10/17/2007 11:00PM

Two-day affair attracts 141

Bill Denver/Equiphotos
Wednesday morning training at Monmouth Park took place in front of some 25,000 temporary seats installed for Breeders' Cup spectators.
OCEANPORT, N.J. - A total of 141 horses, including a Breeders' Cup Classic that includes all the leading contenders for Horse of the Year, were announced on Wednesday at Monmouth Park as pre-entries for the 24th Breeders' Cup World Championships Oct. 26 and 27 at Monmouth.

The 1 1/4-mile Classic, at $5 million, is the richest race in a program that this year has swelled by a day and three races and now totals more than $23 million in prize money. The field includes all the stars from this year's outstanding crop of 3-year-olds - Any Given Saturday, Curlin, Hard Spun, Street Sense, and Tiago - as well as the top older horse Lawyer Ron, and the well-regarded international raider George Washington.

The Classic will be the 11th and final race in this year's Breeders' Cup, which will encompass two days for the first time. On Oct. 26, a Friday, three races - the Filly and Mare Sprint, Juvenile Turf, and Dirt Mile - will be inaugurated. The Classic anchors a Saturday card on Oct. 27 that also includes the Juvenile Fillies, Juvenile, Filly and Mare Turf, Sprint, Mile, Distaff, and Turf.

This year's Breeders' Cup will be the first run at Monmouth Park, which traditionally plays host to a popular summer meeting on the Jersey shore. The track will open for a special four-day meet next week, beginning on Wednesday.

Dennis Dowd, the senior vice president of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which runs Monmouth, said Wednesday at a press conference that track employees felt "like kids getting close to Christmas."

For racing fans, Christmas will come early in the form of a Classic that comes close to rivaling the celebrated 1998 field for quality.

Any Given Saturday brings a three-race win streak into the Classic, including a victory over the Monmouth track in the Haskell Invitational two months ago. Among those left in his wake that day were Curlin, who came back to beat Lawyer Ron in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and Hard Spun, who since has won the King's Bishop and then defeated Street Sense in the Kentucky Cup Classic.

Curlin earlier this year won the Preakness, Arkansas Derby, and Rebel Stakes, was third in the Kentucky Derby, and was second in the Belmont.

Hard Spun, like Curlin, ran in all three legs of the Triple Crown, with his best finishes a second in the Derby and a third in the Preakness. In the Classic, he will be seeking his third straight win.

"We're not fixin' to bow down," Hard Spun's trainer, Larry Jones, said at the Monmouth press conference Wednesday. "We've got Horse of the Year riding on this."

Street Sense won the Kentucky Derby and Travers Stakes, and was a narrow second in the Preakness. He also won last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and was one of three Breeders' Cup winners pre-entered on Wednesday, along with Better Talk Now and Red Rocks, both of whom will be trying to win the Turf for the second time.

Tiago this year owns victories in the Santa Anita Derby, Swaps Stakes, and Goodwood Stakes.

Lawyer Ron, the nation's best older horse, has a 2007 resume that includes victories in the Whitney Handicap, Woodward Stakes, and Oaklawn Handicap.

George Washington, a four-time Group 1 winner in Europe, is winless in three starts this year, all on turf. He was sixth in last year's Classic in his lone try on dirt, after which he was retired for stud duty. But he was put back in training earlier this year because of fertility problems.

George Washington also was pre-entered in the Mile on turf, but the Classic was listed as his first choice and his trainer, Aidan O'Brien, confirmed that point from Ireland during a teleconference on Wednesday.

In addition to those seven, two others - Awesome Gem and Diamond Stripes - were pre-entered in the Classic.

Awesome Gem has finished second in the Pacific Classic and Goodwood in his last two starts, and earlier this year won the San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes.

Diamond Stripes captured the Meadowlands Cup Handicap in his last start. He also was pre-entered in the Dirt Mile, which is listed as his first preference.

Wednesday was the first stage of a two-step entry process. At that point, horses could be pre-entered in two races. Of the 141 horses pre-entered, 19 were cross-entered, for a total of 160 entries in 11 races. Next Tuesday, final entries are due and post positions will be drawn for all 11 races. At that point, a horse who was cross-entered at pre-entry time can be entered in only one race.

Fields are limited to 14 runners, with the exception of the Juvenile Turf, which is capped at 12. Six of the 11 races - the Juvenile Turf, Juvenile Fillies, Juvenile, Sprint, Mile, and Distaff - had more than the maximum pre-entered. In those cases, half the field was made up of horses who qualified through Breeders' Cup's "Win and You're In" series of races or on graded stakes points, and half were selected by an international committee of racing officials. The remainder were put on an overflow list in order of the committee's preference.

When final entries are taken Tuesday, the fields are set. There will be no also-eligible list, so those who don't get in between now and Tuesday are out.

The Juvenile Turf had the most pre-entries, with 23, while the Classic had the fewest, with 9.