Contention Runs Deep in 2006 World Championships; 127 Pre-Entered

The 2006 Breeders' Cup World Championships will have something for everyone, including an array of top-notch horses from both coasts and Europe.

The Nov. 4 event at Churchill Downs will be headed by Bernardini, Lava Man, and Invasor, in the Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I); an exciting East vs. West showdown in the TVG Sprint (gr. I) that will feature the Eastern rocket Henny Hughes against the brilliant Bordonaro and late-running Siren Lure from California; a deep, contentious field in the Emirates Airline Distaff (gr. I), highlighted by the 5-year-old Fleet Indian and the 3-year-old Pine Island; and a classic America vs. Europe clash between the dynamic Wait a While and the globe-trotting Ouija Board in the Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT).

If that's not enough, there are contentious betting races in the Bessemer Trust Juvenile (gr. I) and Juvenile Fillies (gr. I); another battle between arch rivals English Channel and Cacique in the John Deere Turf (gr. I) that likely will decide the male grass championship; and a mixed bag in the NetJets Mile (gr. IT), headed by the red-hot Aragorn, who has broken 1:33 for the mile three times this year in California.

In all, the event drew 127 pre-entries, with a total of 121 individual horses pre-entered. Both numbers were up from 2005, when there were 120 pre-entries from 117 individual horses.

Only two of the eight Breeders' Cup races are not oversubscribed -- the Turf and Filly & Mare Turf, both of which drew 12 pre-entries. The Juvenile Fillies drew the most pre-entries with 24.

This year's pre-entry list is highlighted by the Todd Pletcher cavalcade of stars, which numbers a record 18 individual horses, including an amazing 10 grade I winners. Pletcher would need to saddle 15 horses to break another record held by his former boss D. Wayne Lukas, who sent out 14 starters in 1987, as well as 12 in 1988, 11 in 1989, and 10 in 1985 and 1996. Pletcher has already broken Lukas' record this year for number of stakes wins in a single season.

With likely favorites or second choices in at least four of the eight Breeders' Cup races (Circular Quay and Scat Daddy in the Juvenile, Fleet Indian in the Distaff, English Channel in the Turf, and Wait a While in the Filly & Mare Turf), Pletcher has a chance to match Richard Mandella's remarkable accomplishment of saddling four Breeders' Cup winners in one year. Pletcher is two-for-24 in Breeders' Cup competition, sending out both his winners -- Ashado and Speightstown -- at Lone Star Park in 2004.

The cross-entered horses are Asi Siempre (Distaff and Filly & Mare Turf), Gorella (Mile and Filly & Mare Turf), Honey Ryder (Filly & Mare Turf and Turf), Maurelakana (Filly & Mare Turf and Mile), Super Frolic (Classic and Mile), and Lewis Michael (Mile and Sprint).

This year's foreign contingent is a solid one, with 18 pre-entered horses, headed by group I winners Ouija Board, George Washington, Hurricane Run, David Junior, Araafa, Librettist, and Scorpion. George Washington, the leading miler in Europe, and three-time group I winner David Junior, will attempt the dirt for the first time in the Classic. Ouija Board, the 2004 VO5 Filly & Mare Turf winner and last year's runner-up, will be back for a third try.

The second leading trainer of pre-entered horses is Doug O'Neill with six – Lava Man (Classic), Great Hunter (Juvenile), Thor's Echo (Sprint), Mistical Plan (Juvenile Fillies), and Areyoutalkintome (Sprint).

Aidan O'Brien heads the Europeans with five -- George Washington (Classic), Scorpion (Turf), and Aussie Rules, Ad Valorem, and Ivan Denisovich (Mile).