LOS ANGELES -- Game On Dude will be out to avenge his agonizing loss of a year ago when he runs again in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, and a victory could give credence to a bid for Horse of the Year honors.
In 2011, Game On Dude led most of the way under the lights at Churchill Downs before getting caught in the closing yards by 14-1 shot Drosselmeyer.
Game On Dude is one of a total of 180 horses, including eight defending or former champions, which were pre-entered Wednesday for the $25 million, 15-race Breeders' Cup world championships at Santa Anita on Nov. 2-3. That's down from last year's record total of 193.
The Classic will be shown live and in prime time on Nov. 3 for the first time on NBC.
Trained by Bob Baffert, Game On Dude was pre-entered in the 1 ¼-mile Classic to be run on his home track, where he is undefeated in five starts and will be the likely favorite. A full field of 14 horses was pre-entered, including four trained by Bill Mott, whose Drosselmeyer won last year by 1 ½ lengths.
Mott had a huge weekend last year in Louisville, Ky., winning the Ladies' Classic with Royal Delta and then the Classic on the following day. He's set himself up for a possible repeat at Santa Anita.
"Both races are very, very interesting and the competition is deep in both," he said. "We'd like to do it again this year. I hope they all show up and run their best race and get a chance to show how good they are."
Game On Dude will attempt to give Baffert his first win in the Classic with new rider Rafael Bejarano, who replaced Chantal Sutherland. She retired last week, and had lost the mount following a defeat with Game On Dude in the $1 million Pacific Classic in August. Game On Dude, who has won four of six starts this year, is part-owned by retired Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre.
"That's a tough horse," Mott said of Game On Dude. "The mile-and-a-quarter sometimes get to telling on him at the end. He's got a tremendous amount of speed. With our fellas, we just hope we can be running at him at the finish."
Mott's Classic entries are Santa Anita Handicap winner Ron the Greek, Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Flat Out, Woodward winner To Honor and Serve, and Royal Delta, who was also entered in the $2 million Ladies' Classic, where she would defend her title.
"We're leaning toward the Ladies' Classic," he said. "We just wanted to leave an option open."
Royal Delta is coming off a 9 ½-length win in the Beldame at Belmont last month.
Ron the Greek also won the Stephen Foster, but has lost his last two races, including a seventh place finish in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Flat Out was fifth in last year's Classic at Churchill Downs when trained by Scooter Dickey. To Honor and Serve has won eight of 16 career starts.
Other pre-entries in the Classic are Alpha, 2011 Belmont Stakes winner Brilliant Speed, Whitney winner Fort Larned, Handsome Mike, Suburban winner Mucho Macho Man, Nonios, Pool Play and Richard's Kid.
Final entries and the post position draw will be Monday at Santa Anita, which is hosting the event for the sixth time.
In the $2 million Mile on the turf, Wise Dan leads the field of 13 pre-entries. He won three straight turf races this summer, and a victory would insert him into the debate for Horse of the Year honors. The race will mark the return of 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, who hasn't run since Feb. 18.
"I realize it's asking a tremendous amount of the horse," trainer Graham Motion said. "If he could hit the board in this race it would certainly be a credit to him."
The top European horse in the Mile is Ireland-bred Excelebration, trained by Aidan O'Brien. Freddy Head, who trained Goldikova to a record three straight Mile titles, will saddle Moonlight Cloud.
Todd Pletcher and Baffert each had a leading 10 horses pre-entered. Doug O'Neill, who trained Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I'll Have Another, was tied with O'Brien for second with eight each. At 77, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas has four entries.
Among Baffert's entries is Contested in the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint, a horse owned by his wife, Jill.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is a part-owner of Worth Repeating, pre-entered in the $500,000 Marathon, in association with Donkey Island Racing LLC.
Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino owns South Floyd, pre-entered in the $500,000 Juvenile Sprint.
Besides Royal Delta, the other defending or former champions are Awesome Feather, My Miss Aurelia and Amazombie in the Sprint; Musical Romance in the Filly & Mare Sprint; California Flag in the Turf Sprint; and Europe-based St Nicholas Abbey in the Turf.
There will be nine races on Nov. 3, including the $2 million Juvenile. That field includes Shanghai Bobby, trained by Pletcher; two Baffert-trained entries, Power Broker and Title Contender; and two by O'Neill, He's Had Enough and Know More.
The two-day event will open on Nov. 2 with six races, highlighted by the Ladies' Classic. Among Royal Delta's challengers are Awesome Feather, who is 10-0 in her career; Love and Pride; My Miss Aurelia; and Include Me Out.
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