10/16/2008 12:00AM

Curlin tops list of 180 BC pre-entries

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Benoit & Associates
Curlin, schooling at Santa Anita on Wednesday, is one of seven previous Breeders' Cup winners who were pre-entered in this year's races.

ARCADIA, Calif. - A total of 180 horses, led by 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin, were announced on Thursday as a record number of pre-entries for the 25th Breeders’ Cup, to be held Oct. 24-25 at Santa Anita.

Curlin was one of 16 horses pre-entered in the $5 million Classic, in which he is the defending champion. The Classic is the richest of the 14 races, worth $25.5 million, to be held over the two days. Among those entered against Curlin are the unbeaten Japanese colt Casino Drive, Pacific Classic winner Go Between, Travers winner Colonel John, and three European invaders - Duke of Marmalade, Henrythenavigator, and Raven’s Pass.

Aidan O’Brien, the trainer of Duke of Marmalade and Henrythenavigator, leads all European trainers with 10 pre-entered horses. There were 35 European-based horses pre-entered, a record.

Curlin is one of seven previous Breeders’ Cup winners who were pre-entered. The others are Better Talk Now, Ginger Punch, Indian Blessing, Kip Deville, Midnight Lute, and Red Rocks.

Better Talk Now, 9, won the 2004 Turf and will be competing in the Turf for the fifth straight year, tying him for most Breeders’ Cup appearances with Kona Gold and Perfect Drift. He is the oldest horse in this year’s Breeders’ Cup.

Ginger Punch won last year’s Distaff, and will defend her title in that race, which is now known as the Ladies' Classic.

Indian Blessing, the winner last year of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, has been pre-entered in the both the Sprint, against males, and the Filly and Mare Sprint, in which she is expected to start.

Kip Deville will be attempting to defend his title in the Mile on turf, and Midnight Lute is back to defend his title in the Sprint.

Red Rocks won the Breeders’ Cup Turf two years ago.

Of the 14 races, the five exclusively for female horses will be run on Oct. 24, with the remaining nine races run on Oct. 25.

The highlight of the Oct. 24 card is the Ladies' Classic, in which the unbeaten Zenyatta will face Cocoa Beach, Ginger Punch, Hystericalady, and Music Note. Because of the depth of quality in the Ladies' Classic, only eight horses were entered.

Thursday’s announcement was the first of a two-step entry process. At this point, horses can be pre-entered in as many as two races; 30 horses were cross-entered.

Next Tuesday, final entries are due. Horses who are cross-entered must be put into a single race, and then post positions are drawn for all 14 races.

Most of the races are restricted to 14 starters, but three - the Dirt Mile, Juvenile Turf, and Juvenile Fillies Turf - are limited to 12. Eight of the 14 races were oversubscribed at the pre-entry stage. In those cases, horses in the body of the race were first determined by who had won Win and You’re In qualifying races this calendar year. Then horses were slotted based on points earned during the year in graded stakes races. Finally, a committee of international racing officials ranked the remaining contenders.

For instance, in the Classic, 16 horses were pre-entered. Curlin, Go Between, and Well Armed won Win and You’re In races and were first in. Colonel John, Pyro, Smooth Air, Student Council, and Tiago got the next five slots, based on points in graded stakes. The committee gave the final six spots to Casino Drive, Champs Elysee, Duke of Marmalade, Henrythenavigator, Mast Track, and Raven’s Pass. The committee made Fairbanks and Awesome Gem alternates, in that order. They draw in if someone from the main body of the race defects between now and entry time Tuesday.

In addition, for the first time this year, the Breeders’ Cup will have as many two also-eligibles per race at the final entry stage, giving those on the outside looking in a few more days to draw in. Scratch time for all 14 races is the morning of Oct. 24.

In the Classic, seven of the 16 horses were pre-entered in two races. Fairbanks (Marathon) and Well Armed (Dirt Mile) were denoted as having first preference in other races, so, in essence, all who want to run in the Classic should be able to run.

There were 38 horses who pre-entered Breeders’ Cup races and received automatic qualifying spots through Win and You’re In races.

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