Game On Dude will try again in the Classic
The favorite came up short in his first two tries in the marquee race.
ARCADIA, Calif. - Dude, where's my respect?
For a career that features seven Grade I wins and more than $5.6 million in earnings, a case could be made that Game On Dude's connections couldn't ask for anything more out of the Breeders' Cup Classic's heavy favorite.
Co-owner Bernie Schiappa certainly feels very strongly about the 6-year-old son of Awesome Again.
"I don't really think he gets too much respect. Everybody it seems tries to find a way to knock the horse," Schiappa said just after Game On Dude had sizzled through a five-furlong move in 59 seconds at Santa Anita Park on Monday morning.
"Hopefully Saturday he'll show them how good he really is."
One of Game On Dude's other co-owners is Joe Torre, the former Dodgers and Yankees manager who is now Major League Baseball's executive vice president for baseball operations.
"Today I called Joe Torre and he's in the middle of the World Series and stuff and I wondered if he'd take my call and he answers the phone and goes, 'Bob, is everything OK?,' " trainer Bob Baffert said Monday. "He's really excited about it. He can't wait."
Fair or not, Game On Dude's two previous losses in the Breeders' Cup Classic have haunted him despite his 15 career triumphs.
However, in what will be his third consecutive swing at the $5 million, 11/4-mile test, the Baffert trainee was installed as the 8-5 morning-line favorite and will break from post No. 9 in a field of 12 entered for Saturday's headline event of the two-day Breeders' Cup World Championships.
The Classic stands among the last demons for Game On Dude to shake off. In 2011, his front-running style had him leading with less than 100 yards to go before Drosselmeyer came running late on the outside to snatch that win.
Last year's Breeders' Cup brought the angst early with Game On Dude missing the break and finishing seventh, costing him any chance at year-end hardware.
The current version of "The Dude" is arguably the best he's ever been. He has won six straight races, five this year, since last November's Breeders' Cup defeat. And if he finally wins the Classic, the elusive Horse of the Year title will likely be his for the taking.
Tactically, Game On Dude remains committed to being on or near the front end, winning his five starts this year by a combined 241/4 lengths - including an 81/2-length demolition in the Grade I Pacific Classic on Aug. 25.
The shift Baffert and jockey Mike Smith have picked up on is an increased level of focus when Game On Dude goes about his work. He still gets down on his belly each time he runs, but the goofing off and occasional rankness has all but vanished.
"He just seems to be a stronger horse this year and more focused," said Smith, who has ridden Game On Dude in five of his last six starts. "He steps on the racetrack and he looks straight forward, he won't turn his head from side to side. He just is all business now, it's pretty cool."
The cast of rivals he will face Saturday are a near carbon copy from 2012, with defending Classic winner Fort Larned breaking from post No. 7 and last year's runner-up Mucho Macho Man alongside in post No. 6.