It is time to forget who is not running in the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships and concentrate on the wealth of talent from both sides of the Atlantic that will be competing at Belmont Park Oct. 29.
With Belmont always a popular site, especially for the Europeans, the event drew a total of 120 pre-entries, with 117 individual horses pre-entered. Those numbers were up significantly from last year, when there were 108 pre-entries and 101 individual horses. There wasn't much indecision from owners and trainers this year where to run their horses, which resulted in only three horses--Starcraft, Sir Shackleton, and Laura's Lucky Boy--being cross-entered.
Four of the eight races were oversubscribed--the Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge, Bessemer Trust Juvenile, NetJets Mile, and John Deere Turf (all grade I), with the Juvenile drawing the most horses--17.
Todd Pletcher, as expected, was the dominant name among the trainers with eight horses pre-entered, headed by last year's 3-year-old filly champion Ashado, who will attempt to win the Emirates Airline Distaff (gr. I) for the second straight year. Ashado will be accompanied in the Distaff by Capeside Lady. Pletcher also will send out Flower Alley in the Classic, Adieu in the Alberto VO5 Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), English Channel in the Turf, Lion Tamer in the TVG Sprint (gr. I), and Host and Limehouse in the Mile.
Nick Zito and Bill Mott each will saddle five Breeders' Cup starters. On the European front, the reliable Aidan O'Brien will have his usual strong contingent, bringing over five horses from his Ballydoyle yard in Ireland, the most notable being dual group I winner Oratorio, who captured the 1 1/4-mile Eclipse Stakes (Eng-I) and Irish Champion Stakes (Ire-I). The son of Danehill will attempt to avenge the stable's heartbreaking defeat in the 2000 Classic with Giant's Causeway when he tackles the dirt for the first time.
One of the more interesting foreign horses is Starcraft, who also is the most interesting of the three cross-entered horses. The New Zealand-bred, who was champion 3-year-old in Australia in 2004, has been entered in both the Classic and the Mile. Although his first preference is the Mile, and it would cost owner Paul Makin $800,000 to supplement to the Classic, he seems more likely to run in the latter, according to published reports.
Starcraft is coming off victories in two of Europe's most prestigious mile races, the NetJets Prix du Moulin de Longchamp (Fr-I) and Barclays PLC Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I).
The race in which the Europeans will be most formidable is the Turf, with six top-class horses pre-entered, headed by Vodafone English Derby (Eng-I) winner Motivator, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Stakes (Eng-I) winner Azamour, and last year's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Lucien Barriere (Fr-I) winner Bago.
Motivator and Azamour, as well as Shirocco, fourth in this year's Arc, will have to be supplemented. They, along with Starcraft make up the list of 12 supplementary horses, which includes last year's Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf winner Ouija Board; Filly & Mare Turf contender Megahertz; and the heavy favorite for the Sprint, the undefeated Lost in the Fog.
The Classic will be headed by grade I-winning older horses Saint Liam, Rock Hard Ten, and Borrego. In addition to Oratorio and Starcraft, the Classic also drew another European-trained horse, Jack Sullivan, whose best races have come on the dirt in Dubai.
The other cross-entered horses are the Zito-trained Sir Shackleton, who is in the Classic and the Mile; and Laura's Lucky Boy, from the Richard Mandella stable, who has been cross-entered in the Mile and the Turf.
One trainer holding a strong hand is Graham Motion, who has three contenders in Better Talk Now, winner of last year's Turf; Film Maker, second in last year's Filly & Mare Turf; and Funfair, winner of the Kelso Breeders' Cup (gr. IIT) who is undefeated in three starts in this country.
Bobby Frankel, who will saddle four horses in two races, has a strong chance with Leroidesanimaux in the Mile and Megahertz in the Filly & Mare Turf.
The always dangerous Andre Fabre will be represented by Shirocco in the Turf and Valixir in the Mile. Godolphin, normally a strong presence in the Breeders' Cup, will send out the Japanese-bred Sundrop in the Filly & Mare Turf and Stellar Jayne in the Distaff.