ARCADIA, Calif. — Game On Dude was made the early 9-5 favorite in a field of 12 for Saturday's $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, a race he led most of the way last year before being overtaken in the closing strides. He'll have home-track advantage at Santa Anita, where the 5-year-old gelding is 5-0.
He will try to deliver a first Classic win for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who holds a strong hand heading into the two-day, $25 million world championships. Baffert was second twice, including last year.
"He's a better horse this year," Baffert said Monday, when Game On Dude drew the No. 5 post for the 11/4-mile Classic. "He seems more relaxed. He's getting better with age."
Baffert has two shots at the $2 million Juvenile — Power Broker and Title Contender. They face stiff competition in undefeated Shanghai Bobby, the 2-1 favorite trained by Todd Pletcher. The Juvenile winner is typically tagged as the winter favorite for the Kentucky Derby.
Shanghai Bobby was one of nine New York-based horses arriving early because of Hurricane Sandy bearing down.
Flat Out and Whitney winner Fort Larned were the 5-1 second choices in the Classic.
Other notable favorites:
• Royal Delta, 9-5 in the Ladies' Classic;
• Atigun, 9-2 in the 13/4-mile Marathon;
• Point of Entry, in the 11/2-mile Turf;
• Wise Dan, 9-5 in the Mile.
The event opens Friday with six races. Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino owns South Floyd, No. 4 in the seven-horse $500,000 Juvenile Sprint. Saints quarterback Drew Brees co-owns Worth Repeating in the $500,000 Marathon.