The Triple Crown is long gone, but the eve of one of horse racing's premier events has just arrived, and some of the top thoroughbreds on the planet are getting set for this weekend's 2013 Breeders' Cup Classic.
Defending champion Fort Larned heads a talented field of contenders hoping to stamp their names on the history books.
With a massive $5 million purse up for grabs, the stakes are as high as they come.
Below, we'll examine the top favorites ahead of Saturday's main event at Santa Anita Park.
|1||Last Gunfighter||Javier Castellano||Chad Brown||20-1|
|2||Paynter||Martin Garcia||Bob Baffert||12-1|
|3||Planteur||Ryan Moore||Marco Botti||20-1|
|4||Moreno||Joseph Talamo||Eric Guillot||15-1|
|5||Declaration Of War||Joseph O'Brien||Aidan O'Brien||10-1|
|6||Mucho Macho Man||Gary Stevens||Kathy Ritvo||5-1|
|7||Fort Larned||Brian Hernandez Jr.||Ian Wilkes||6-1|
|8||Palace Malice||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher||10-1|
|9||Game On Dude||Mike Smith||Bob Baffert||8-5|
|10||Will Take Charge||Luis Saez||D. Wayne Lukas||12-1|
|11||Ron the Greek*||Jose Lezcano||William Mott||8-1|
|12||Flat Out||Joel Rosario||William Mott||12-1|
*Scratch because of injury, according to Breeders' Cup official Twitter account.
Game On Dude, 8-5
Trained by the legendary Bob Baffert and jockeyed by an experienced rider in Mike Smith, Game On Dude is the odds-on favorite to win Saturday's main event at Santa Anita Park.
Game On Dude won't jump out to casual horse racing fans, who will likely be more familiar with names like Palace Malice and Will Take Charge. But keep in mind that this horse, following a disappointing seventh place finish in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic, has won each of his past six starts dating back to last December.
Game On Dude has shown tremendous potential over the past year and has more positive momentum than any other horse in the field this weekend.
Mucho Macho Man, 5-1
Following a strong showing at the 2012 Breeders' Cup Classic and an impressive victory at Santa Anita Park this past September, Mucho Macho Man has caught the collective eye of the horse racing world.
Jockeyed by the accomplished Gary Stevens, who rode Oxbow to a shocking win at the Preakness Stakes last May, Mucho Macho Man looks poised to improve upon his second-place finish at this event a year ago.
Like Game On Dude and the other favorites in this year's field, Mucho Macho Man won his last time out, conquering the Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita just over a month ago, beating out another Classic contender in Paynter.
Fort Larned, 6-1
While Game On Dude is the odds-on favorite, don't count out Fort Larned, the only horse in Saturday's field that has won this race in the past.
The defending champion is trained by Ian Wilkes and will be ridden by Brian Hernandez, who jockeyed him to victory a year ago.
Fort Larned hasn't been nearly as dominant or consistent as Game On Dude over the past year, failing to finish the Gulfstream Park Handicap in March and posting a pair of fifth-place finishes at Oaklawn Park and Saratoga. But two victories in 2013, including a win his last time out at the Homecoming Classic Stakes at Churchill Downs, has him heading into Santa Anita with a realistic shot to repeat.
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