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Breeders' Cup 2013: Power Ranking the Horses in This Year's Classic Field

Michael DempseyFeatured ColumnistOctober 30, 2013

Breeders' Cup 2013: Power Ranking the Horses in This Year's Classic Field

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    A dozen go in the 2013 Breeders' Cup Classic.
    A dozen go in the 2013 Breeders' Cup Classic.

    This year’s $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic drew a strong field of runners led by the Bob Baffert trainee Game On Dude, who is the 8-5 morning favorite for the marquee event of the two-day championship event at Santa Anita on November 1-2.

    Over the past six months, we have seen 67 Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” races to help determine the fields for the Breeders’ Cup races.

    Over the two-day event, there are 14 championship races, but none as big as the Classic. If Game On Dude is able to win the Classic, he will lock up Horse of the Year honors.

    The gelding ran second in the Classic in 2011 and last year was a disappointing seventh as the betting favorite.

    Let’s break down the field for this year’s Classic. The power rankings take into account the race records, speed figures, race shape, along with a variety of other handicapping angles, but most importantly betting value.

    The average payoff of the first 29 Classic winners is $29 for a $2 wager. Who wants to bet the chalk?

     (Updated after scratch of Ron the Greek)

    Morning line odds from breederscupodds.net

     

     

11. Planteur 20-1

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    This six-year-old is one of two European invaders in the field, and while we have seen two runners come over from across the pond and win the Classic (Arcangues in 1993 paying $269.20 and Raven’s Pass at $29.00 in 2008), I doubt this guy will complete the hat trick.

    The Marco Botti trainee was beaten by 35-and-one-fourth lengths in the Qatar Prix Dollar over soft turf in his last outing at Longchamp in France.

    He did show he can be competitive against top class company, running third in the last two editions of the $10 million Dubai World Cup, the world’s richest horse race.

10. Last Gunfighter 20-1

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    The Chad Brown trainee has won a trio of Grade 3 races this year but found Grade 1 company a bit too tough last time out, as he was beaten by 10-and-one-fourth lengths in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. The colt will need to run a career top speed figure to get the job done here.

    On the bright side, he does have one of the most talented trainers in the game saddling him. Brown just won the Belmont Park training title and has won a couple of Breeders’ Cup races, taking the Juvenile Fillies Turf with Maram in 2008 and last year’s Filly & Mare Turf with Zagora, who returned $20.40.

9. Moreno 15-1

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    This speedy three-year-old took 10 tries just to break his maiden, but won the Jim Dandy in his first start against winners and was beaten by Will Take Charge by just a nose in the prestigious Travers at Saratoga this summer. That foe got the best of him in his last start as well, having to settle for second in the Pennsylvania Derby.

    His outspoken trainer Eric Guillot accused Will Take Charge jockey Luis Saez of using an electrical device in the Travers, but an investigation proved there was no wrongdoing and Guillot apologized to Will Take Charge trainer D. Wayne Lukas this week.

    The distance and the fact this race is top-heavy with early speed could be his downfall.

8. Paynter 12-1

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    Paynter lost the 2012 Belmont Stakes in a photo finish.
    Paynter lost the 2012 Belmont Stakes in a photo finish.Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

    From near-death to a miraculous return to the racetrack, Paynter is a made-for-television movie waiting to happen. Struck down by illness after his impressive victory in the Haskell Invitational last year, the Bob Baffert trainee is back and competitive against top-class company again.

    The colt ran well in a runner-up finish to Mucho Macho Man in the Awesome Again Stakes over the Santa Anita main track in his final prep for the Classic. He was beaten by just a neck in last year’s Belmont Stakes at one-and-a-half miles and should be able to handle the one-and-one-fourth miles of the Classic.

    The colt gets a real class test here, as he has not faced such a tough group as he will encounter on Saturday.

7. Flat out 12-1

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    Flat Out checked in third in the 2012 Classic.
    Flat Out checked in third in the 2012 Classic.

    This Bill Mott runner will be making his third attempt to take down the Classic. The seven-year-old checked in fifth in 2011 and last year made a mild late rally while wide to finish third, beaten by seven lengths by Fort Larned.

    He would become the oldest Classic winner if he can win at the ripe old age of seven. He has done his best work at Belmont Park where he won the 2011 and 2012 runnings of the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

    Joel Rosario picks the mount back up, and the top jockey was in the saddle for his 2012 Jockey Club Gold Cup victory.

6. Mucho Macho Man 5-1

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    Kathy Ritvo seeks to become the first female trainer to saddle a Classic winner.
    Kathy Ritvo seeks to become the first female trainer to saddle a Classic winner.

    Last year’s Classic runner-up comes into this year’s race off a sharp win in the Awesome Again Stakes over the Santa Anita main track, beating runner-up Paynter by four-and-one-fourth lengths.

    Last year in the Classic, he chased Fort Larned the entire way around the track. Catching a racing surface that was kind to inside speed that day, he was beaten by less than a length for the top spot.

    The five-year-old is proven over the surface and Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens remains in the saddle on this Kathy Ritvo trainee. Ritvo is seeking to become the first female trainer to win the Classic.

    As the second choice on the morning line at 5-1, the question horseplayers must ask is whether that price is offering value.

5. Fort Larned 6-1

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    Fort Larned is the defending champion in the Classic.
    Fort Larned is the defending champion in the Classic.

    The defending champion in the Classic, Fort Larned is seeking to become just the second back-to-back winner of the race, following in the hoof steps of Tiznow, who won in 2000 and 2001.

    The five-year-old is coming off a sharp prep, winning the Homecoming Classic at Churchill Downs under the lights.

    He did benefit from a speed-friendly racing strip last year in his upset victory, paying $20.80. The Ian Wilkes trainee appears to be coming into this year’s Classic just as good as last year, but this year’s edition includes more runners with early speed, which could hurt his chances of a repeat.

4. Will Take Charge 12-1

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    Trainer D. Wayne Lukas will saddle Will Take Charge.
    Trainer D. Wayne Lukas will saddle Will Take Charge.

    When the Triple Crown was over, this guy had competed in all three jewels and was beaten by a combined 45 lengths. It was hard to imagine this guy would become a contender for the richest race in the U.S. five months later.

    However, this colt bounced out of the Triple Crown with three solid efforts, including a win in the Travers (G1) over Kentucky Derby winner Orb and Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice.

    Some thought his Hall of Fame trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, was past his prime, but “The Coach” is still ticking and is the all-time leader in Breeders’ Cup wins with 19, 10 more than fellow Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who comes into this year looking to pad his total of nine.

    The colt is out of the brilliant racemare Take Charge Lady, who earned $2.4 million on the racetrack. This colt should be flying late and his 12-1 morning line looks more than fair.

3. Game on Dude 8-5

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    The Bob Baffert trainee will be trying the Classic for the third time, checking in seventh as the beaten favorite last year, and the gelding was second to Drosselmeyer in 2011.

    The gelding is perfect in five starts in 2013 and will come into the Classic a fresh runner, having skipped the Awesome Again Stakes, a race he won last year as his final Classic prep.

    His last start was a victory in the Pacific Classic in August at Del Mar over the synthetic polytrack surface. The gelding has won seven of his eight starts over the Santa Anita main track in his career.

    Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith returns to the saddle after missing his last start, deciding to fly to New York to ride Royal Delta instead. Smith is perfect in five trips aboard the gelding.

    The gelding has been the early betting favorite for the Classic since spring and the main knock on this gelding is going to be his short price.

2. Declaration of War 10-1

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    Trainer Aidan O'Brien brings Declaration of War across the pond for the Classic.
    Trainer Aidan O'Brien brings Declaration of War across the pond for the Classic.

    The powerful Aidan O’Brien yard ships over Declaration of War for the Classic, and this will be the colt’s first start on conventional dirt.

    The colt won the Juddmonte International Stakes on turf in his last start. Both Sakhee and Giant’s Causeway won that race and shipped to the U.S. to compete in the Classic, and they both ran second.

    While he has competed only on synthetic surfaces (a perfect 3-for-3) and on turf (4-for-9), his pedigree leans more toward dirt. He is by War Front out of a Rahy mare.

    O’Brien has won seven Breeders’ Cup races from 83 starters and should have this colt ready to fire a good one in his first start off a two-and-a-half month break.

    Horseplayers may end up overlooking this colt, and we may be able to get a decent price on the overseas invader.

1. Palace Malice 10-1

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    Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice will be a threat in the Classic.
    Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice will be a threat in the Classic.

    The Belmont Stakes victor took on older for the first time in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and proved no match for Ron the Greek, but it still was a solid effort in a runner-up finish.

    In his previous start in the Travers at Saratoga, the colt made a good late run over a speed-friendly racing strip to finish a close up fourth.

    His regular jockey Mike Smith departs to ride Game On Dude, but he gets a more than suitable replacement in fellow Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez, the barn’s main man.

    Trainer Todd Pletcher has won seven Breeder’s Cup races but has been blanked so far in the Classic.

    The colt should get a good tracking trip from mid-pack and will get a jump on the late runners, putting him squarely in the hunt at a generous price.

     

    Follow me on Twitter @turfnsport.com

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