When Breeders’ Cup World Championships pre-entries were released Oct. 26, only two of the 15 races provided any true star appeal on a national and international level—Goldikova’s attempt at four consecutive victories in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) and the convergence of Havre de Grace, Uncle Mo , and So You Think in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I).
There is no doubt the Classic will be the standout event, with the aforementioned three horses facing off against the two leading older males in training, Flat Out and Game On Dude, and a host of 3-year-olds. Tizway would have been a leading contender among the older horses, but was withdrawn with a ligament injury the day following the pre-entries.
What makes the Classic so intriguing is that a victory by either Havre de Grace, Stay Thirsty , Flat Out, or Game On Dude would most likely nail down Horse of the Year honors. Uncle Mo and Goldikova are in an odd position in that neither has come remotely close to compiling a Horse of the Year résumé this year and would have to depend on the sentiment vote. In Goldikova’s case, an upset in the Classic is a necessity for her to have any shot.
Another intriguing aspect of the Classic is the cross-entry of Gio Ponti , who actually has his first preference in the Classic and second preference in the Mile, but that likely is because he has captured a "Win and You're In" race for the Mile, the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT).
Surely, no one can complain about the Classic attracting the winners of the last two Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and this year’s Travers Stakes (gr. I), and the Dirt Mile (gr. I) getting this year’s Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner. On the older horse front, the Classic has drawn the winners of the grade I Santa Anita Handicap, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Woodward, and Goodwood, as well as a dual Cox Plate (Aus-I) winner who has European group I victories this year in the Coral Eclipse Stakes, Red Mills Irish Champion Stakes, and Tattersalls Gold Cup. Tizway's defection cost the Classic the grade I Whitney and Met Mile winner.
So that is the main storyline of this year’s Breeders’ Cup, where two of its major events—the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) and Ladies Classic (gr. I)—have taken huge hits with the injuries and/or defections of Cape Blanco (winner of the Man o’War Stakes, Arlington Million, and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes, all gr. IT), Acclamation (grade I Charlie Whittingham Memorial Handicap, Eddie Read Stakes, and TVG Pacific Classic Stakes), and runaway Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) winner Danedream (heading to the Japan Cup, Jpn-I) in the Turf and Blind Luck and Zazu in the Ladies’ Classic, which also lost Havre de Grace to the Classic, although she has been pre-entered in both races.
The wide-open nature of this year’s Breeders’ Cup and addition of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint have resulted in an increase of pre-entries from 202 last year and 203 in 2009 to 227 this year. The number of pre-entered horses has also catapulted from 168 last year and 166 in 2009 to 193 this year, with 33 horses being cross-entered.
Of the 15 races, eight were oversubscribed, with the highest number of pre-entries going to the Juvenile Fillies Turf (22) and Juvenile Turf (20).
Perhaps the most amazing statistic is Aidan O’Brien topping all trainers with 12 horses pre-entered, beating out Todd Pletcher with 11 and Bob Baffert with 10. Europe will be represented by 13 trainers and 28 horses, with Andre Fabre sending three over—Announce, Brigantin, and Byword.
Among the other storylines and matchups are Turbulent Descent vs. Switch in the Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I) and super Euro fillies Midday and Sarafina having a first preference in the Turf, leaving major stakes winners Stacelita and Ballydoyle’s Misty For Me as the leading contenders for the Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT), along with California invaders Dubawi Heights and Cozi Rosie. Midday and Sarafina will face their stiffest challenge in the Turf from top-class European males Sea Moon and St Nicholas Abbey.
The Juvenile will be highlighted by an East vs. West showdown between Champagne Stakes (gr. I) winner Union Rags and Norfolk Stakes (gr. I) winner Creative Cause , with a great deal of interest in Drill , Fort Loudon, Alpha , and the exciting Hansen. In the Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), Frizette Stakes (gr. I) winner My Miss Aurelia will try to use her speed against the California closer Weemissfrankie, winner of the Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. I).
Even without Blind Luck and Zazu, the Ladies’ Classic should be an exciting showdown for 3-year-old filly champion among Plum Pretty, Royal Delta, and It's Tricky.