They say Lone Star Park's dirt and grass surfaces are identical to those at Santa Anita Park, which may account for this year's Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships drawing the identical number of pre-entered horses as last year, when the event was held at the Arcadia, Calif., racetrack.
This year, 101 horses were pre-entered in the eight grade I races, with seven cross-entered, for a total of 108 pre-entries, compared with 109 last year.
Trainers Bobby Frankel and Todd Pletcher head the list with six horses each. Frankel will saddle Ghostzapper in the Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge, Midas Eyes and Cajun Beat in the Sprint, Light Jig and Megahertz in the VO5 Filly & Mare Turf, and Nothing to Lose in the NetJets Mile.
Pletcher is more spread out, with one horse each in six of the eight events. He will be represented by Newfoundland in the Classic, Ashado in the Distaff - Presented by Nextel, Proud Accolade in the Bessemer Trust Juvenile, Ready's Gal in the Juvenile Fillies, Speightstown in the Sprint, and Balto Star in either the John Deere Turf or the Mile.
There was some fear of the Europeans as a whole passing this year's Breeders' Cup, but thanks to the support of Aidan O'Brien, who pre-entered five of his Ballydoyle runners, and the presence of top-class fillies Ouija Board (Turf or Filly & Mare Turf), Six Perfections (Mile, which she won last year), and Nebraska Tornado (Distaff or Filly & Mare Turf), Europe will be well represented.
English (Eng-I) and Irish Oaks (Ire-I) winner Ouija Board, coming off a fast-closing third in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I), has first preference in the Turf, while Nebraska Tornado, winner of last year's group I Prix de Diane (French Oaks) and Prix du Moulin, has first preference in the Distaff.
The males, however, do not fare as strongly, with O'Brien's Powerscourt, disqualified from first in the Arlington Million (gr. IT) the only hope to continue Europe's five-year reign of Turf and male turf Eclipse Award winners. But if Ouija Board runs in the Turf, she could give likely favorite Kitten's Joy a run for his money.
Perhaps the best European colt pre-entered on the Breeders' Cup card is the French-trained Mile candidate Whipper, winner of the group I Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville for trainer Robert Collet, who won the race back in 1986 with Last Tycoon.
In all, 12 Europeans were pre-entered, with one representative from Japan--Personal Rush, who runs in the Classic.
The most notable of the cross-entered horses is Azeri, who was pre-entered in the Classic and Distaff, with the latter being her first preference.
Owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey will have a big chance in three of the races, sending out Roses in May in the Classic, Kitten's Joy in the Turf, and Nothing to Lose in the Mile. All three are coming off impressive graded stakes victories.
Another owner whose silks will be well represented is J. Paul Reddam, who, in various partnerships and by himself, has Sharp Lisa in the Juvenile Fillies, Ancient Title (gr. I) winner Pt's Grey Eagle in the Sprint, Elloluv in the Distaff, and the recent European purchase, Wilko, in the Juvenile. Nextel Breeders' Cup Distaff Preview Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Preview NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile Preview Breeders' Cup Sprint Preview VO5 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf Preview Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile Preview John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf Preview Breeders' Cup Dodge Classic Preview