Breeders’ Cup release:
Led by multiple Grade I winner Game On Dude, defending Ladies’ Classic champion Royal Delta, dominating turf stars Wise Dan and Point of Entry, and 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, 180 horses, including eight defending or former Breeders’ Cup Champions, have been pre-entered for the 2012 Breeders’ Cup World Championships on Nov. 2 and 3.
The total of 180 pre-entries is down slightly from 2011, when 193 horses were pre-entered for the 15-race, two-day event. This year’s Breeders’ Cup will be held at Santa Anita Park after being contested at Churchill Downs for the past two years. There will be six Breeders’ Cup races on Championship Friday and nine Breeders’ Cup races on Championship Saturday.
The Breeders’ Cup will be televised live by the NBC Sports Network and NBC. For the first time, the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic will be televised live and in prime time on NBC (8-9 p.m. ET).
Since the event’s inception in 1984, 11 winners of the Classic have been voted Thoroughbred racing’s Horse of the Year, and this year, several horses could lay claim to that title with a Classic victory. This Classic is led by 5-year-old Game On Dude, trained by Bob Baffert. In 2011, Game on Dude held the lead into deep stretch in the Classic at Churchill Downs, only to be overtaken in the final yards by 15-1 Drosselmeyer.
This year, Game On Dude has returned to win four races in six starts, including the Californian, the Hollywood Gold Cup and most recently the Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita Park, where he has won all five of his career starts. Baffert has won eight Breeders’ Cup races in his Hall of Fame career, but has yet to win the Classic.
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott won last year’s Classic with Drosselmeyer. Mott, who also trained 1995 Classic winner Cigar, has pre-entered four horses for this year’s race: Ron the Greek, Flat Out and To Honor and Serve. Champion filly Royal Delta has been pre-entered in the Classic as a second choice with first preference for the Ladies’ Classic.
Others pre-entered for the Classic include Grade I winners Alpha, Brilliant Speed, Dullahan, Fort Larned, Richard’s Kid and Pool Play along with Handsome Mike, Mucho Macho Man, Nonios. Nonios has been cross-entered, with first preference in the Dirt Mile, while Dullahan has second preference in the Turf.
Morton Fink’s homebred gelding Wise Dan, one of the most versatile horses in training this year, leads this year’s pre-entered field of 13 for the Breeders’ Cup Mile. The 5-year-old son of Wiseman’s Ferry has won 4 of 5 this year, his lone defeat coming by a nose in Churchill’s Grade I Stephen Foster on the main track to Ron the Greek. Trained by Charlie Lopresti, Wise Dan broke a track record in winning Keeneland’s Ben Ali in April and has won three straight on turf this summer, the Fourstardave at Saratoga, the Woodbine Mile in September and Keeneland’s Shadwell Turf Mile in his last start October 6. A Mile victory would place Wise Dan squarely in the Horse of the Year picture.
The Mile also is set to mark the return of 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, who has not started since winning an optional claiming race at Gulfstream on Feb. 18 for Team Valor International and trainer Graham Motion. Little Mike, who won the Arlington Million in August and the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs for trainer Dale Romans, will cut back for the Mile.
Europeans have enjoyed great success in the Mile and will be led by Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith’s 4-year-old Excelebration who gained an automatic berth into the race with his Breeders’ Cup Challenge win at Deauville in the Group I Prix Jacques le Marois on August 12. Trained by Aidan O’Brien, Excelebration followed up that triumph by winning the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on October 2.
Freddy Head trained Goldikova to an unprecedented three consecutive Breeders’ Cup Mile wins. This year he brings George Strawbridge Jr.’s 4-year-old filly Moonlight Cloud, who nearly defeated Black Caviar at Royal Ascot in June in the Diamond Jubilee, but since then has won two major races in the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville and the Prix de Moulin at Longchamp on September 16.
Championship Friday will feature one of the most talented fields ever for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic at 1 1/8 miles. Besilu Stable’s 4-year-old filly Royal Delta, the defending champion, leads the nine pre-entered. The 4-year-old daughter of Empire Maker, trained by Mott, looks ready to defend her title off a romping 9 ½-length win in Belmont’s Sept. 29 “Win and You’re In” Beldame. She added that victory to her wins in the Delaware Handicap in July and Churchill’s Fleur de Lis in June.
Royal Delta’s many challengers include Stronach Stable’s Awesome Feather, who will put her unbeaten 10-for-10 record on the line for trainer Chad Brown. The 4-year-old daughter of Awesome Of Course won the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs in 2010 to cap off a championship 2-year-old season and, after battling tendon issues, returned from an eight month layoff to win Belmont’s Nasty Storm by 11 ¼ lengths in a dazzling 1:33.47 for the 1-mile in her Ladies’ Classic prep.
Love and Pride and Jay Em Ess Stable’s Include Me Out, the 1-3 finishers of Santa Anita’s Grade I Zenyatta on September 29, are two 4-year-old fillies who have been pre-entered. The former, a 4-year-old daughter of 1992 Classic winner A.P. Indy trained by Todd Pletcher, enters in career form, having also won the Saratoga’s Personal Ensign in August over Royal Delta. Include Me Out, a 4-year-old daughter of Include, earned an automatic berth into the Ladies’ Classic with her win in Del Mar’s Clement Hirsch in August for trainer Ron Ellis, and won a pair of graded stakes at Santa Anita this winter in the La Canada in January and Santa Margarita in March.
The 3-year-old fillies are extremely formidable in the Ladies’ Classic, led by My Miss Aurelia, the reigning Juvenile Fillies winner and Godolphin Racing’s homebred Questing, the 1-2 finishers of Parx Racing’s Cotillion on September 22. My Miss Aurelia is a daughter of Smart Strike who stayed unbeaten in six lifetime starts with her determined head victory over Questing, a daughter of Hard Spun who won the Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama this summer at Saratoga for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
Royal Delta, Awesome Feather, My Miss Aurelia, Amazombie (Sprint), Musical Romance (Filly & Mare Sprint), California Flag (Turf Sprint), St Nicholas Abbey (Turf) and Eldaafer (Marathon) are all defending or returning champions pre-entered for this year’s Breeders’ Cup.
In defending his title in the $3 million Breeders’ Cup Turf, run at 1½ miles, St. Nicholas Abbey, winner of the Coronation Cup at Epsom earlier this year, is expected to face a major test in the Phipps Stable’s 4-year-old Point of Entry, who has won five in a row and three straight Grade I’s: the Man ’o War at Belmont in July, Sword Dancer at Saratoga in August and the Turf Classic at Belmont September 29. Slim Shadey and Turbo Compressor, the 1-2 finishers of Santa Anita’s John Henry September 30, are also pre-entered.
The complement for the Turf is the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, run at 1 ¼ miles on Championship Friday. Glen Hill Farm’s 4-year-old filly Marketing Mix earned a berth into the race with her course and distance win in the Rodeo Drive on Sept. 29, and along with Zagora, second in Belmont’s Flower Bowl (GI) Sept. 29, tops the U.S. contingent. Their task could be a tall one, however, as several Europeans have already been pre-entered, led by Nahrain, second in the Filly & Mare Turf last year, who earned a berth into this year’s race with her win in the Flower Bowl at Belmont Park; I’m a Dreamer, winner of Arlington Park’s Beverly D. in August; Ridasiyna, a winner of 4-of-5 starts this year, including the Prix de l’Opera at Longchamp, and Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Fugue, second in the Yorkshire Oaks.
This year, both the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint and the $1.5 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint will be run on Breeders’ Cup Saturday. Defending champion 5-year-old mare Musical Romance returns in the 7-furlong Filly & Mare Sprint against the 4-year-old Groupie Doll, a winner of four consecutive graded stakes races, including most recently the Thoroughbred Club of America at Keeneland; and Test Stakes winner Contested, for trainer Bob Baffert.
Trainer Bill Spawr has the 6-year-old gelding Amazombie back to defend his title in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Amazombie, a winner twice in five starts this year, including the Grade I Bing Crosby at Del Mar, and two Baffert runners, Coil, who won the Santa Anita Sprint Championship, and Capital Account, who won the Pat O’Brien Stakes at Del Mar, lead the West Coast contingent. From the East comes 3-year-old The Lumber Guy, winner of the Vosburgh Stakes, and Forego Handicap winner Emcee for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
The 2011 Preakness winner, Shackleford, returns to try to improve on his second-place finish in last year’s $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile against Kelso Handicap winner Jersey Town and San Diego Handicap winner Rail Trip.
Each year, the 2-year-olds bring a certain air of excitement to the Breeders’ Cup, with the present meshing with thoughts of the future, and this year should be no different as both the 1 1/16-mile Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies are loaded with potential. The Juvenile Fillies offers a scintillating matchup between the West Coast’s divisional leader Executiveprivilege and the East Coast’s counterpart Dreaming of Julia, who are a combined 8-for-8, with the former earning an automatic berth in the track and distance Chandelier Stakes on Sept. 29, and the latter earning a berth with a win in Belmont’s Frizette on Oct. 6.
The Juvenile could culminate a perfect season for Shanghai Bobby, who twice earned automatic berths into the race with wins in Saratoga’s Hopeful in September and Belmont’s Champagne on Oc. 6. Stiff opposition could come from track and distance winner Power Broker, who broke his maiden and gained an automatic berth in the Grade I FrontRunner Sept. 29 for Baffert.
A maximum of 14 starters are allowed in each of the 15 Breeders’ Cup World Championships races, with the exception of the Dirt Mile (12). Breeders’ Cup Limited has adopted a field selection system to select runners in the event that fields are oversubscribed. This system ranks horses in order of preference based on Breeders’ Cup Challenge race winners, a point system, and the judgment of a panel of racing experts. The field-selection system was implemented after the taking of pre-entries on Monday to rank the oversubscribed fields. The Racing Secretaries and Directors Panel ranked all horses pre-entered in the oversubscribed races. After pre-entry, any vacancies in the fields will be filled by horses in order of panel preference. Entry for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships races will be by 10 a.m. PDT on Oct. 29. At the time of entry, a maximum of 14 horses (or 12) will be accepted for each race based on the order of preference established at pre-entry.
There will be one or two also-eligible horses for each Championship race. The also-eligible horses will be designated in accordance with the Breeders’ Cup Racing Directors/Secretaries Panel’s order of preference for each Championship race that is oversubscribed at the time of pre-entry. Scratch time for all Championships races to be contested on both Championship Friday and Championship Saturday will be 8 a.m. PT Nov. 2.