Monday, October 1, 2012

'Dude' Looks Tough, But 'Ron' Deserves Another Chance in Classic

--Brian DiDonato

   It’s hard to find any real knocks against expected GI Breeders’ Cup Classic favorite Game On Dude (Awesome Again), who upped his record at Santa Anita to five-for-five with a facile 3 1/4-length tally in the GI Awesome Again S. Saturday. The Bob Baffert trainee’s main drawback going into the weekend seemed to be that he tended to get a bit headstrong in previous efforts--something that could be his undoing in a full field with other quick horses--but the 5-year-old seemed to have no problem rating under new pilot Rafael Bejarano. He’s proven enough at 10 furlongs and has earned four straight Beyer Speed Figures of 108 or better, so there’s really not much to go on if you’re looking to beat him in the Breeders’ Cup. He probably even offers value at his current price of 7-2 at William Hill (there’s no chance he’s that high come Nov. 3, and he’s a more realistic 2-1 at Wynn), but he’ll have to handle a solid group of older horses invading from the East Coast who have taken turns running big races. If one or two of them falls through the cracks, they may be worth taking a shot on or at least using on back-up exotic tickets.
   Flat Out (Flatter) emerged as the Classic’s probable second choice with his game score in the GI Jockey Club Gold Cup, but I’m a bit dubious of how he’ll perform out West. He’s done all his best running in New York--particularly at Belmont--and was a very big disappointment in last year’s Classic after taking the Jockey Club. All reports were that Flat Out had been working like a monster at Churchill and he seemed like a cinch to at least hit the board, but the bay had no excuse when finishing fifth. He’s gotten a trainer upgrade to Bill Mott this year, but I still think regression is likely.
   I’m also against Jockey Club runner-up Stay Thirsty (Bernardini)--his form before Saturday left plenty to be desired and, if he’s going to employ similar front-running tactics in California, it seems unlikely that he’ll be able to dispose of Game On Dude and then hold off the closers. I honestly have no idea what to do with Fort Larned (E Dubai)--he was very impressive in the GI Whitney H., but just sort of went through the motions when checking in third at Belmont. I’m guessing he’ll find at least a couple better than him in the Breeders’ Cup, but could see using him if he gets ignored. He’s trading at 12-1 on William Hill and 14-1 at Wynn, but I expect he'll drift in the the mutuel pools. 
Ron the Greek takes to the Santa Anita strip
Benoit Photo
   While I’m against Mott’s Flat Out, I think I'll give Ron the Greek (Full Mandate) (14-1 at William Hill, 12-1 at Wynn) another chance providing the rest of the world doesn’t have the exact same idea. He put in a very visually impressive move to take the GI Santa Anita H. over the Classic track and trip in March, and he outran Flat Out despite a tougher trip when second in the Whitney. Ron the Greek was a complete no-show in the Jockey Club, but sometimes the best time to bet a Mott horse is off a dull effort like that one. There was enough moisture in the track that that could have had something to do with it as well. He might be poised for major improvement second off the bench and fits the Classic profile in plenty of ways. The way to beat Game On Dude is probably to hope for a hot pace, and Ron the Greek is a logical contender to pick up the pieces in such a scenario.
   Mott’s third Classic horse is To Honor and Serve (Bernardini), who showed the heart he seemed to be lacking when gamely denying Mucho Macho Man (Macho Uno) in the GI Woodward S. His fourth-place run in the GII Kelso H. makes it hard to trust him, however, and I’d need something like 30-1 or better to be interested. Mucho Macho Man (12-1 at William Hill, 8-1 at Wynn) is much more interesting--he got hung up a bit in the Woodward while To Honor and Serve got the jump on him, and his form all year has been very solid. He seems to always attract a bit more money than he should, but hopefully the two-month gap between the Woodward and Classic will allow the big bay to slip from people’s minds a bit.

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