Breeders' Cup 2000 Preview: Play Ball!
Photo: Associated Press/ NYRA, Adam Coglianese
Riboletta, shown here winning the Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park in mid-October, is one of the big stars pre-entered in the 2000 Breeders' Cup.
As the folks at the Breeders' Cup get out their piggy banks and prepare to stuff in $3,060,000 in supplementary fees, horses across America and Europe begin their march on Louisville. Some are already there, but most are just now getting ready for the journey. And when the last of the travelers arrives at Churchill Downs, there will be a total of 135 horses parading to the track each morning wearing purple Breeders' Cup saddlecloths.

Most will compete in the eight Breeders' Cup races, worth $13 million, but some will have to look elsewhere. Six of the races are oversubscribed, and it will be up to the invitation committee to determine who gets in and who must seek their thrills in the many additional stakes carded over the weekend.

This year's pre-entries has shown that it is not only the sales market that has gone through the roof. The new wave of risk-takers who are willing to spend big bucks for a chance at glory has now spilled over into the Breeders' Cup, as a record 18 horses were supplemented, at fees ranging from $90,000 to $400,000. In the past five years combined, a total of 14 supplementary entries competed in the Breeders' Cup.

There are several key horses that will command the most attention between now and Nov. 4. First and foremost will be Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Fusaichi Pegasus, who has managed on two occasions this year to miss key races after injuring his foot. So, unless trainer Neil Drysdale packs the frolicsome colt in Styrofoam until the big day, there will be a lot of fingers crossed every time the son of Mr. Prospector goes to the track.

Among the other key players is Riboletta, whose owners Aaron and Marie Jones put up $400,000 to run in the Distaff (gr. I), at the risk of losing the Eclipse Award she most assuredly had clinched after winning the Beldame (gr. I).

On the European front, there is Giant's Causeway, who scraped and clawed his way to five consecutive group I victories in Europe this year before getting nailed by an unseen foe in his last start. A Fusaichi Pegasus/Giant's Causeway showdown would be the greatest international clash of 3-year-olds since Kentucky Derby winner Zev defeated English Derby winner Papyrus in a 1923 match race. And the addition of Montjeu certainly boosts the Turf (gr. IT). With two defeats in his last two starts, his connections are trying one last-ditch effort to let the colt go out a winner. Never before has a European competed in the Breeders' Cup with such an impressive résumé, which consists of victories in the group I Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, Irish Derby, French Derby, Tattersalls Gold Cup, and Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud.

As for the other races, not only is the Juvenile (gr. I) shaping as one of the strongest 2-year-old races in memory, but many of those pre-entered look to have the class and pedigree to be major factors in next year's Triple Crown. The Classic (gr. I), Sprint (gr. I), and Distaff (gr. I) will be abound with top-class 3-year-olds, who have already knocked off many of the nation's leading older horses in major stakes across the country, including the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I), Vosburgh (gr. I), Spinster (gr. I), Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II), and Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. II). And, finally, there is the eagerly anticipated arrival of a powerful European contingent, which is expected to have at least one starter in every race. England's main hopes are the Michael Stoute-trained pair of Petrushka in the Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) and Kalanisi in the Turf. Petrushka is coming off three straight group I victories, while Kalanisi recently defeated Montjeu in the Dubai Champion Stakes (Eng-I) after being out-battled twice by Giant's Causeway, in the Juddmonte International and Coral-Eclipse Stakes (both Eng-I).

Bill Mott tops all trainers with eight horses pre-entered in five races; D. Wayne Lukas is next with seven horses in four races; and Bob Baffert has six horses in four races. Lukas and Baffert each have three in the Juvenile. In all, there were 142 pre-entries, with seven horses cross-entered.

Continued . . . .

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