Led by the undefeated Zenyatta, Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, Belmont Stakes and Travers winner Summer Bird, and European standouts Goldikova (IRE) and Rip Van Winkle (IRE), 166 horses, including 10 defending or former Breeders’ Cup Champions, have been pre-entered for the 2009 Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
The 26th Breeders’ Cup World Championships consisting of 14 races and purses totaling $25.5 million, will be held at Santa Anita Park on Friday, Nov., 6 and Saturday, Nov. 7 during the Oak Tree Racing Association meeting. This will mark the first time that the Breeders’ Cup will be held at the same track in consecutive years.
Zenyatta, the 5-year-old super mare, winner of all 13 of her career starts including last year’s Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic, has been pre-entered with first preference to race against male horses in the 1 ¼ mile, $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Owned by Jerry and Ann Moss and trained by John Shirreffs, Zenyatta has won all four of her starts this year against female competition, including most recently the Lady’s Secret Stakes over the Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita. Zenyatta, who has also been pre-entered in the Ladies’ Classic on Championship Friday, has never before raced against males. If she can win the 1 ¼ mile Classic, she will surpass the mark of Personal Ensign, who also won all 13 of her career starts while facing top competition.
Zenyatta’s main challengers in the Classic come from an array of international standouts led by Drs. K.K. and Vilasini Jayaraman’s 3-year-old Summer Bird, winner of three Grade I races. Trained by Tim Ice, Summer Bird got rolling during the second half of the year, capturing the Belmont Stakes, Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Last year, European horses won five Breeders’ Cup races and ran one-two (Raven’s Pass and Henrythenavigator) in last year’s Classic. This year, there are 37 horses from Europe pre-entered. Trainer Aidan O’Brien brings two 3-year-old standouts for this year’s Classic in Rip Van Winkle (IRE) and Mastercraftsman (IRE). Rip Van Winkle captured the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood in July and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot in September. Mastercraftsman won the St. James’s Palace at Royal Ascot in June and most recently took the Diamond Stakes at Dundalk in Ireland by five lengths. Mastercraftsman has also been pre-entered in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.
The Breeders’ Cup will be televised live on ABC/ESPN and in more than 130 foreign countries.
“Based on the strength of the pre-entries, in a little more than a week at Santa Anita, racing fans around the world will be treated to full fields of the best horses from both the US and abroad and to two very enticing days of watching, wagering and rooting for their favorites, said Breeders’ Cup President and CEO Greg Avioli.
The 4-year-old Gio Ponti, who dominated the turf division this year in the US with four Grade 1 wins, including the Arlington Million, and the 7-year-old gelding, Einstein, winner of the Santa Anita Handicap, last March, have also been pre-entered in the Classic.
Zenyatta is one of a record 10 defending or former Breeders’ Cup Champions to be pre-entered: Ventura (Filly& Mare Sprint); Forever Together (Filly & Mare Turf); Maram (Juvenile Fillies Turf); Muhannak (IRE) (Marathon); Desert Code (Turf Sprint); Goldikova (Mile); Midshipman (Juvenile); Conduit (IRE) (Turf) and Red Rocks (IRE) (2006 Turf).
John Gosden trained last year’s Classic winner Raven’s Pass. This year, he brings an outstanding 4-year-old filly in Dar Re Mi (GB), owned by Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber, for the $3 million Breeders’ Cup Turf at 1 ½ miles. Dar Re Mi is also pre-entered in the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, where she earned an automatic qualifying berth when she won the Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh in Ireland. She is one of 20 horses pre-entered, who gained automatic berths into the Breeders’ Cup through the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series.
The 4-year-old Conduit returns to defend his title in the Turf for owner Ballymacoll Stud and trainer Sir Michael Stoute. Conduit has won the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes this year. Stoute also has pre-entered Juddmonte Farms’ Spanish Moon, who captured the Prix Foy at Longchamp and the group 1 Prix de St. Cloud in France this year. Front-running Presious Passion, with four victories this year, qualified by winning the UN Handicap at Monmouth this year, and also tacked on the Clement Hirsch Invitational three weeks ago at Santa Anita.
Last year, Augustin Stables’ Forever Together stormed down the course to win the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf. The 5-year-old mare, trained by Jonathan Sheppard, is back to defend her title against Yellow Ribbon Stakes winner Magical Fantasy and Juddmonte Farms’ 3-year-old filly Midday (GB), who won the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood.
The 4-year-old filly Goldikova, one of the top rated Thoroughbreds in the world, seeks to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile on turf again for trainer Freddie Head, who rode Miesque to back to back victories in the 1987-‘88 editions of the Mile. Goldikova has won three Group 1 races this year, including the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville by six lengths. The American challengers include Oak Tree Mile winner Cowboy Cal and Shadwell Turf Mile winner Court Vision. The Michael Stoute trained Zacinto (GB), second to Rip Van Winkle in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes and Delegator (GB), winner of the Celebration Mile at Goodwood for Godolphin, have also been pre-entered.
If Zenyatta’s connections opt for the Classic, then two fillies who could vie for favoritism in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic are the 3-year-old Careless Jewel, winner of the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga and Godolphin’s 4-year-old filly Music Note, winner of the Ballerina at Saratoga and Beldame at Belmont Park. The John Shirreffs-trained 4-year-old filly Life is Sweet, winner of the Santa Margarita at Santa Anita in the winter, and second to Zenyatta in the Lady’s Secret, has also been pre-entered.
Trainer Bob Baffert has won the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint three times, including the last two years with Midnight Lute. This year he unleashed the lightning fast 3-year-old Zensational for Zayat Stables. A winner in five of six starts in 2009, the son of 1995 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Unbridled’s Song has reeled off consecutive Grade 1 scores in the Triple Bend at Hollywood Park and the Bing Crosby and Pat O’Brien at Del Mar. Among the major contenders are the 4-year-old Fatal Bullet, winner of the Phoenix Stakes Breeders’ Cup Challenge qualifier at Keeneland, and Kodiak Kowboy, who captured the six furlong Vosburgh in New York. Godolphin has a late closer in Gayego, who zoomed down the lane to win the Ancient Title at Oak Tree.
Ventura is back to defend her title in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, The 4-year-old filly has had another solid season which included defeating males in the Woodbine Mile on turf. She will face a formidable challenge from the Jonathan Sheppard-trained Informed Decision, who has won five of six starts this year, most recently the Thoroughbred Club of America at Keeneland.
Baffert seeks to win the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile for the second straight year with the undefeated Lookin at Lucky, who won both the Del Mar Futurity and the Norfolk Stakes at Oak Tree. From the East comes Paul Pompa Jr.’s D’Funnybone, who won the Saratoga Special and the Futurity at Belmont Park.
The $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies features Blind Luck, winner of the Oak Leaf Stakes for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, and Devil May Care, trained by Todd Pletcher, who won the Frizette Stakes at Belmont Park.