All eyes in the horse racing world will be on Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., on Saturday for the Breeders' Cup Classic.
In case you’re wondering why the Breeders' Cup Classic (8:35 p.m. ET; TV: NBC; Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra) is causing such a star-studded turnout of horses, trainers and jockeys, look no further than the $5 million purse that will be awarded to the winner.
To put that into perspective, the purse is higher than the take for all three Triple Crown races combined (Kentucky Derby $2.17 million, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes $1 million apiece). Money talks and horses run 1.25 miles until a winner is declared and the cash is awarded.
Vying for this handsome prize is a group filled with the best horses aged three years and up.
Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice will put his bid in, as will trainer Kathy Ritvo’s Mucho Macho Man, ridden by Hall of Famer Gary Stevens. Bob Baffert’s Game on Dude is another strong contender. Those three horses are perhaps the most recognizable names in the field, but not the only threats.
Baffert has two horses in the running for the prize. Besides Game on Dude, the legendary trainer also has sprinting horse Paynter. On a relatively short track, Paynter is a horse that fans should take seriously.
Paynter may be the sentimental favorite heading into the race as well. Per Bill Dwyre of The Los Angeles Times, the horse had been diagnosed with colitis—an inflammation of the colon—with the survival rate not good for horses afflicted with the condition.
Miraculously, Paynter not only survived, but recovered enough to compete in one of the most prestigious races of the year.
Which horse has the best chance to win?
Baffert is the only trainer with multiple horses in the running of the Breeders' Cup, though Hall of Famer William Mott had two horses as well before Ron the Greek was scratched due to a quarter crack in his right hoof, per Tim Wilkin of The Albany Times Union.
According to Wilkin, Mott had high hopes for the six-year-old, but the injury won’t allow him to perform.
Mott’s chances of winning the race will now rest with Flat Out.
Flat Out has fallen back over his last three races. After winning the Suburban Handicap in July, he finished second in the Woodward Stakes in August and then third behind Ron the Greek at the Jockey Club Gold Cup in September.
While Flat Out is not exactly moving in the right direction, Mott hopes that the horse will have righted himself by the time of Saturday night's race.