The NTRA National Pick 4 wager, offered in conjunction with "Emirates Airline Countdown to the Breeders' Cup" series installments airing on ESPN and ESPN2 through Oct. 14 will be available Oct. 7.Fans will try to select the winners of the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) and $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT) from Belmont Park; the $600,000 Shadwell Turf Mile (gr.IT) from Keeneland; and the $500,000 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) from Oak Tree at Santa Anita. All races will air live Oct. 7 on ESPN2 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. (all times Eastern).
The NTRA National Pick 4 carries a $400,000 gross pool guarantee, has a $1 minimum wager amount, and will be hubbed as a separate card event by Belmont Park with a 25% takeout. To wager, fans should ask for "National Pick 4."
The first leg of the NTRA National Pick 4 will be the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitaional, which has a scheduled post time of 5:20 p.m. The Joe Hirsch will be followed in order by the Shadwell Turf Mile (5:40), the Jockey Club Gold Cup (6), and the Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap (6:17).
"We are again pleased to link a national wager with a prominent national telecast," said Kenneth Kirchner, the NTRA's senior vice president for product development. "This year's first three NTRA National Pick 4s on June 17, Aug. 12, and Sept. 30, have all been well supported by the fans. With the promise of so many top Breeders' Cup contenders in action this weekend, we think customers will again find the wager highly attractive."
Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational: The Todd Pletcher-trained English Channel, runner-up in this race last year, enters off a fourth-place finish in the Arlington Million (gr. IT). Prior to that, he won the United Nations (gr. IT). English Channel is fifth in the Turf Division of the World Championship Poll. Pletcher will also be represented in the race by Icy Atlantic. Several European-based horses may also compete, including Frost Giant, Royal Highness, and Freedonia. The 1 1/2-mile contest for 3-year-olds and up is part of the John Deere Turf Division.
Shadwell Turf Mile: Miesque's Approval, fifth in the NetJets Mile Division of the World Championship Poll, heads the field in this important grass contest. Miesque's Approval is on a three stakes winning streak, having taken the Maker's Mark Mile (gr. IIT), Firecracker Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT), and Red Bank Stakes (gr. IIIT). He will meet a strong field of milers that includes Becrux, who won last month's Woodbine Mile (gr. IT); Aussie Rules, victor in the French Two Thousand Guineas (Fr-I); Cosmonaut, who won the Arlington Handicap (gr. IIIT); Silent Name, winner of the Arcadia Handicap (gr. IIT); and the Bobby Frankel-trained Three Valleys, who took the Oceanport Stakes (gr. IIIT).
Jockey Club Gold Cup: Will Bernardini, facing older horses for the first time, continue the dominance that has seen him capture four consecutive graded stakes, including the grade I Preakness, Jim Dandy, and Travers by wide margins? It's looking like only a handful of runners will challenge Bernardini this time around, with the most intriguing being the Aidan O'Brien-trained Dylan Thomas. As Europe's leading 3-year-old, Dylan Thomas is coming off back-to-back group I wins in the Irish Derby and the Irish Champion Stakes and will race on dirt for the first time as he prepares for the Breeders' Cup. Other likely starters are the Nick Zito-trained duo of Andromeda's Hero and Wanderin Boy, and other such horses as Sun King and West Virginia.
Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap: There's no doubt which horse has been the best in the West this year. That's Lava Man, who like Bernardini, needs only two more wins, Oct. 7 and Nov. 4, to lay claim to Horse of the Year honors. Speaking of laying claim, Lava Man is a former claiming horse who has turned into a potential champion with a remarkable 2006 campaign that includes four consecutive grade I wins and victories in three $1 million races. Lava Man is a perfect 6-for-6 this year, having crossed the wire first in the grade I Hollywood Gold Cup, Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap, Santa Anita Handicap, and Pacific Classic. For good measure, he also won the Sunshine Millions Classic. Taking on Lava Man will be 2005 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Giacomo, who was fifth in the Pacific Classic following a win in the San Diego Handicap; Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner Brother Derek; Super Frolic; and Magnum.
An additional NTRA National Pick 4 wager will be offered during the final installment of the "Emirates Airline Countdown to the Breeders' Cup" series Oct. 14 (ESPN, 4-6 p.m.).