If the 2003 Horse of the Year is going to come out of the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, as it has in nine of the last 12 years, he or she will have to go out and earn it.
The majority opinion is that Horse of the Year belongs to the now-retired Mineshaft, with Breeders' Cup starters Perfect Drift, Medaglia d'Oro, Congaree, Funny Cide, Ten Most Wanted, and reigning Horse of Year Azeri the only ones who can take it away from him with a victory. And it won't be easy.
One thing is for sure, once the big day dawns, all thoughts will be of who has shown up, not who hasn't.
Despite the major hits suffered by the Breeders' Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge (gr. I) and the Bessemer Trust Juvenile (gr. I), and the fact there are only two European shippers (possibly one) for the John Deere Turf (gr. IT), the World Thoroughbred Championships has drawn extremely deep and talented fields in the Distaff (gr. I) and Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT), as well as the Juvenile Fillies (gr. I).
And even after the defections of Mineshaft, Candy Ride, and Empire Maker, the Classic still managed to draw a super field with an international flavor.
In all, 109 pre-entries were taken, down from 113 last year and 117 in 2001. The number of horses pre-entered was 101, down from 104 last year and 2001, and well below the 135 pre-entered in 2000.
Among the horses that cross-entered are Congaree, who has a first preference in the Classic and second preference in the Sprint (gr. I).
The four second-preference horses in the Classic are Toccet, who will run in the Turf; Falbrav, who may run in the Turf, but whose connections have expressed a desire to go for the Classic; Azeri, who will likely run in the Distaff; and Peace Rules, who likely will go in the NetJets Mile (gr. IT), but will remain a possible back-up for Medaglia d'Oro in the Classic.
In the Turf, Century City and Sarafan have first preferences in the Mile, while Bright Sky has a first preference in the Filly & Mare Turf.
There will no problem getting into the Turf, with only nine horses pre-entered as a first preference.
The Breeders' Cup Selection Committee had an easy time of it this year, with only two races oversubscribed, the Mile with 17 horses pre-entered, and the Bessemer Trust Juvenile with 15.
Bobby Frankel heads all trainers with eight horses pre-entered. Frankel will have Medaglia d'Oro in the Classic, Sightseek in the Distaff, Peace Rules in the Mile, Aldebaran and Midas Eyes in the Sprint, and Heat Haze, Tates Creek, and Megahertz in the Filly & Mare Turf.
Irish-based Aidan O'Brien will be well represented by Hold That Tiger in the Classic, High Chaparral in the Turf, Statue of Liberty in the Mile, Yesterday and L'Ancresse in the Filly & Mare Turf, and Old Deuteronomy and Grand Reward in the Juvenile.
Those not in the body of the Mile field in preference order are Statue of Liberty, Taste of Paradise, and Pie N Burger. In the Sprint, Clock Stopper is the only horse who did make the top 14, while Mambo Train was the only horse left out of the body of the Juvenile field.
Complete List of 2003 Breeders' Cup Pre-Entries