The $4 million Classic drew 14 entries at ceremonies at Mike Ditka's restaurant in downtown Chicago. Among them is Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner War Emblem, which could be Horse of the Year if he wins this race before heading off for a breeding career.
War Emblem's rivals, however, have equally impressive resumes. Hawk Wing comes from victory in Ireland's Coral Eclipse Stakes, Madaglia d'Oro won the Jim Dandy and Travers at Saratoga and Evening Attire won the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.
Each of the other seven races also features a highly competitive field. The biggest favorite of the day may be Azeri in the $2 million Distaff for fillies and mares. She has won six consecutive races -- all graded stakes.
Sky Mesa probably will be the favorite in the $1 million Juvenile for 2-year-olds. Sky Mesa has won all three starts, including the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland in his latest race.
Trainer Aiden O'Brien entered two of the likely favorites in the $1 million Mile, run on the turf course. Hawk Wing and Landseer, both European-based, have run well in top races and Landseer beat some of the best U.S. mile runners last time out at Keeneland in his first start in this country.
Storm Flag Flying, a daughter of 1996 Juvenile Fillies winner My Flag, headlines a wide-open field in the $1 million Juvenile Fillies.
The $1 million, 6-furlong Sprint is wide open, with a full field of 14. Defending champion Banks Hill is back to try again in the $1 million Filly and Mare Turf against rivals from several countries.
The $2 million Turf, run at 1 1/2 miles, drew a pre-entered field of only nine, including year-long rivals Denon and With Anticipation. European starters, however, also are likely to be well supported.
This year's running marks the first time the Breeders' Cup races have come to the Midwest. Chicago and the state of Illinois are pulling out all the stops to ensure that the internationally televised event showcases the city and state.
In addition to the pre-entry ceremonies at Ditka's, other events will be held in the central Loop's vacant Block 37, the Field Museum of Natural History and Harry Caray's restaurant.