Updated on 11/04/2011 8:52PM

Breeders' Cup saves best for last

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Barbara D. Livingston
Havre de Grace follows up her defeat of males in the Woodward with a romp in the Beldame. Victory in the BC Classic would clinch Horse of the Year honors.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – There is no glass ceiling at the Breeders’ Cup. In recent years, quite often it has been ladies, first.

Goldikova has won the Breeders’ Cup Mile the last three years racing against the boys. Two years ago, Zenyatta won the Classic, and she was the focal point of last year’s Breeders’ Cup, when she just missed in her attempt to win the Classic for the second straight year.

Zenyatta has been retired, but her place in this year’s Classic on Saturday at Churchill Downs has been taken by Havre de Grace, who will be trying to beat 11 males and nail down the title of Horse of the Year, won by the females Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra the preceding two years.

No one has replaced Goldikova. She is back for another run in the Mile, in which she will be a strong favorite, and if she wins, she will close her sensational career by becoming the only horse to win four Breeders’ Cup races.

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In addition, the fillies Sarafina and Midday are afforded terrific chances to knock off the boys in the Turf.

The longshots Broken Dreams, Holiday for Kitten, and Rapport will try to outrun males in the Turf Sprint. The filly Meeznah, making her first start on dirt, takes on 10 rivals in the Marathon.

And jockey Chantal Sutherland will attempt to become the first female jockey to win the Classic, in which she rides the front-running Game On Dude.

The Breeders’ Cup is saving the best for last. The Mile was moved to the race preceding the Classic in order to better showcase Goldikova’s history-making attempt.

But it is the Classic that carries the most implications for the day. If Havre de Grace wins, she is unquestionably the Horse of the Year. But equally compelling cases for Horse of the Year could be made for Flat Out, Game On Dude, or Stay Thirsty if they win the Classic.

And then there is Uncle Mo, who is attempting a remarkable comeback from a serious illness that knocked him out of the Kentucky Derby six months ago.

If Uncle Mo wins, “not only is he Horse of the Year, but he’s the ESPN comeback player of the year,” said his biggest fan, owner Mike Repole.

“It takes not a super horse, but one of the greatest of all time if he can pull this off,” Repole said.

This is the 28th Breeders’ Cup, and the eighth to be held at Churchill Downs. The event has turned into a festival, and now numbers 15 races, spread over two days, with six to have been run on Friday, and nine on Saturday.

The Classic is the 11th race on a 12-race card Saturday that begins at 12:05 p.m. Eastern time. Post time for the Classic is scheduled for 7 p.m.

The nine Breeders’ Cup races on Saturday’s card begin with the Marathon, the third race of the day. That race will be shown live on TVG. After that, ABC takes over from 2 p.m. to 3:30 for three BC races, and then the final five BC races will be shown on ESPN, on a telecast scheduled to run from 3:30 until about 7:15 p.m.

The betting menu is thick. There is a pick five on the day’s first five races, a pick four that begins with the fourth race, the Juvenile Turf, a pick six that begins with the sixth race, the Turf Sprint, and a late pick four that begins with the eighth race, the Turf, making the Classic the anchor leg of both the pick six and the late pick four. There also is a Super Hi 5 wager on the Classic.

The pick six was hit Friday, so there was no carryover into Saturday’s card. Saturday's guaranteed pool is $2 million. There are also guarantees of $1 million in the early pick four, and $1.5 million in the late pick four.

There was one scratch Thursday related to Saturday’s races. Gung Ho was taken out of the Juvenile Turf. Because the Breeders’ Cup now has an also-eligible list in oversubscribed races, that allowed Tequila Factor to draw into the race after being relegated to the also-eligible list when post positions were drawn on Monday.

Also Thursday, Medaglia d’Amour was scratched from Friday’s Ladies’ Classic.

Rain moved into the area on Thursday, and Churchill Downs management decided to keep the turf course closed, which enraged a group of European trainers who were hoping to get their horses on the grass course for training on Thursday morning.

Saturday’s forecast is for a sunny day, with a high of 64 degrees.

– additional reporting by Byron King