of Macho Uno. The five-year-old owns a 7:5:6 record over his 22 race career, with wins in multiple graded stakes races, including multiple races over the Santa Anita dirt track—via Equibase.com.
The biggest draw to Mucho Macho Man is his last race, the Awesome Again Handicap. The Awesome Again Handicap, a $250,000 Grade 1, is run at Santa Anita, the same track on which the Classic will be run.
In that race, Mucho Macho Man was able to beat out Paynter, another Classic contender. He also bested Golden Ticket and Jeranimo, who are slated to race in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, and Breeders' Cup Mile respectively.
In that race—which you can watch in the video above—he and HOF jockey Gary Stevens were clearly the best on the track. The duo stalked the pace, sitting four wide, before making a bold move at the middle of the backstretch. By race's end, Stevens and Mucho Macho Man opened up over the field, winning by a commanding 4 1/2 lengths.
If his performance in the Awesome Again wasn't enough, over his last three races, Mucho Macho man has bested several other Classic contenders. That group of would-be challengers includes Paynter, Ron the Greek and Fort Larned.
Aside from the 2013 Sunshine Millions Classic—a race in which he never should have run given the track conditions—the veteran colt has been in top form since the the 2012 Sunshine Millions Classic, a race in which he bested our next horse to watch, Ron the Greek.
If not for this year's Jockey Club Gold Cup, Ron the Greek wouldn't even warrant a look in this race. Nevertheless, the five-year-old bay colt sired by Full Mandate—part of the A.P. Indy line of thoroughbreds—is an intriguing horse in this year's Breeders' Cup Classic.
After wins in the 2012 incarnations of the Santa Anita Handicap and Stephen Foster Handicap, along with a runner-up finish in the Whitney that same year, Ron the Greek looked to be one of the top colts in his age group.
Unfortunately, after a first-place finish in the 2013 Sunshine Millions, Ron the Greek's performance went south. The aging colt was unable to muster up anything more than a third place finish in his next five races, until the Gold Cup.
Despite going off at 21:1, Ron the Greek ran a fantastic race, stalking the pace the entire way. Jockey Jose Lezcano kept his horse between two and three lengths back of Alpha—winner of 2013 Woodward—and Palace Malice—winner of the 2013 Belmont Stakes.
As soon as Alpha gave up the rail, the race was Ron the Greek's to win. The five-year-old pulled away from the field, winning by a whopping six-plus lengths.
Although he may not be able to duplicate his surprising performance in the Classic, Ron the Greek's performance in the Gold Cup makes him a horse to watch at Santa Anita on Nov. 2.
After Wise Dan's recent loss in the Shadwell—a race in which he had no business running after it scratched off the turf—Game on Dude is arguably the best horse in the country. The six-year-old gelding out of Worldly Pleasure, and sired by Awesome Again, has an impressive six-race winning streak including victories in three Grade 1s—per horseracingnation.com.
Game on Dude is the horse-for-the-course. In his eight races over the Santa Anita dirt course, Game on Dude owns a 7:0:0 record with three wins at 1 1/4 miles.
Though his previous showing in the Classic—a race in which he finished seventh—is hardly confidence inspiring, Game on Dude has been in top form ever since. Their last effort, coming in the 2013 Pacific Classic, the gelding dominated the field.
After taking an early lead, the duo posted quarters of 24.19, 23.77, 24.65, 24.00 and 24.08 seconds, which allowed them a record breaking 8 1/2 length victory—per Bloodhorse.com. If he's able to post similar fractions in the Classic this year, no horse in this field stands a chance.
He, jockey Martin Garcia and trainer Bob Baffert control their own destiny in the gelding's quest for Horse of the Year honors, and it looks as though Game on Dude will be the horse to beat at Santa Anita.
Fort Larned is the returning champion from last year's Classic.
The five-year-old son of E Dubai, raced well in his last time out, going 1 1/8 miles over the Churchill dirt course. In that race, Fort Larned dominated the field, staking himself out to an early lead before opening up a multi-length lead before the final turn.
While Fort Larned is an obvious horse to watch, due to his having won the race last year, he'll certainly have his work cut out for him. If Game on Dude's recent form is any indication, then this year's Classic will be a far different race than the 2012 version.
Last year, Game on Dude figured to set the pace. However, after a poor start, Game on Dude spent himself trying to take the lead, allowing the ever-savvy Brian Hernandez Jr. to take control of the race, setting a rather slow pace.
No horse in the race was capable of closing into the factions Fort Larned posted, and the race broke down perfectly in his favor. A similar break in the 2013 Classic, and Fort Larned may be able to upset the field once again.
Our final horse to watch in the 2013 Breeders' Cup Classic is Will Take Charge. The three-year-old son of multi-Graded Stakes winner Unbridled's Song will be up against it in the Classic as he'll take on some significantly older, and more experienced competition.
As an Albany native, I had the pleasure of watching this year's Travers Stakes live at Saratoga. In a race that was very, very slow to develop—1:13.49 to the 3/4 mark—Will Take Charge made an impressive run into slow fractions to take a late victory in the $1 million Grade 1.
After besting several staunch contenders in the Travers, including Classic contender Moreno, and Kentucky Derby winner Orb, Will Take Charge went on to run another stellar race in the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby.
The three-year-old likes to stalk the pace, and that was evident again in the Pennsylvania Derby. The duo of Moreno and Fury Kapcori set a lively pace, going to the 3/4 mark in 1:10.20. That left the race wide open for Will Take Charge, who, under the direction of Luis Saez, made a brilliant move up the rail to take the race.
Like Fort Larned, Will Take Charge will need a little help from horses on the front, but if the pace is quick, Will Take Charge could swallow up the leaders and take home an upset victory.