Nominees to the five Fall Meet stakes races scheduled for Breeders' Cup Week at Churchill Downs feature top American runners, plus a strong representation of European-based horses. A total of 245 horses were nominated to the five races in the opening six days of the Fall Meet, Oct. 29-Nov. 25.
The Fall Meet schedule includes a pair of races on the Breeders' Cup undercard: the $100,00-added Iroquois (gr. II), a one mile race for 2-year-olds, and the $200,000-added Churchill Downs Distaff (gr.II), a one mile race for fillies and mares ages three and up. The other events are the Ack Ack Handicap (gr. III), a 7-furlong race for three-year-olds and up on Oct. 29; the $100,000-added Pocahontas for two-year-old fillies at one mile on Nov. 3; and the $150,000-added River City Handicap (gr. III), a 1 1/8-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and up.
"There are many reasons to be happy when the Breeders' Cup Championship returns to Churchill Downs and one of those is the boost it provides to our Fall Meet stakes program," said Don Richardson, senior vice-president, Racing. "Several of those races benefit by picking up horses that fail to draw-in from the preference lists for Breeders' Cup races, which makes for large, competitive fields for our racing fans at Churchill Downs and across North America. We appreciate the continued support for our stakes program by our horsemen and the added support of horsemen from around the world who are guests at our track for the Breeders' Cup."
Irish-based trainer Aidan O'Brien led the influx of Europeans, with a total of 16 horses eligible in three of the five races. A dozen of those are nominated to the Iroquois. Leading the list of U.S.-based runners in the Iroquois are a pair of D.Wayne Lukas-trained stakes winners: Unbridled Time, winner of the WHAS-11, and Take Arms, third in the Bashford Mannor (gr. II). Others include Outofthebox, runner-up in the In Reality Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes at Calder, and Holiday Thunder, third in the recent Lane's End Breeder's Futurity (gr. II).
The Churchill Downs Distaff attracted 42 fillies and mares including Plenty of Light, winner of the Spinster Stakes (gr. I); Cash Run, 1999 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner; Darling My Darling, winner of the 1999 Frizette (gr. I) and the recent Raven Run at Keeneland; La Troienn (gr. III) winner Roxelena; multiple stakes winner Finder's Fee; multiple stakes winner Honest Lady; Humana Distaff (gr. II) winner Ruby Surprise; multiple stakes winner Bourbon Belle; Indiana Breeders' Cup Oaks winner and Golden Rod (gr. III) winner Humble Clerk; and grade I winner Tap To Music.
The River City, which will be run the day after the Breeders' Cup, attracted 63 nominees. Heading the list are Altibr, winner of the Shadwell Keeneland Turf Mile (gr. II); Hollywood Derby (gr. I) winner Super Quercus; Canadian International (gr. I) runner-up Williams News; Louisville Handicap winner Buff; and Auction House. Trainer Bill Mott nominated a trio of turf stars that includes Jefferson Cup and Arlington Classic (gr. II) winner King Cugat, Kentucky Cup Mile winner Glick, and Bernard Baruch (gr. II) and Fourstardave (gr. II) winner Hap. European-based nominees in the River City include the O'Brien-trained Bernstein and Shoal Creek, both owned by Tabor, and horses trained by Luca Cumani (Trumpet Sound), Barry Hills (Full Flow), and Dermot Weld (Social Harmony).
The eighth running of the Ack Ack Handicap, the opening day feature of the 24-day Fall Meet, attracted 37 nominees headed by Bet On Sunshine, winner of the Aristides (gr. III); Dust On The Bottle, upset winner of the Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II); 1998 Churchill Downs Handicap (gr. II) winner Rock And Roll; and Run Johnny, runner-up in the 1999 Ack Ack.
Forty-five 2-year-old fillies were nominated to the 32nd renewal of the Pocahontas, the featured event of the Breeders' Cup eve racing program. Highlighting the list is Alcibiades (gr. II) winner She's A Devil Due; Kentucky Breeders' Cup (gr. III) and Debutante (gr. III) winner Gold Mover; Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Miss Pickums; Arlington-Washington Lassie (gr. III) winner Thunder Bertie; and Bassinet winner Caressing. Pocahontas nominees with international connections include Godolphin Racing's Zahwah, trained by Eoin Harty, and the O'Brien-trained and Lewis Lakin-owned duo Freshwater Pearl and La Vida Loca.