The Breeders’ Cup has gambled before when it staged the event at unconventional tracks such as Woodbine and Lone Star Park. Both ventures proved to be successful, and now it is hoped the decision to hold it at Monmouth Park will be equally as fruitful.
It is difficult comparing pre-entries with previous years due to the addition of three new Breeders’ Cup races this year—the Juvenile Turf, Dirt Mile, and Filly & Mare Sprint.
In all, the 11 Breeders’ Cup World Championship races drew 160 pre-entries (141 individual horses, 19 of whom were cross-entered). That averages out to 14.5 pre-entries per race, compared with 15.8 a race last year, when there were 127 pre-entries, and 15 in 2005. The number of individual horses per race averages out to 13.1 this year, compared with 15.1 last year.
Of the 11 races, six were oversubscribed, with 23 pre-entries in the Juvenile Turf, 16 in the Grey Goose Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), 16 in the Bessemer Trust Juvenile (gr. I), 15 in the TVG Sprint (gr. I), 18 in the NetJets Mile (gr. IT), and 15 in the Emirates Airline Distaff (gr. I).
The main question has been: How will the Europeans embrace a speed-favoring track like Monmouth, with its tight turns and a short stretch run? The fact is the Monmouth stretch is 55 feet longer than Lone Star’s and 32 feet longer than Gulfstream Park’s, where the Breeders’ Cup has been held successfully on three occasions.
Though the overall response was fair at best, with only three pre-entered horses each in the NetJets Mile and John Deere Turf (gr. IT), the total number of 18 individuals was boosted by the Juvenile Turf, which drew six Europeans. One of the three pre-entered in the Mile, George Washington has a first preference in the Breeders’ Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge (gr. I).
Aidan O’Brien, as usual, leads all European trainers with five individual horses pre-entered, followed by Jeremy Noseda and Brian Meehan with three each. Familiar names such as Michael Stoute, Andre Fabre, John Oxx, Dermot Weld, and Jane Chapple-Hyman also will be represented.
The headliner will be the O’Brien-trained Dylan Thomas, who is a sure thing for European Horse of the Year honors and the most accomplished horse in this year’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships, with victories in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe Lucien Barriere (Fr-I), King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Eng-I), Irish Champion Stakes (Ire-I) twice, Budweiser Irish Derby (Ire-I), and the group I Prix Ganay. He has been pre-entered in the Turf, along with last year’s winner, Red Rocks, and the Fabre-trained Champs Elysees.
On the home front, with the lack of a true superstar, the main focus will be on the Breeders’ Cup Classic, which promises to be an all-out slugfest, pitting five survivors from the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I)—grade I winners Street Sense, Curlin, Any Given Saturday, Hard Spun, and Tiago—against the leading older horse in the country, Lawyer Ron, and the O’Brien-trained George Washington, who finished a troubled sixth in last year’s Classic.
The only other two horses pre-entered were Awesome Gem and Diamond Stripes, with the latter having first preference in the Dirt Mile.
Todd Pletcher, as expected, leads the American trainers with 15 individuals pre-entered, despite not having a single horse in the Juvenile, Juvenile Fillies, or TVG Sprint (gr. I), as well as the Filly & Mare Sprint and Dirt Mile. Patrick Biancome and Bill Mott are next with seven pre-entered horses.