Defending champions, top Europeans and a rising Japanese star are among 180 horses set for this year's Breeders' Cup World Championships.
The event, Nov. 2-3 at Santa Anita, includes 15 races with total purses of $25 million, capped by the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic Saturday night.
The prospective Classic field includes last year's runner-up, Game On Dude, as well as Fort Larned, Ron the Greek, Dullahan, Richard's Kid and as many as seven others. The 1 1/4-mile event will be contested over the Santa Anita dirt track.
While last year's Classic winner, Drosselmeyer, is retired, eight defending or former Breeders' Cup Champions are back for more and some of their races could overshadow the Classic itself.
The $2 million Ladies' Classic, featured event on the Friday card, will end at least one undefeated streak as Awesome Feather puts her 10-for-10 record on the line and My Miss Aurelia defends her 6-for-6 mark. Both will have to overcome defending champion Royal Delta, who romped to an easy, 9 1/2-lengths victory in the Beldame at Belmont Park in her last start. Include Me Out is here and she beat Royal Delta this summer at Saratoga. Others to consider are Grace Hall, Questing and In Lingerie -- all in good form. In Lingerie may go in the Filly & Mare Turf, however.
The $2 million Mile on the grass features top-ranked Wise Dan; Frankel's long-time foe Excelebration, fresh off a win on British Champions day at Ascot; Moonlight Cloud, who just missed ending Black Caviar's undefeated streak at Royal Ascot; and 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom. Many others have a shot in what promises to be a crackerjack heat.
The $3 million Turf, run at 1 1/2 miles, is expected to include defending champion St Nicholas Abbey; rising Japanese star Trailblazer from the same barn as Arc runner-up Orfevre; the Aga Khan runner Shareta; and Breeders' Cup Challenge winners Little Mike, Turbo Compressor and Point of Entry among others.
Interestingly, the Juvenile and especially the Juvenile Fillies, both run on the main track, came up light in entries. But the Juvenile Turf and Juvenile Fillies Turf, benefitting from an influx of European runners, both have overflow fields in the pre-entries and the recent inclusion of a Juvenile Sprint also could be cannibalizing the other races.
Another consideration is the rule that this year's 2-year-old Championship races will be run without the use of the anti-bleeding medication commonly referred to as Lasix as Breeders' Cup takes a courageous lead in reigning in the use of race-day medication in the United States.
Some U.S. trainers said they will not run their youngsters without the medication. And Richard Hannon Jr., helping prepare British-trained 2-year-old filly Sky Lantern for the grass race, told Racing Post, "We have to think she has a serious chance, especially as there is no Lasix permitted in all the 2-year-old races out there, which makes it a level playing field for everyone."
Friday's card includes six Breeders' Cup Championship races: The $500,000 Juvenile Sprint at 6 furlongs, the $500,000, Grade II Marathon at 1 3/4 miles; the $1 million, Grade I Juvenile Fillies Turf at 1 mile; the $2 million, the $2 million Grey Goose Grade I Juvenile Fillies at 1 1/16 miles; and the $2 million, and the Grade I Ladies' Classic at 9 furlongs.
Saturday kicks off with the $1 million, Grade I Juvenile Turf at 1 mile, followed by the $1 million, Grade I Filly & Mare Sprint at 7 furlongs; the $1.5 million, Grade I Xpressbet Sprint at 6 furlongs; the $1 million, Grade I Turf Sprint at 6 1/2 furlongs down the hillside turf course; the $1 million, Grade I Dirt Mile; the $3 million Turf at 1 1/2 miles; the $2 million, Grade I Grey Goose Juvenile at 1 1/16 miles; the $2 million, Grade I Mile on the grass; and the $5 million, Grade I Classic at 1 1/4 miles.
The races will be televised live on NBC Sports Network and NBC-TV with wagering available in many locations around the world. For the first time, the Classic will be run in prime time on the East Coast of the United States.