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Breeders Cup weekend wraps with Classic at 8pm ET Saturday

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The two-day Breeders’ Cup concludes Saturday at Santa Anita with nine championship races. The $5 million Classic serves the headliner, and most of the races feature full fields with exciting betting opportunities. A total of six winners from 2012, including reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan, will be back to defend their title on the second day. NBCSN will televise the first eight Breeders’ Cup races from 3:30-8 p.m. (ET) before shifting to NBC for the Classic. Watch the live stream of the Classic at 8pm ET

Speed proved to be a weapon on the dirt track last year, with four of the six Breeders’ Cup races won by front-runners, including wire-to-wire Classic scorer Fort Larned. If Thursday and Friday’s races at Santa Anita are an indication, speed should fare well again on Saturday and late runners will be at a disadvantage.

The turf course tends to play differently, with midpack stalkers and confirmed closers winning the majority of races.

Game On Dude heads a dynamite field of 11 in the 1 1/4-mile Classic. America’s leading dirt horse is unbeaten from five starts in 2013 and owns a favorable run style with his high cruising speed. He will likely have company on the front end with Fort Larned and Moreno both looking to be involved from the start.

Perhaps the third time will be the charm for Game On Dude, who finished second in the 2011 Classic at Churchill Downs and a disappointing seventh last year at Santa Anita after breaking a step slowly. The 6-year-old gelding has won his seven other starts over the Arcadia, Calif. oval and is trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, the leading rider by wins in Breeders’ Cup history (17), has the mount.

More: Game On Dude can win big at Classic | Top prospects run at Juvenile

Other runners of interest in the Classic include 2012 runner-up Mucho Macho Man, a sharp winner of the Sept. 28 Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita; Belmont Stakes hero Palace Malice; Travers Stakes victor Will Takes Charge; Grade 1 winner Paynter, who has made a remarkable comeback from a near-death illness last year; European star Declaration of War; and the late-running Flat Out, who finished third after an extremely wide trip in last year’s Classic.

Wise Dan, who established a new Santa Anita track record when capturing last year’s Mile in a sizzling 1:31.78, will be the shortest-priced favorite among the Breeders’ Cup races. The outstanding 6-year-old gelding won nine straight before a runner-up finish in the October 5 Shadwell Turf Mile, but that race was switched to a rain-soaked Polytrack at Keeneland due to the wet turf conditions. He can rebound with a second straight Mile victory.

The 2-year-old races, the $2 million Juvenile and $2 million Juvenile Fillies, are always exciting and serve as an early precursor to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks next spring. Horses making their most recent starts in New York could be extremely tough in both races, with Havana and Strong Mandate top contenders in the Juvenile, and Artemis Agrotera and Sweet Reason leading candidates in the Juvenile Fillies.

The $3 million Turf is the second-richest Breeders’ Cup event and has attracted a heavy hitter from overseas, English-based The Fugue. A multiple Group 1-winning 4-year-old filly, The Fugue was probably best in last year’s Filly & Mare Turf but had to settle for third following an extremely troubled trip. The top two finishers from last year, Little Mike and Point of Entry, are among her main rivals.

European-based Dank is the horse to beat in the $2 million Filly & Mare Turf. Based in England with conditioner Sir Michael Stoute, the 4-year-old made a smashing impression in her U.S. debut, the August 17 Beverly D. at Arlington Park, when scoring easily by a widening margin. A couple of California-based distaffers, Marketing Mix and Tiz Flirtatious, rate the best chance of derailing the favorite.

Three races for sprinters will be offered. The $1.5 million Sprint drew a field of 12, including the 1-2 finishers from last year, Trinniberg and The Lumber Guy, but a pair of Southern California-based runners, Private Zone and Secret Circle, are the horses to beat in the six-furlong race. Groupie Doll, who was named champion female sprinter after her victory at Santa Anita last year, heads a field of 12 in the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint, and Mizdirection is the top draw in the $1 million Turf Sprint.

It figures to be a tremendous day of racing action.

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