The 28th running of the Breeders' Cup offers $26 million in purses for 15 races at Churchill Downs Nov. 4-5. The Juvenile Sprint was added this year to bring the total to 15.
The $5 million Classic, winding up the proceedings, lacks the drama of last year's effort by Zenyatta to retire undefeated. But it makes up for that lack with a fascinating field with pre-entries including this year's star filly, Havre de Grace; last year's juvenile champ, Uncle Mo and his stablemate, Stay Thirsty; former Australian champion and recent British sensation So You Think; and the last two winners of the Belmont Stakes, Drosselmeyer and Ruler on Ice.
The race lost one of its potential favorites Monday, however, when Tizway was retired with a suspensory injury after a workout at Belmont Park.
The Classic is run at 1 1/4 miles on the main track.
Also pre-entered for the Classic is Gio Ponti, who has run at the top levels on the grass and is more likely to contest the $2 million Mile on the grass again this year. If he runs there, he will be trying to prevent French-trained Goldikova from winning that race for an unprecedented fourth straight year in one of the more dramatic showdowns in the history of the Breeders' Cup.
Gio Ponti in 2009 was runner-up to Zenyatta in the Classic and last year finished second to Goldikova in the Mile.
California Flag, winner of the 2009 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint and last year's winner, Chamberlain Bridge, have both been pre-entered for this year's edition at 5 furlongs for a $1 million purse.
In all, eight former winners are back for another try.
International runners should go favorites in the $3 million Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Turf at 1 1/2 miles. Leading the pack is Sarafina, a 4-year-old filly who has won three stakes this year, including the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud. Also pre-entered is St. Nicholas Abbey, winner of the Group 1 Coronation Stakes at Ascot. The local contingent includes the 2009 winner, Midday, and United Nations winner Teaks North.
Friday's card includes six Breeders' Cup races, five of them restricted to fillies and mares. The marquee $2 million Ladies' Classic at 9 furlongs on the main track features several evenly matched Grade I winners. The $2 million Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf pre-entries include last year's upset winner, Shared Account, Beverly D. winner Stacelita and Nahrain, who won the Qatar Prix de l'Opera at Longchamp.
Saturday's Breeders' Cup races begin with the Marathon, followed by the Juvenile Turf, Sprint, Turf Sprint, Dirt Mile, Turf, Juvenile, Mile, and Classic. The organization announced Wednesday the Mile had been rescheduled to just before the Classic because of the heightened interest in Goldikova's attempt at a "four-peat."
Friday's running order: Juvenile Sprint, Juvenile Fillies Turf, Filly & Mare Sprint, Juvenile Fillies, Filly & Mare Turf and the Ladies' Classic.
Churchill Downs bill will begin each day with non-Breeders' Cup stakes events.
Official entries will be taken Oct. 31 and fields of no more than 14 will be announced for each race. Each race also will have two "also eligible" horses to fill any late vacancies.
This will be the second straight year the races have been run at Churchill Downs. Next year, they return to Santa Anita, where the previous two runnings took place. While no announcement has been made, speculation for the 2013 site centers on Belmont Park in New York.
The races will be televised live on ABC and ESPN, and broadcast to more than 130 other countries.