Led by multiple Grade 1 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.
The 29th Breeders' Cup World Championships, Thoroughbred racing's most prestigious global event, consisting of 15 races and purses totaling more than $25 million over the two days, will be held at Santa Anita Park for the sixth time on Friday, November 2 and Saturday, November 3. 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 primetime on NBC (8-9 p.m. [ET]).
The Breeders' Cup Classic, the climactic event of the Championships, will be run on the main track at 1 1/4 miles. 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 Diamond Pride, Lanni Family Trust, Mercedes Stable and Bernie Schiappa's five-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 Grade 2 Californian, the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup and most recently the Grade 1 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, who won last year's Classic with Drosselmeyer and also trained 1995 Classic winner Cigar, has pre-entered four horses for this year's race including Ron the Greek, Flat Out and To Honor and Serve. Royal Delta has been pre-entered as a second choice. Brous Stable and Wachtel Stable's five-year-old Ron the Greek, was the division leader during the first half of 2012 with wins in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap in March and the Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs. Preston Stable's Flat Out, who earned an automatic berth into the Classic with a win in Belmont Park's Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup through the Breeders' Cup Challenge series, was fifth in last year's Classic when trained by Scooter Dickey. To Honor and Serve, a winner in eight of 16 lifetime starts, won the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes in Saratoga in September.
Janis Whitham's homebred Fort Larned earned an automatic Classic berth in Saratoga's Grade 1 Whitney in August and will look to build off his third-place run in the Gold Cup. Ian Wilkes trains the four-year-old son of E Dubai, who is seven-for-18 lifetime and also owns wins in Gulfstream Park's Grade 3 Skip Away in March and the Prairie Meadows' Grade 3 Cornhusker in June. Reeves Thoroughbred Racing's Mucho Macho Man, who won Belmont's Grade 2 Suburban in July and was beaten a neck by To Honor In Serve in the Woodward for trainer Kathy Ritvo; Will Farish Jr.'s Pool Play, perfect in two starts over conventional dirt, with wins in the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup on October 6 and last year's Foster; Triple B Farm's multiple Grade 1 hero Richard's Kid, third in the Awesome Again; and Grade 1 winner Brilliant Speed, would also deserve Classic consideration.
Since the retirement of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I'll Have Another in June, the three-year-olds have taking turns beating each other and will bring a mixed bunch to the Classic. Godolphin Racing's Alpha is the most accomplished, having won four-of-seven this year for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, including dead heating for the win in the Travers. Donegal Racing's Dullahan beat Game On Dude in track record time in Del Mar's "Win and You're In" Grade 1 Pacific Classic in August. The son of Even the Score has been a synthetic specialist and won Keeneland's Grade 1 Blue Grass in April but did finish third in the Kentucky Derby for trainer Dale Romans. Paul Reddam's Handsome Mike, who upset the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby for his second career win for trainer Doug O'Neill, has also been pre-entered.
The $2 million Breeders' Cup Mile on turf precedes the Classic on the Saturday program. Morton Fink's homebred Wise Dan, one of the most versatile horses in training this year, leads this year's pre-entered field of 13. The five-year-old gelded son of Wiseman's Ferry has won four-of-five on turf and Polytrack, with his lone defeat coming by a nose in Churchill's Stephen Foster on the main track to Ron the Greek. Trained by Charlie Lopresti, Wise Dan broke a track record in winning Keeneland's Grade 2 Ben Ali in April and has won three straight on turf this summer: the Grade 2 Fourstardave at Saratoga, the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile in September and Keeneland's Grade 1 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 is also set to mark the return of 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, who has not started since winning an allowance/optional claiming race at Gulfstream February 18 for Team Valor International and trainer Graham Motion. Little Mike, who won the Grade 1 Arlington Million in August and the Grade 1 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 four-year-old Excelebration who gained an automatic berth into the race with his Breeders' Cup Challenge win at Deauville in the Group 1 Prix Jacques le Marois on August 12. Trained by Aidan O'Brien, Excelebration followed up that triumph by winning the Group 1 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 four-year-old filly Moonlight Cloud, who nearly defeated Black Caviar at Royal Ascot in June in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee, but since then has won two major Grpoup 1 races in the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville and the Prix de Moulin at Longchamp on September 16.
Championship Friday is accentuated by one of the most talented fields ever for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic at 1 1/8 miles. Besilu Stable's four-year-old filly Royal Delta, the defending champion, leads the nine pre-entered. The four-year-old daughter of Empire Maker, trained by Mott, looks ready to defend her title off a romping 9 1/2-length win in Belmont's September 29 "Win and You're In" Grade 1 Beldame. She added that victory to her wins in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap in July and also Churchill's Grade 2 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 four-year-old daughter of Awesome Of Course won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs in 2010 to cap off a championship two-year-old season and, after battling tendon issues, returned from an eight month layoff to win Belmont's Nasty Storm by 11 1/4 lengths in a dazzling 1:33.47 for the one-mile in her Ladies' Classic prep. Green Hill Farm's Love and Pride and Jay Em Ess Stable's Include Me Out, the one-three finishers of Santa Anita's "Win and You're In" Grade 1 Zenyatta on September 29, are two four-year-old fillies who have been pre-entered. The former, a 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 daughter of Include, earned an automatic berth into the Ladies' Classic with her win in Del Mar's Grade 1 Clement Hirsch in August for trainer Ron Ellis, and won a pair of graded stakes at Santa Anita this winter in the Grade 2 La Canada in January and Grade 1 Santa Margarita in March.
The three-year-old fillies are extremely formidable in the Ladies' Classic, led by Stonestreet Stable and George Bolton's My Miss Aurelia, the reigning Juvenile Fillies winner and Godolphin Racing's homebred Questing, the one-two finishers of Parx Racing's Grade 1 Cotillion on September 22. Steve Asmussen trains My Miss Aurelia, 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 Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks and Grade 1 Alabama this summer at Saratoga for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. Add in Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stable and Stuart Grant's Grace Hall, who was second in the Juvenile Fillies last year and recently won the Grade 2 Indiana Oaks at Hoosier Downs October 6 for trainer Tony Dutrow, and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gary Barber's In Lingerie, who earned an automatic berth into the Ladies' Classic with a win over her elders in Keeneland's Grade 1 Spinster on October 7 for Pletcher and the three-year-old fillies promise to offer a serious challenge in the Ladies' Classic.
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 1 1/2 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 four-year-old Point of Entry, who has won five in a row and three straight Grade 1s -- 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 one-two finishers of Santa Anita's Grade 2 John Henry on September 30, are also pre-entered. Trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre trained the first Breeders' Cup Turf winner, Lashkari, in 1984 for HH Aga Khan. This year, they have pre-entered the four-year-old filly Shareta, winner of both the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks and the Group 1 Prix Vermeille at Longchamp. The Japanese-bred Trailblazer, second in his U.S. debut in the Grade 2 Arroyo Seco Mile at Santa Anita, and the winner of the Grade 2 Kyoto Kinen in Japan earlier this year, has been pre-entered.
The complement for the Turf is the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, run at 1 1/4 miles on Championship Friday. Glen Hill Farm's four-year-old filly Marketing Mix earned a berth into the race with her course and distance win in the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive on September 29, and along with Zagora, second in Belmont's Grade 1 Flower Bowl on September 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, a close 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 Grade 1 Beverly D. in August; Ridasiyna, a winner of four-of-five starts this year, including the Group 1 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 five-year-old mare Musical Romance returns in the seven-furlong Filly & Mare Sprint against the four-year-old Groupie Doll, a winner of four consecutive graded stakes races, including most recently the Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America at Keeneland; and Grade 1 Test Stakes winner Contested, for trainer Bob Baffert.
Trainer Bill Spawr has the six-year-old gelding Amazombie back to defend his title in the Sprint. Amazombie, a winner twice in five starts this year, including the Grade 1 Bing Crosby at Del Mar, and two Baffert runners, Coil, who won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship and Capital Account, who won the Grade 2 Pat O'Brien Stakes at Del Mar, lead the West Coast contingent. From the East comes the three-year-old The Lumber Guy, winner of the Grade 1 Vosburgh Stakes, and Grade 1 Forego Handicap winner Emcee for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
The 2011 Preakness winner, Shackleford, returns to try to improve upon his second-place finish in last year's $1 million Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile against Grade 2 Kelso Handicap winner Jersey Town and Grade 2 San Diego Handicap winner Rail Trip.
Each year, the two-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 untapped 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 eight-for-eight, with the former earning an automatic berth in the track and distance Grade 1 Chandelier Stakes September 29 and the latter earning a berth with a win in Belmont's Grade 1 Frizette October 6.
The Juvenile could culminate a perfect season for Shanghai Bobby, who twice earned automatic berths into the race with wins in Saratoga's Grade 2 Hopeful in September and Belmont's Grade 1 Champagne on October 6. Stiff opposition could come from track and distance winner Power Broker, who broke his maiden and gained an automatic berth in the Grade 1 FrontRunner September 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 fields are oversubscribed. This system ranks horses in order of preference based on (i) Breeders' Cup Challenge race winners, (ii) a point system, and (iii) the judgment of a panel of racing experts. The field selection system was implemented following the taking of pre-entries on Monday, to officially 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 Monday, October 29, by 10 a.m. (PT). 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 up to 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., Friday, November 2.