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Updated on 09/15/2011 2:15PM
Countdown to the Cup: The Classic (10/18)
ELMONT, N.Y. - Only four horses have ever won two Breeders' Cup races, but four more will get a chance to equal that mark this year. Kona Gold, Macho Uno, Spain, and Tiznow - all winners at Churchill Downs one year ago - were among the 104 horses who were pre-entered on Wednesday for the 18th Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships Oct. 27 at Belmont Park.
The number of pre-entries was the fewest since the Breeders' Cup was expanded to an eight-race program in 1999. There had been fewer pre-entries eight times previously, but all were when the Breeders' Cup numbered seven races. The $1 million Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf was added two years ago.
Breeders' Cup officials ascribed the fewer pre-entries to the quality of the top choices in many of the races, including You in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, which drew a mere nine pre-entries. There also are several top-class Europeans scheduled to run, including Fantastic Light and Galileo in the $4 million Classic.
Despite the assumed anxiety over last month's terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, participation from foreign interests is strong. Godolphin Racing Inc., which is headed by Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum of Dubai, has the most Breeders' Cup pre-entries, with eight. And Irish-based trainer Aidan O'Brien, who trains for Coolmore Stud, has more pre-entries than any trainer, with seven.
D.G. Van Clief Jr., the president of the Breeders' Cup, said his organization was "extremely gratified by the stick-to-itiveness and the dedication" of the Europeans.
Wednesday's stage was the first of two for the Breeders' Cup. Thirteen of the runners pre-entered on Wednesday were named to two races. By next Wednesday, however, the connections of those horses must decide which race they will run in. Hours later, post positions for the eight races will be drawn. Those fields will be final. There is no also-eligible list for Breeders' Cup races once the final field is drawn. In addition, every horse runs as a separate betting interest; there are no coupled entries.
Four of the races - the $1 million Mile, $1 million Sprint, $2 million Turf, and the Classic - had more than the maximum number of 14 horses pre-entered. In those situations, eight of the horses gained automatic berths based on points earned in graded stakes races throughout the year. The remaining six spots were determined by an international committee of racing officials. All other horses were placed on an also-eligible list, and only gain access if one of the horses in the main body of the race drops out.
In a race such as the Classic, which had 16 pre-entries, everyone will most likely get to run. Four of the horses are pre-entered in two races, and three of them are expected to run in a race other than the Classic. However, in races such as the Sprint and the Mile, there likely will be horses excluded because there is no room for them.
The Breeders' Cup offers $13 million in purses, but supplemental entries in several of the races - most notably four horses in the Filly and Mare Turf, and the $400,000 put up to run Miss Linda in the $2 million Distaff - will swell the day's overall purses to $14,030,000, assuming all supplemental entries run.
The day begins with the Distaff, which drew 13 pre-entries, including the top 3-year-old fillies Exogenous, Fleet Renee, and Flute, and the older stars Miss Linda, Spain, and Tranquility Lake. Spain is the defending champion in the Distaff. If she wins, she will join Bayakoa (1989-90) as a two-time winner of the Distaff. The only other horses who have won two Breeders' Cup races are Mile winners Da Hoss, Lure, and Miesque.
Flute is one of six horses pre-entered by Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, who will be trying to erase an inglorious 0-for-36 record in the Breeders' Cup. Frankel also should have favorites in the Juvenile Fillies (You) and Classic (Aptitude).
You's top rivals in the Juvenile Fillies figure to be Bella Bellucci, Habibti, and Tempera.
In the Mile, 19 were pre-entered, including Affirmed Success, Forbidden Apple, Irish Prize, Noverre, Numerous Times, and Val Royal. It is considered the most wide-open race of the day.
The Sprint, which has 18 pre-entries, might have the most quality of the eight races. Kona Gold, last year's winner, will try to repeat. But he faces an outstanding field, including Bet On Sunshine, Caller One, Delaware Township, El Corredor, Left Bank, the European invader Mozart, Squirtle Squirt, Swept Overboard, and the filly Xtra Heat.
The Filly and Mare Turf, which drew 13 pre-entries, is headed by Lailani, the winner of the Flower Bowl. But four horses were supplemented to the race, including England's Legend, Kalypso Katie, Spook Express, and Starine, who is owned and trained by Frankel.
Officer, who is both unbeaten and untested, could be the day's shortest-priced favorite in the Juvenile, which also drew 13 pre-entries. His rivals include another unbeaten colt, Came Home, as well as Essence of Dubai, the unbeaten European colt Johannesburg, and Siphonic.
Sakhee, the winner of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, heads the 16 horses pre-entered in the Turf. Hap, Mutamam, Timboroa, and With Anticipation are among those who will challenge him.
The Classic is the last race of the day, the richest, and the most important, since a victory by Aptitude would make him a serious contender for Horse of the Year. But Tiznow will be trying to become the first horse to win the Classic twice, and Europeans Fantastic Light and Galileo are highly regarded.
Sakhee, like Fantastic Light, is owned by Godolphin and was pre-entered in both the Classic and the Turf. Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager, said in a conference call Wednesday that a decision on which race each horse would run in would not be made until next Wednesday. But Crisford said both horses would not run in the same race. He said Fantastic Light was most likely to run in the Classic, Sakhee the Turf.
Macho Uno, the winner of the Juvenile one year ago, will try to step up and defeat the best older horses in the Classic. No other horse has ever completed a Juvenile-Classic double.
Macho Uno originally was scheduled to work on Wednesday morning, but trainer Joe Orseno said he thought he was asking too much of the colt, who was timed for a three-furlong workout over the weekend at the end of a spirited gallop. He also was not satisfied with the condition of the track Wednesday morning. It was listed as fast, but still had plenty of moisture after recent rain. Orseno said would work Macho Uno six furlongs, "probably on Saturday."
Gary Stevens will work Macho Uno and will ride him in the Classic, as long as the work is satisfactory, according to Stevens's agent, Tony Matos. John Terranova, the trainer of Gander, who is pre-entered for the Classic, is hoping to get Stevens to ride his horse.
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