Torre has the favorite in Breeders' Cup Classic
MLB exec, former manager part-owner of morning-line favorite Game on Dude
ARCADIA, Calif. -- Joe Torre, who managed the Yankees to four World Series titles, has a chance to experience the horse racing equivalent Saturday when Game On Dude, expected to be the favorite, runs in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park.
Torre, who owns thoroughbreds under the stable name of Diamond Pride, has dabbled in horses since he was introduced to the sport by former bench coach Don Zimmer when both were with the Yankees. Torre co-owns Game On Dude with the family of the late MGM Mirage CEO Terry Lanni, Mercedes Stable of gambling entrepreneur Ernest Moody and Las Vegas auto-dealer executive Bernie Schiappa.
Schiappa bought Game On Dude privately in 2010 for a reported $300,000 after his first win and put together the partnership with his three close friends. With a win, the $2.75 million first-place windfall not only would raise Game On Dude's career earnings to more than $8.35 million, but virtually assure the six-year-old gelding the title of Horse of the Year.
This will be Torre's second Classic bid with Game On Dude, who faded to seventh as the 6-5 favorite in the Classic a year ago after a slow start. The top three finishers of last year's Classic -- Fort Larned, Mucho Macho Man and Flat Out -- are all back this year.
Game On Dude has a six-race win streak since last year's Classic, the first five under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, with record-setting romps in the Santa Anita Handicap and Pacific Classic. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who conditions Game On Dude, expects a better Classic performance than last year.
Game on Dude is an 8-5 morning-line favorite. He'll leave from post No. 9 as part of a 12-horse field.
"He's a totally different horse mentally than he was last year, and he looks better coming into the race this year," Baffert said on a national teleconference last week.
"He's run some really outstanding races, his works have been great, and he's shown no signs of tailing off. The break will be crucial and how he gets away, but Mike Smith knows him well and what he has to do. All I can do is prepare him the best way I can and then give Mike the keys to the car and tell him to get around there as quick as he can."
Torre, currently MLB's executive vice president for baseball operations, said he credits -- or blames -- his love of racing on a day he spent at a track with Zimmer in 1996. A $300 "investment" became a $600 profit and "that was the end of my life," Torre joked.
Through Zimmer, Torre met trainer Richard Dutrow Sr., then his son, Richard Dutrow Jr., and through him, the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel.
Torre developed a close friendship with Frankel, who brought Torre into a partnership for another horse, Vineyard Haven. They turned their $250,000 purchase into a stunning $12 million sale to the Godolphin Stable of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president of the United Arab Emirates and prime minister and ruler of Dubai.
The first horse Torre owned was in partnership with Schiappa. He later claimed in partnership Sis City for $50,000, and the mare became a Grade I winner. Torre won the Queen's Plate, Canada's most prestigious race, with Wild Desert in 2005.