The Breeders' Cup announced Oct. 24 that 180 horses, including eight former or defending winners, were pre-entered for the Nov. 2-3 World Championships at Santa Anita Park.
The Breeders' Cup will be televised live by the NBC Sports Network and NBC. For the first time, the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic will be televised live and in prime time on NBC from 8-9 p.m. ET.
Back to defend titles won in 2011 are Royal Delta, a scintillating winner of the Ladies' Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs a year ago; Musical Romance, who was victorious in the 2011 Filly and Mare Sprint (gr. I); Amazombie, who is seeking consecutive wins in the Xpressbet Sprint (gr. I); and St Nicholas Abbey, who took the 2011 Turf (gr. IT). Returning Championship Day winners also include Awesome Feather and My Miss Aurelia, winners of the Grey Goose Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) in 2010 and 2011, respectively, who will challenge Royal Delta in the Ladies' Classic.
Although neither I'll Have Another nor Union Rags , the two horses who combined to win this year's Triple Crown races, are still in training, the classics will be represented in this year's World Championships by 2011 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Animal Kingdom, pre-entered in the Mile (gr. IT); 2011 Preakness (gr. I) winner Shackleford , who will contest the Dirt Mile (gr. I); and Dullahan, this year's Kentucky Derby third-place finisher who will attempt the Classic (gr. I).
Returning in the $5 million Classic Nov. 3 is Game On Dude, who led from the start in the 2011 Classic before losing out in a gut-wrenching stretch duel with Drosselmeyer . Trained by Bob Baffert, who dominates the Santa Anita trainers' standings, Game On Dude is undefeated in five starts at Santa Anita, four in graded stakes. Bill Mott, who saddled Drosselmeyer and Royal Delta to sweep the Classic and Ladies' Classic last year, returns with a three-pronged entry in the Classic.
In the Classic, the 1 1/4-mile race that highlights the 15 World Championship races, Mott will be represented by Flat Out, the fifth-place finisher in the 2011 Classic who is coming off a win in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I); To Honor and Serve , the Woodward Stakes (gr. I) winner who ran seventh in the Classic a year ago; and Ron the Greek, winner of the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs and the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I). Royal Delta was pre-entered in both the Classic and Ladies' Classic as a backup plan by owner Ben Leon Jr.
Multiple Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher leads the pre-entries list with 12, followed by Baffert with 10.
Other returning World Championships winners are California Flag, winner of the Turf Sprint (gr. IT) over the Santa Anita downhill course in 2009, and Eldaafer, winner of the Marathon (gr. II) the last time the Breeders' Cup was held at Santa Anita in 2010. Both have been pre-entered in the races they previously won.
The Mile is one of the most competitive races on the two-day card, with the versatile Wise Dan, top European horse Excelebration, and Arlington Millon (gr. IT) winner Little Mike among the challengers facing Animal Kingdom. A grade I winner on dirt and grass, Wise Dan comes into the Breeders' Cup as one of the hottest horses in North American racing, with two consecutive grade I wins. Excelebration, trained by Aidan O'Brien for the Coolmore connections of Michael Tabor, John Magnier, and Derrick Smith, has won of 14 lifetime starts. Five of his losses came at the hands of Frankel, who topped the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities' World Thoroughbred Rankings when he recently retired undefeated.
In addition to Musical Romance, the Filly and Mare Sprint also includes Groupie Doll, who has won or placed in 12 of 15 career starts, with four consecutive wins—two in grade I company and two in grade II stakes—to her credit; and Class Included, who has finished first 10 times and second on six occasions in as many career starts.
The Grey Goose Juvenile (gr. I) could be a East-West showdown between Starlight Racing Stables' undefeated Shanghai Bobby, winner of the Champagne (gr. I) for Pletcher in his last start, and Power Broker, recent winner of the FrontRunner (gr. I), formerly the Norfolk, for Baffert.
A maximum of 14 starters are allowed in each of the 15 Breeders' Cup World Championships races with the exception of the Dirt Mile, which is limited to 12. Breeders' Cup Ltd. has adopted a field selection system to select runners in the event fields are oversubscribed. This system ranks horses in order of preference based on (i) Breeders' Cup Challenge race winners, (ii) a point system, and (iii) the judgment of a panel of racing experts.
The field selection system was implemented following the taking of pre-entries Oct. 22, to officially rank the oversubscribed fields. The Racing Secretaries and Directors Panel ranked all horses pre-entered in the oversubscribed races. After pre-entry, any vacancies in the fields will be filled by horses in order of panel preference. Entry for the Breeders' Cup World Championships races will be Monday, Oct. 29, by 10 a.m. PT. At the time of entry, a maximum of 14 horses (or 12) will be accepted for each race based on the order of preference established at pre-entry.
There will be up to two also-eligible horses for each Championship race. The also-eligible horses will be designated in accordance with the panel's order of preference for each Championship race that is oversubscribed at the time of pre-entry. Scratch time for all Championships races to be contested on both Championship Friday and Championship Saturday will be 8 a.m. PT, Friday, Nov. 2.