ARCADIA, Calif. — Real rematches in the Breeders' Cup Classic are rare, with injuries and the breeding shed leading to early retirements and heavy turnover among the world's top thoroughbreds. But today's $5 million race looks eerily similar to the 2012 edition at Santa Anita Park.
Despite being the defending champion, Fort Larned is once again an underdog after a spotty year, and trainer Bob Baffert's Game On Dude again is the favorite after an undefeated 2013 that could earn the 6-year-old gelding an Eclipse Award as horse of the year.
Game On Dude hasn't lost since finishing seventh in what Baffert called "probably the worst race of his life." Fort Larned stumbled and lost rider Brian Hernandez in the Gulfstream Park Handicap at Hallandale Beach, had fifth-place finishes in the Oaklawn and Whitney handicaps, and won the Stephen Foster Handicap and his last outing, the Homecoming Classic at Churchill Downs. "It's been a roller-coaster ride for sure," trainer Ian Wilkes said.
Fort Larned is the 6-1 third choice on the morning line behind last year's second-place finisher, 5-1 Mucho Macho Man, and Game On Dude at 8-5.
BATTLERS FOR BRITAIN: Friday's first two races were most notable for jockey Mike Smith's back-to-back wins, his unprecedented 18th and 19th in Cup races, but his mounts had something else in common. Each is based in Britain, and each was making his U.S. debut. Smith won aboard London Bridge in the Marathon and Outstrip in the Juvenile Turf. The Irish-bred and England-based Chriselliam, ridden by Richard Hughes, also won his U.S. debut, in the Juvenile Fillies.