ARCADIA, Calif. -- Fort Larned is back to defend his title in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, a race he led all the way in winning as a 9-1 long shot last year.
He is one of a total of 172 horses, including nine defending champions, which were pre-entered Wednesday for the $27 million, 14-race Breeders' Cup world championships at Santa Anita on Nov. 1-2.
Thirteen horses were pre-entered for the 1 1/4-mile Classic, which will be shown live in prime time next Saturday on NBC. Trainers Bob Baffert, Bill Mott and Todd Pletcher have two each.
Baffert has Game On Dude and Paynter; Mott has Flat Out and Ron the Greek; and Pletcher has Graydar and Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice.
Besides Fort Larned, the second-, third- and fourth-place finishers in last year's Classic will take another shot.
"Looks like a heck of a field," Pletcher said.
Defending Horse of the Year Wise Dan was pre-entered in the $2 million Mile. Royal Delta will defend her title in the $2 million Distaff, which has reverted to its original name after being called the Ladies' Classic since 2008.
Final entries and the post position draw will be Monday at Santa Anita, which is hosting the event for the seventh time. Twenty-four foreign horses were pre-entered.
Chad Brown had a leading 11 horses pre-entered, including Last Gunfighter in the Classic. Pletcher was second with nine. Baffert had eight entries, followed by Doug O'Neill with seven.
Kentucky-based Ken and Sarah Ramsey had a leading seven pre-entries among owners.
Co-owned by retired Dodgers and Yankees manager Joe Torre, Game On Dude is 5-0 this year, including Grade 1 wins in the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup and Pacific Classic. He'll try to win the Classic for the first time after getting nipped at the wire by Drosselmeyer in 2011 and fading to seventh as the favourite last year. Mike Smith, the leading Breeders' Cup jockey with 17 victories, will ride him.
"It's a very competitive race," Baffert said. "You've got to bring your 'A' game and you need racing luck."
Fort Larned has been inconsistent this year, with just two wins in five starts. He will try to join Tiznow in 2000-01 as the only two-time winners of the Classic.
Mucho Macho Man is coming off a win in the Awesome Again Stakes last month at Santa Anita, where he has been training for the Breeders' Cup after coming from the East Coast.
Mott, who won the Classic with Cigar in 1995 and Drosselmeyer two years ago, will saddle Flat Out and Ron the Greek, who finished third and fourth, respectively, last year. Flat Out is coming off a third-place finish in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont last month. Sent off at 21-1 odds, Ron the Greek won the Gold Cup by 6 3/4 lengths in a stark reversal of his recent form.
Two talented 3-year-old colts, Palace Malice and Will Take Charge, were set to run in the Classic. Palace Malice followed up his Belmont win with a victory in the Jim Dandy. Will Take Charge, trained by 78-year-old D. Wayne Lukas, won the Travers and the Pennsylvania Derby. Besides Palace Malice, Pletcher's other entry is Graydar, winner of the Donn and New Orleans handicaps.
Among the other pre-entries in the Classic are Juddmonte International winner Declaration of War, trained by Irishman Aidan O'Brien, and Ireland-bred Planteur, third in the Dubai World Cup.
There will be nine races Nov. 2, including the $2 million Juvenile. Pletcher, Baffert, O'Neill and Dale Romans have two entries each.
The two-day event will open Nov. 1 with five races, highlighted by the Distaff. Royal Delta will face five foes: Authenticity, Beholder, Close Hatches, Princess of Sylmar and Street Girl.
A maximum of 14 are allowed in each race, except the Dirt Mile, which is capped at 12.