Pre-entered Fields For All 15 Breeders' Cup Races Will Be Announced On Wednesday, October 24.
While the older horses have taken turns beating each other throughout the year they represent a formidable and competitive group that should make the 1 1/4-mile Classic the signature event of the weekend. Favoritism, due to both talent and a potential home field advantage, could go to Diamond Pride, Lanni Family Trust, Mercedes Stable and Bernie Schiappa's GAME ON DUDE, who will look to better his second-place finish in last year's Classic at Churchill Downs. The 5-year-old son of 1998 Classic winner Awesome Again has been a gem of consistency all season for trainer Bob Baffert, registering four wins from six starts and will head to post with a 9-for-20 career record.
Game On Dude, who owns a pair of "Win and You're In" grade I wins for the Classic in Betfair Hollywood Park's Gold Cup in July and Santa Anita's Awesome Again start September 29, owns a lethal combination of speed and stamina that has led to a perfect 5-for-5 record over the track. With Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I'll Have Another retired with an injury, a Classic win would put an exclamation point on Game On Dude's already gaudy resume and put him in prime position for Horse of the Year.
Baffert sent Game On Dude out for a five-furlong drill in 59.60 over the Santa Anita track October 14 and was impressed by what regular rider Rafael Bejarano, who was aboard for the work, told him.
"He said he felt like an airplane," Baffert. "This track right now is the best it's been since we've been here. I think the rain (three-quarters of an inch on Thursday) really helped. The track has bounce to it."
Though his participation in the Classic is still in flux, Mort Fink's homebred WISE DAN would loom large should he bypass a start in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Mile on turf. The 5-year-old son of Wiseman's Ferry has been as brilliant as he's been versatile this year, winning 4-of-5 on turf and Polytrack, with his lone defeat coming by a nose in Churchill's "Win and You're In" Stephen Foster (GI) on the main track to Classic-bound RON THE GREEK. The Charles Lopresti trainee broke a track record in winning Keeneland's Ben Ali (GIII) in April and has won three straight on turf this summer, including "Win and You're In" Mile grade I's in the Woodbine Mile in September and Keeneland's Shadwell Turf Mile in his last start October 6. Wise Dan would bring a 12-for-19 career mark should he start in the Classic.
Trainer Bill Mott holds an envious hand with a three-pronged attack in Preston Stable's FLAT OUT, who earned an automatic berth into the Classic with a win in Belmont Park's September 29 Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI), Brous Stable and Wachel Stable's Ron The Greek, who won the aforementioned Foster as well as the Santa Anita Handicap (GI) over the track and distance in March and Live Oak Plantation's TO HONOR AND SERVE, who won Saratoga's Woodward (GI) in September.
Flat Out, a 6-year-old son of Flatter, was favored in last year's Classic but finished fifth when trained by Scooter Dickey. He's improved in all three starts for Mott this year, culminating with his Gold Cup win and brings a 6-for-19 career mark to Santa Anita.
Flat Out was scheduled to work October 14 at Belmont but had the drill postponed as Mott battles nagging and reoccurring foot issues with the horse. Mott indicated he'll put new shoes on Flat Out before he breezes him.
"I got to make a slight change on him before he breezes. We're just protecting him, trying to be proactive," Mott said. "He's been a day-to-day project as they all are. It's no secret his feet have been an issue. I just want to offer him a little protection before he works."
Ron The Greek, widely considered the divisional leader at the halfway point of the season off his grade I wins, will look to bounce back from a sixth-place finish in the Gold Cup. The 5-year-old son of Full Mandate is 7-for-21 lifetime and would own three prestigious grade I wins this year if he wins the Classic.
To Honor And Serve will have to bounce back from a dull fourth-place run as the favorite in Belmont's "Win and You're In" Kelso (for the Dirt Mile) in his last start September 29. Mott admittedly used the race as a means to an end for the 4-year-old son of Bernardini, who was seventh in last year's Classic and has won half of his 16 lifetime starts.
Breeders' Cup Betting at Santa Anita with OffTrackBetting.com
Mott, who won last year's Classic with 15-1 Drosselmeyer, worked both Ron The Greek and To Honor And Serve over Belmont's main track October 13, as they begin final preparations for the Classic. Ron The Greek worked four furlongs in 48.25 in company with a stablemate, while To Honor And Serve got the same distance in 47.17. Mott was pleased with the works but knows winning it again won't be easy.
"He (Ron The Greek) was good. We give him a little company just to keep him interested. Obviously, he's a little different type of horse than some of the others," Mott said. "I just want to get them there in one piece. I know we got horses that can compete. Are we going to win? Well, who the (heck) knows that?"
Janis Whitham's homebred FORT LARNED earned an automatic Classic berth in Saratoga's Whitney (GI) in August and will look to build off his third-place run in the Gold Cup. Ian Wilkes trains the 4-year-old son of E Dubai, who is 7-for-18 lifetime and also owns wins in Gulfstream Park's Skip Away (GIII) in March and Prairie Meadows' Cornhusker (GIII) in June.
Fort Larned, who worked four furlongs in 49.80 October 10 at Churchill, is scheduled to fly to California October 30, according to Wilkes.
Reeves Thoroughbred Racing's MUCHO MACHO MAN, who won Belmont's Suburban (GII) in July and was beaten a neck by To Honor In Serve in the Woodward for trainer Kathy Ritvo; Repole Stable's STAY THIRSTY, beaten just a neck in the Gold Cup for trainer Todd Pletcher; Will Farish Jr.'s POOL PLAY, perfect in two starts over conventional dirt, with wins in the Hawthorne Gold Cup (GII) on Oct. 6 and last year's Foster; Stronach Stable's HUNTERS BAY, second to Wise Dan in the Woodbine Mile and Triple B Farm's RICHARD'S KID, third in the Awesome Again, would also deserve Classic consideration.
The Europeans have enjoyed limited success in the Classic over the years but could send a pair of 3-year-olds in Catesby Clay's ARCHBISHOP, who won the RSA Thoroughbred (GIII) at Glorious Goodwood in August for trainer Brian Meehan and DECLARATION OF WAR, a son of War Front who won the Diamond (GIII) at Dundalk October 5 for trainer Aidan O'Brien.
Since I'll Have Another's retirement in June, the 3-year-olds have taking turns beating each other and will bring a mixed bunch to the Classic. Godolphin Racing's ALPHA is the most accomplished, having won 4-of-7 this year for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, including dead heating for the win in the Travers with fellow Classic hopeful GOLDEN TICKET. The son of Bernardini will forge onto the Classic after a dismal sixth-place finish in the Pennsylvania Derby (GII) at odds-on at Parx Racing September 22, a race in which the Ken McPeek-trained Golden Ticket finished third in. The son of 2004 Sprint winner Speightstown stunned Alpha and the Saratoga crowd when he was held firm in the Travers over the Classic's 10 furlongs.
The wildcard in the Classic could actually be the most accomplished 3-year-old in training, in Donegal Racing's DULLAHAN, who beat Game On Dude in track record time in Del Mar's "Win and You're In" Pacific Classic (GI) in August. The son of Even The Score has been a synthetic specialist and won Keeneland's Blue Grass (GI) in April but did finish third in the Derby for trainer Dale Romans.
Paul Reddam's HANDSOME MIKE upset the Pennsylvania Derby for his second career win for trainer Doug O'Neill and could also start in the Classic, though a Dirt Mile run is also being considered.
Since its inception in 1984, 11 Breeders' Cup Classic winners were later voted Horse of the Year.
|Breeders' Cup Race||Grade||Purse||Date|
|Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf||I||$1,000,000||November 4|
|Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile||I||$1,000,000||November 4|
|Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf||I||$1,000,000||November 4|
|Breeders' Cup Distaff||I||$2,000,000||November 4|
|Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies||I||$2,000,000||November 5|
|Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf||I||$2,000,000||November 5|
|Breeders' Cup Sprint||I||$1,500,000||November 5|
|Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint||I||$1,000,000||November 5|
|Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint||I||$1,000,000||November 5|
|Breeders' Cup Juvenile||I||$2,000,000||November 5|
|Breeders' Cup Mile||I||$2,000,000||November 5|
|Breeders' Cup Turf||I||$4,000,000||November 5|
|Breeders' Cup Classic||I||$6,000,000||November 5|