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Breeders' Cup to determine champions on Friday and Saturday

Game On Dude, with exercise rider Dana Barnes

Game On Dude, with exercise rider Dana Barnes up, gets ready for a morning workout at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif. (Oct. 30, 2013) Credit: AP

The 2-year-old colt was called Action This Day, the perfect name for a 27-1 winner at the Breeders' Cup, where the action always is nonstop. The 30th Cup is being staged Friday and Saturday when tens of millions will change hands at Santa Anita, simulcast locations and over the Internet.

Originally, the Breeders' Cup included seven races on a Saturday at a different track every year. Now there are 14 events (down from 15 last year) spread over two days, and it's being staged in Arcadia, Calif., for the fourth time in six years. A Breeders' Cup executive said, "We're very happy to be back at Santa Anita,'' and many believe the goal is to make the Southern California showplace the permanent site.

In 1984, the Cup began as a movable feast to determine champions. It still does that, but by adding a day and seven events, it's become something else. Except to expand the betting menu and television coverage, there's no reason to feature a 1¾-mile marathon, a turf sprint and grass races for 2-year-old colts and fillies. Then again, if you hit a $387 exacta in the Juvenile Turf, you won't say, "What's the point of letting a bunch of obscure 2-year-olds run for a million dollars?"

As always, amid the pari-mutuel frenzy, Eclipse Awards will be earned. If Game On Dude, partly owned by Joe Torre, takes Saturday's grand finale, the $5 million Classic, he'll dethrone the 2012 Horse of the Year, Wise Dan. If Wise Dan wins the Mile and Game On Dude is upset on his home track for the second straight year, the turf star is likely to repeat. But if both lose and Princess of Sylmar wins Friday's centerpiece, the 11/8-mile Distaff, the 3-year-old could become the fourth female Horse of the Year in five years, following Rachel Alexandra (2009), Zenyatta (2010) and Havre de Grace (2011).

Bob Baffert trains front-runner Game On Dude, a 6-year-old gelding trying to avoid a third consecutive disappointment in the 1¼-mile Classic. Two years ago, he led until Drosselmeyer nailed him in the final strides. Last year, "The Dude'' broke poorly and ran seventh as the 6-5 favorite. This time he's the 8-5 morning-line choice as he goes for a 6-for-6 season.

There's plenty of other speed in the Classic -- last year's winner, Fort Larned, Moreno and Baffert's other runner, Paynter. Mucho Macho Man and Flat Out won't be far behind, and Palace Malice, the Belmont Stakes champion, and Travers hero Will Take Charge will be coming from off the pace. Ireland's Declaration of War is the wild card. Ron the Greek, who dominated the Jockey Club Gold Cup, was scratched Thursday because of a hoof injury.

"I've basically warned everybody in the barn that we're going to be on pins and needles and might have short fuses,'' said Baffert, who's 0-for-10 in the Classic. "But we're used to running favorites in these big races. If you don't feel like you're prepared, you feel extra pressure, but we feel like he couldn't be training any better.''

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