The eyes of the horse racing world are squarely fixed on next week’s Breeders’ Cup, with a total of 160 pre-entries (141 individual horses, 19 cross-entered) Oct. 17 for 11 races.
It will be a year of many firsts for the World Championships.
When the Breeders’ Cup kicks off Oct. 26-27 at Monmouth Park, it will be the first time in its 24-year history the event will take place over two days. The addition of three new races – the Juvenile Turf, Dirt Mile and Filly & Mare Sprint – means that action will now begin on Friday. Eight Breeders' Cup races are on the card for Saturday.
It will also be the first time that the championships will be held not only at Monmouth Park, but in the state of New Jersey. More than $25 million in renovations and improvements were completed at the Oceanport racetrack, and the economic impact of the event is expected to generate $57.6 million for the state.
“We’re extremely excited about this event,” said Dennis Dowd, senior vice president of racing at Monmouth Park, in an Oct. 17 teleconference. “I’d like to thank the Breeders’ Cup for their faith in coming here.”
In addition, this marks the first year of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” provision. Beginning in July, 25 sanctioned races were held at seven racetracks, qualifying winning horses for the World Championships. Many of those winners were pre-entered Oct. 17.
Finally, the Breeders’ Cup announced that for the first time all of its races will be available live on the internet, at Breederscup.com. Breeders’ Cup president Greg Avioli said it is only the second time in United States major sports history that a sports championship event will be available live on the Web.
To go along with all of the firsts, the fields for many of the races look to be among the most competitive in Breeders’ Cup history. Two of the most anticipated events are the $3 million John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) and the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic-Powered by Dodge (gr. I).
Twelve contenders were pre-entered in the 1 1/2-mile Turf, but much of the excitement is centered around 4-year-old colt Dylan Thomas, who is considered the top-ranked horse in the world.
Bred in Ireland, Dylan Thomas has had a year for the ages, winning four of his seven group I races, finishing second in all three losses. Racing in Ireland, Great Britain and France, the son of Danehill-Lagrion has captivated the horse racing world with his talent and resiliency. This will be only his second race on U.S. soil.
“He is very unusual and uncomplicated,” said trainer Aidan O’Brien, who will also saddle George Washington in the Classic. “He has class, speed and stamina all put together. He’s as good a horse as we’ve ever had. We think he’s a superstar.”
Among Dylan Thomas’ potential challengers will be Honey Ryder, Icy Atlantic and English Channel – all trained by Todd Pletcher – as well as European rivals Grand Couturier and Red Rocks. Pletcher has 15 horses pre-entered in the 11 races.
If the John Deere Turf looks appealing, the Classic is off the charts with anticipation. The field of nine is represented by 3-year-old superstars Street Sense, Curlin, Any Given Saturday, and Hard Spun, as well as electrifying older horses Lawyer Ron and George Washington.
Carl Nafzger, trainer of Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Street Sense, said he could not recall a time when so many talented horses were preparing for the Classic.
“This is one of the best fields that could be put together,” Nafzger said. “They’ve got everything you want – early speed, tactical speed, closers, and soundness. They’ve been beat and they’ve beat each other. There is class scattered all the way through the field.
“I’ve never really ran against this size field with this type of quality all the way through. They’ve all proved it with different styles. It’s a great Classic.”