Breeders' Cup Classic favorite Game On Dude, defending Breeders' Cup Ladies'
Classic winner Royal Delta, 2011 Kentucky Derby hero Animal Kingdom and grass
course stars Wise Dan and Point of Entry lead the marquee among the 171 horses,
including 26 from Europe and five also-eligibles, entered to run in the 29th
Breeders' Cup World Championship races to be held Friday and Saturday at Santa
Thoroughbred racing's most prestigious global event, the Breeders' Cup consists of 15 races worth a total of more than $25 million and hosted by Santa Anita for the sixth time with six races on Friday and nine on Saturday to be televised on NBC Sports Network and NBC. For the first time, the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic will be televised live and in primetime on NBC from 8-9 p.m. (ET).
A complete list of Breeders' Cup entries is available at www.breederscup.com.
Lanni Family Trust, Mercedes Stable and Bernie Schiappa's five-year-old gelding Game On Dude has been installed as the 9-to-5 morning line favorite in the 1 1/4-mile Classic and will break from post position 5 in a field of 12. A son of Awesome Again, Game On Dude leads a formidable team of 10 Breeders' Cup contenders trained by Bob Baffert. Jockey Rafael Bejarano rode him for the first time winning the 1 1/8 miles Awesome Again Stakes over the track on September 29 and will be back aboard Saturday.
Leading challengers to the favorite in a wide-open renewal of the Classic will be the Bill Mott-trained team of Preston Stable's two-time Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Flat Out and Brous Stable and Wachtel Stable's Ron the Greek, impressive winner of the Santa Anita Handicap in early March over the track and distance. Flat Out drew post 2 and Ron the Greek leaves from post 10.
Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith's five-year-old Irish-bred
St Nicholas Abbey won the $3 million Breeders' Cup Turf over the Churchill Downs
course last year and is back to defend his title in the 1 1/2-mile test leading
a team of nine Coolmore invaders from Ireland trained by Aidan O'Brien, drawing
post three in a field of 12.
However, the morning line favorite's role at 3-to-1 in the Turf will go to Phipps Stable's four-year-old Kentucky homebred Point of Entry breaking from post 1 with regular jockey John Velazquez in the saddle for trainer Shug McGaughey. The son of Dynaformer is regarded among the best turf runners produced in the U.S. in recent seasons and goes into the race on a five-race win streak, most recently scoring Grade 1 wins in the Sword Dancer Invitational at Saratoga and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park.
In somewhat of a surprise development, trainer Dale Romans has opted to send both Priscilla Vacarezza's five-year-old gelding Little Mike and Donegal Racing's three-year-old Dullahan in the Turf. Both were pre-entered in two races with Little Mike's other choice the Mile and Dullahan the Classic. Little Mike posted his biggest victory in the 1 1/4-mile Arlington Million and Dullahan has done his best work on synthetic tracks, winning the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in the spring and the Pacific Classic against older horses at Del Mar in August.
While the Classic and Turf highlight the nine Breeders' Cup races Saturday, the title defense by Besilu Stable's four-year-old filly Royal Delta in the $2 million Ladies' Classic at 1 1/8 miles will clearly be the highlight of Friday's action with jockey Mike Smith aboard for trainer Bill Mott in a field of eight fillies and mares. The daughter of Empire Maker was installed the 9-to-5 favorite and breaks from post 6.
Royal Delta sealed an Eclipse Award campaign winning the Ladies' Classic at Churchill Downs by 2 1/2 lengths last fall for Mott but sold for $8.5 million days later at the Keeneland November sales to Besilu owner Benjamin Leon with Mott retained as trainer. Royal Delta goes into the race after a stunning 9 1/2-length victory in the Beldame Stakes at Belmont. Mott pulled off the rare Ladies' Classic-Classic double last year with Royal Delta in the former and upset winner Drosselmeyer in the latter.
However, in the path of Royal Delta's title defense are two undefeated
fillies -- Stronach Stable's 10-for-10 four-year-old Awesome Feather, trained by
Chad Brown, and Stonestreet Stable and George Bolton's three-year-old My Miss
Aurelia, winner of all six career starts for trainer Steve Asmussen. Both
fillies won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in their respective two-year-old
seasons. Royal Delta is one of eight defending or returning Breeders' Cup
champions entered for Friday and Saturday.
A particularly deep and accomplished field of nine was drawn for Saturday's $2 million Breeders' Cup Mile with Morton Fink's five-year-old gelding Wise Dan, Team Valor International's 2011 Kentucky Derby hero Animal Kingdom among the star players and Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith's four-year-old Excelebration leading a team of several accomplished European-raced contenders in the race.
Trained by Charles Lopresti, Wise Dan breaks from post 2 as the 9-to-5 morning line favorite after posting three consecutive major victories, including the Woodbine Mile and Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland. Excelebration was very impressive winning the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes last out on October 20. Trained by Aidan O'Brien, the son of Exceed and Excel was top-class all season, but had to settle for second-best on three occasions behind the highly-acclaimed Frankel during the campaign.
Animal Kingdom is an intriguing prospect in the Mile for trainer Graham Motion as the homebred son of Leroidesanimaux makes only his second start since suffering an injury in the 2011 Belmont Stakes and first since winning a turf allowance at Gulfstream Park in February, exiting that race with another injury.
Completing the line-up for Breeders' Cup Friday:
The European team looks very strong in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf with five contenders, including Andrew Lloyd-Webber's English homebred four-year-old filly The Fugue as the 7-to-2 favorite breaking from post 4 in a field of 12 after finishing a game second last out in the Darley Yorkshire Oaks at York. Among her principal rivals will be Darley Stable's English homebred four-year-old filly Nahrain, runner-up in this race last year to longshot Perfect Shirl at Churchill Downs and winner of the Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park on September 29 in a second trip to America for trainer Roger Varian.
A strong possibility appears likely for an undefeated two-year-old filly to seal an Eclipse campaign in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies for the third straight year, following Awesome Feather in 2010 and My Miss Aurelia in 2011, and both still perfect going into the Ladies' Classic later on the Friday card.
Mike Pegram and partners' Executiveprivilege, five-for-five for trainer Bob Baffert, is the 2-to-1 morning line favorite breaking from post 2 in the 1 1/16 miles test after winning the Chandelier Stakes last out on September 29 by 6 1/4 lengths over the track and distance.
Executiveprivilege's chief rivals in the field of eight will be Stonestreet Stable's pair of Dreaming of Julia and Kauai Katie, both also unbeaten at three-for-three in New York for trainer Todd Pletcher, the former winner of the Frizette Stakes at Belmont Park.