Las Vegas, NV -- The Breeders' Cup prep race season is relatively short. It only lasts about 23 days, but what it lacks in long term focus it gains in high intensity. The concentration of high class talent will mirror in some ways the Breeders' Cup itself, given that we now have 15 Breeders' Cup races scheduled for Friday, Nov. 4 and Saturday Nov. 5 at historic Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.
We should remember that the revolutionary Breeders' Cup began in 1984 at Hollywood Park with a schedule of seven races worth $1-$3 million apiece, with the Breeders' Cup Turf at $2 million and the Breeders' Cup Classic at $3 million. That was more money ever offered anywhere for any racing program and it rivaled the great paydays in all of sport.
With only seven original Breeders' Cup races, there were few prep races during the first decade for the event. Before that, Belmont Park actually hosted what it called (and sometimes still calls) its "Fall Championship Meet." Those were the days when every major contender for national championships lined up to compete in races such as the $100,000 Champagne Stakes for top 2-year-olds and the $150,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup for the best 3-year-olds and older horses in the land.
In the nearly 30 years since those 'good-ole-days,' purses for the major Belmont fall stakes have increased substantially. In fact, they have also been devalued into mere prep races for the rich menu of Breeders' Cup races.
Here are a few samples to illustrate my point: The Champagne is now worth $300,000; the Jockey Club Gold Cup is worth $750,000; and a relatively new race, the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, is worth $500,000. The Champagne will feed contenders to the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile; the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic will feed the $3 million Breeders' Cup Turf and the Jockey Club Gold Cup will provide a testing ground for contenders to the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic.
Breeders' Cup Betting at Off Track Betting online race book.
As stated earlier, there will be 13 Graded stakes at Belmont on the first two weekends in October and many will be intriguing handicapping puzzles that could offer sensational payoffs. Meanwhile, horseplayers should study all of the Breeders' Cup prep races-wherever they are run because they are sure to produce live contenders for various Breeders' Cup races.
For instance, on Saturday, Sept. 24 at PARX Racetrack near Philadelphia, the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby will be run with a good field of 3-year-olds. Among the logical contenders are:
Also on Saturday, Turfway Park in Florence, Kentucky (near Cincinnati, Ohio) will present three Graded stakes, including the $250,000 Kentucky Cup, also for horses seeking Breeders' Cup Classic credentials.
Beyond the above races at Turfway and PARX, the majority of Graded stakes for BC horses of all ages and sex will take place at Keeneland, Santa Anita, Belmont and Longchamps in Paris, France.
While many will find time to watch and wager on the Prix de l`Arc de Triomphe, considered to be Europe's most prestigious race; the two most intriguing Breeders' Cup prep stakes at Santa Anita figure to be the nine furlong, $250,000 Goodwood Handicap for Breeders' Cup Classic horses and the 1-1/16 mile $250,000 Norfolk Stakes for 2-year-olds.
Both of these stakes will be run on Oct. 1 and the Norfolk holds a special interest for me, in that DRILL (a horse I liked at Del Mar) will try two turns and a distance of ground for the first time.
At Keeneland, beginning Friday, Oct. 7th through the 16th, there will be 12 such Graded stakes, including the $600,000 Shadwell Turf Mile on Saturday, Oct. 8.
That one mile grass race ranks among the top half dozen mile turf races in America and usually produces a serious contender for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Mile. This year - as in the past three years - the Shadwell winner will have to contend with the great 6-year-old race mare GOLDIKOVA, who will try to win the Breeders' Cup Mile for the fourth straight year.
Belmont of course will have a total of 14 Breeders' Cup prep races including one this Saturday-the $150,000 Gallant Bloom at 6-1/2 furlongs, a race designed as a prep for the 7 furlong Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf Sprint.
The remaining 13 Belmont Breeders' Cup preps - including the three mentioned earlier -will be run on consecutive weekends, Oct-1-2 and Oct 8-9. They will offer a total of $3.5 million in purses and put at least 100 horses on display. While $3.5 million is a lot of hay for any horse or horse owner, it pales in comparison to the $25 million that will be on the table for America's greatest two days of high class stakes racing at Churchill Downs on Nov 4 and 5 - the Breeders' Cup World Championships - an event that offers a handicapping challenge like no other on earth.
Bet on the 2011 Breeders' Cup World Championships at Off Track Betting Racebook.