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Last Updated: 02/11/12 12:13pm
Bob Baffert: Positive about chances
Game On Dude aims to make up for last year's heartbreaking defeat as he tries his luck again in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Saturday.
Bob Baffert's charge made a bold bid from the front in the 10-furlong showpiece at Churchill Downs last November and looked set to give jockey Chantal Sutherland a landmark victory in the Grade One contest.
However, Drosselmeyer swooped late and fast and Game On Dude had no answer to his finishing flourish, eventually being beaten a length and a half.
Sutherland, who has now retired, partnered the five-year-old five more times after that but was eventually jocked off in favour of Rafael Bejarano last time.
The duo immediately struck up a winning partnership by landing the Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita at the end of September and Game On Dude is favourite to finally strike Breeders' Cup gold at the track where he is already a five-time victor.
Baffert told Sky Sports News: "He ran a great race (last year). We were hoping he was going to run well and this year he is doing better.
"I think he is a better horse than he was last year.
"Coming up to it (this year) we didn't have to ship anywhere and he likes this track.
"He struggled with Churchill Downs a little last year because the track was a little bit muddy and a little bit off.
"He just needs a clean break. He's a speed horse, so the pace is going to be very important for him."
The Bill Mott-trained Flat Out is next best in the market after winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont on his most recent outing.
He finished fifth in last year's Classic and will be joined by stablemates Ron The Greek, who was a well-beaten sixth at Belmont last time but claimed the Santa Anita Handicap earlier this year, and Woodward Stakes winner To Honour And Serve.
The first-named pair are both winners over 10 furlongs and Mott believes that is a major plus for their chances.
"I think after Ron The Greek won the Santa Anita Handicap last spring we were excited then knowing that the Breeders' Cup was run here this fall," said Mott.
"It's a good sign when they've done the distance of 10 furlongs and they've run over the racetrack.
"That's one hurdle he's already handled and one question we don't have to answer."
There are no European-trained contenders this year, but Godolphin have an American-trained representative in the shape of Alpha.
The three-year-old won the Jim Dandy and Travers Stakes earlier in the year but suffered a shock defeat at the hands of the reopposing Handsome Mike in the Pennsylvania Derby at Parx last time.
Despite that lacklustre sixth-place finish, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin believes Alpha had valid excuses and can set the record straight this time.
"A mile and a quarter is a plus for him but it is a real tough race," he told www.godolphin.com.
"We think he will run well. He won the Travers over this distance, a mile and a quarter, but then the Parx race was a strange one on a funny racetrack.
"You always hate to use the racetrack as an excuse. But at Parx that day, the track was deep, dry and slow and he gave the winner 10lb.
"You didn't want to be down the inside and he was there because he didn't break well and was keen into the first turn.
"Alpha is a top three-year-old who is doing great and moves well, a very athletic horse and has a great mind.
"He too will be very forwardly placed. There is not a ton of pace in the race and hopefully he breaks well because he can be naughty in the gate from time to time.
"Hopefully, things will go his way. Game On Dude is definitely the horse to beat."
Victory for Mucho Macho Man would be a something of a fairytale ending for his trainer Kathy Ritvo, who received a heart transplant four years ago.
The four-year-old finished second in the Woodward last time but after her health troubles, Ritvo is perfectly relaxed ahead of his big-race date.
"There's no pressure," she told the LA Times.
"He does the job. He makes it easy.
"I waited six months for a transplant, for my heart.
"This is easy."