ARCADIA, Calif. — There’s little Bob Baffert hasn’t won in horse racing. The trainer can count nine victories in Triple Crown races, including three Kentucky Derbies, and seven Breeders’ Cup wins in his Hall of Fame career.
Game On Dude has been pretty good, too, with a 5-0 record this year.
But neither Baffert nor Game On Dude has won the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.
They’re going to team up for the third straight year on Saturday at Santa Anita. Game On Dude is the early 8-5 favorite in the 1¼-mile showcase race of the two-day, $25 million world championships.
Among his rivals are Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice, last year’s runner-up Mucho Macho Man, defending champion Fort Larned, Travers winner Will Take Charge, Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Ron the Greek, and last year’s third-place finisher Flat Out.
‘‘You wouldn’t be surprised if a number of different horses win it,’’ said trainer Todd Pletcher, who has Palace Malice. ‘‘It’s a nasty race.’’
Of course, Game On Dude was the 7-5 favorite last year on his home track, and finished seventh in what Baffert described as ‘‘probably the worst race of his life.’’ Two years ago, he lost in the closing strides at Churchill Downs. ‘‘He needs to win this Classic to make that special statement,’’ Baffert said. ‘‘I think he can do it.’’
Co-owned by Major League Baseball executive Joe Torre, Game On Dude is already the richest active horse in North America with earnings of $5,602,158. He’s on a six-race winning streak, including five in a row this year, and hasn’t lost since the 2012 Classic, when 9-1 shot Fort Larned pulled the upset.
Game On Dude has proven durable and he continues to race because, as a 6-year-old gelding, there’s no rushing him off to the breeding shed. Torre was on hand to see Game On Dude’s last start, a win in the Pacific Classic by a record 8½ lengths. Mike Smith will be back aboard Game On Dude, and they’ll break from the No. 9 post in the 12-horse field.