BERNARDINI, LAVA MAN, OUIJA BOARD (GB) & HURRICANE RUN (IRE) LEAD PARADE OF STARS SET FOR 23RD BREEDERS’ CUP WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS SATURDAY AT CHURCHILL DOWNS
The highly anticipated East-West matchup between Darley Stable’s brilliant 3-year-old BERNARDINI and STD Racing and Jason Wood’s remarkable 5-year-old gelding LAVA MAN in the Breeders’ Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge will mark the climax of Saturday’s 23rd Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs.
The $5 million Classic is the last of eight Breeders’ Cup Championship races on the program carrying total purses and awards of $20,760,000 to be broadcast live on ESPN (Noon-7:00 p.m. ET). This will be the record sixth time the event has been hosted by Churchill Downs, following renewals in 1988, 1991, 1994, 1998 and 2000.
The field of 13 entered in the Classic, for 3-year-olds and up at 1 ¼ miles, is among the strongest assembled for the event with Horse of the Year honors very likely at stake and Eclipse Award honors for both horse and horsemen to be decided pending results of each of the races that afternoon.
A total of 104 horses were drawn for the eight races Wednesday morning representing the best to compete in North America this season and a formidable team of 15 European-trained stars entered in five of the eight races. This year’s 104 entrees is the highest since the 2000 Breeders’ Cup when 105 were entered.
With the world’s best horses competing, the most accomplished jockeys will be in action led by Edgar Prado, John Velazquez, Garrett Gomez, Corey Nakatani and Pat Valenzuela from the U.S. and European stars Frankie Dettori, Michael Kinane and Christophe Soumillon.
Bernardini is a Kentucky homebred son of 1992 Breeders’ Cup Classic hero and Horse of the Year A.P. Indy and first drew wide attention nationally with a commanding 5 ¼ length victory in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico in May while making just the fourth start of his career and first around two turns for trainer Tom Albertrani.
Bernardini finished fourth in his career debut at Gulfstream Park Jan. 7 and has raced undefeated and virtually unchallenged winning all six starts since, including the Travers Stakes at Saratoga by 7 ½ lengths in August and Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park by 6 ¾ lengths last out on Oct. 7.
Lava Man comes into the Classic undefeated in seven starts this year in California, including an unprecedented sweep of the Santa Anita Handicap at Santa Anita in March, Hollywood Gold Cup at Hollywood Park in July and Pacific Classic at Del Mar in August.
Trainer Doug O’Neill claimed the son of Slew City Slew for his current owners for $50,000 in August 2004 at Del Mar and he has gone on to post most of his $3.8 million career earnings since then, most recently capturing the Goodwood Breeders’ Cup Santa Anita on Oct. 7.
While much of the attention in the Classic will focus on Bernardini and Lava Man, a number of others will have a following, notably Shadwell Stable’s 4-year-old INVASOR (ARG), winner of the Pimlico Special in May, Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park in July and Whitney Handicap at Saratoga last out on Aug. 5 in his last three starts for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
The field for Saturday’s Classic also includes four veterans of the 2005 edition of the Classic at Belmont Park led by Melnyk Racing Stable’s FLOWER ALLEY (2nd), Stonecrest Farm’s PERFECT DRIFT (3rd), Jay Em Ess Stable’s SUAVE (5th) and Tracy Farmer’s SUN KING (9th).
There also will be support for Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith’s 3-year-old GEORGE WASHINGTON (IRE) and Roldvale Ltd.’s 4-year-old DAVID JUNIOR, a pair of highly accomplished European-trained challengers; and a sentimental choice in Mr. and Mrs. Jerome Moss’ 4-year-old GIACOMO, winner of the 2005 Kentucky Derby here in a 50-to-1 shocker.
Bernardini drew post 3 and was made the shortest priced morning line favorite on the card at 1-to-1 (Even) for the Classic. Invasor drew post 11 and is the second choice at 5-to-1. Lava Man drew post 8 and is the third choice at 6-to-1.
Trainer Todd Pletcher has entered a record 17 runners in seven of the eight races with James Scatuorchio’s 4-year-old ENGLISH CHANNEL among his leading hopes in the $3 million John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf facing an imposing challenge in the 1 ½ miles grass course test from Michael Tabor’s 4-year-old HURRICANE RUN (IRE), winner of the 2005 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe for champion French trainer Andre Fabre.
A 4-year-old son of Smart Strike, English Channel did the best of the American-trained runners in the Turf at Belmont Park last fall, finishing fifth behind the first-fourth-place sweep by the European team. A $50,000 yearling purchase, English Channel has won four of six starts this season, most recently the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont on Oct. 7.
Hurricane Run is a 4-year-old son of Montjeu and was acclaimed Europe’s Horse of the Year in 2005. His biggest victory in six starts this campaign came in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in July and he comes into the Turf after a third-place finish as the favorite in the Champion Stakes at Newmarket on Oct. 14.
Hurricane Run was made the 3-to-1 favorite in the field of 11 drawn for the Turf and breaks from post 7. English Channel is second choice at 7-to-2 and Cacique next at 4-to-1 breaking from post 6.
The Pletcher arsenal holds a strong hand for the $2,260,000 Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Distaff sending out three of the 14 fillies and mares in the 1 1/8 miles test, including Paul Saylor’s 5-year-old mare FLEET INDIAN as the 8-to-5 favorite after drawing post 7.
A daughter of Indian Charlie, Fleet Indian is riding an eight-race win streak going back to last year, capturing the Delaware Handicap in June, Personal Ensign Handicap at Saratoga in August and Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park last out on Oct. 7. Pletcher also sends out Stronach Stable’s SPUN SUGAR and Melnyk Racing Stable’s POOL LAND.
Trainer Shug McGaughey has won three editions of the Distaff with Personal Ensign here in 1988, Inside Information in 1995 at Belmont Park and another at Belmont last fall with Pleasant Home in a 30-to-1 upset. McGaughey sends out Phipps’ Stable’s homebred 3-year-old filly PINE ISLAND Saturday with strong credentials after victories in the Alabama at Saratoga and Gazelle at Belmont last out on Sept. 9.
The star attraction in the field of 10 drawn for the $2,200,000 Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf at 1 3/8 miles will be Lord Derby’s marvelous international champion OUIJA BOARD (GB). Trained by Ed Dunlop, the 5-year-old daughter of Cape Cross will be sent out as the 8-to-5 favorite making her third straight appearance in the Filly & Mare Turf after victories in 2004 at Lone Star Park and finishing second last fall at Belmont Park.
The imposing Pletcher team has three contenders in this field of 10 with Arindel Farm’s 3-year-old filly WAIT A WHILE bringing a perfect four-for-four record on turf into the race after having trounced a strong field of older fillies and mares in the Yellow Ribbon Stakes at Santa Anita last out on Sept. 30. She was made the 3-to-1 second choice.
Trainer Neil Drysdale sent out Hawksley Hill to finish second by a head behind Da Hoss in the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Mile over the Churchill course and War Chant to score in the 2000 renewal here. Saturday, Drysdale will saddle Ballygallon Stud’s 4-year-old ARAGORN (IRE) as the 5-to-1 morning line second choice, breaking from post 7 in the $2,170,000 NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile in a wide-open international field of 14.
Aragorn is a son of European champion Giant’s Causeway, who lost a thrilling edition of the Classic here in 2000 by a neck to Tiznow. Aragorn was a modest performer in England last year before joining the Drysdale barn in California last fall, and comes into the race after capturing four major stakes at Hollywood Park, Del Mar and Santa Anita.
European-trained runners are always well represented in the Mile and field six in Saturday’s race, led by Saleh al Homaizi and Imad al Sagara’s 3-year-old ARAAFA (IRE) and the Godolphin’s duo of ECHO OF LIGHT (GB) and LIBRETTIST.
There will be significant support for Martin Schwartz’ 4-year-old filly GORELLA (FR), who was a top class performer in Europe last year and carried her good form to the U.S. last fall finishing a close-up third in the Mile at Belmont, beaten less than a length for it all by Artie Schiller.
Gorella has had another outstanding campaign in America this season for trainer Patrick Biancone, winning four of five starts, including the Beverly D Stakes at Arlington Park and in August and First Lady Stakes at Keeneland last out on Oct. 14. Gorella was listed as the lukewarm morning line favorite at 4-to-1.
The $2,130,000 TVG Breeders’ Cup Sprint at six furlongs is always a wide-open affair and Saturday’s full field of 14 will include an intriguing East-West clash between Zabeel Racing International’s brilliant 3-year-old HENNY HUGHES and Fred Carrillo and Daniel Cassella’s 5-year-old gelding BORDONARO.
A Kentucky-bred son of Hennessy, Henny Hughes has been sensational winning all three of his starts this season for McLaughlin after a good runner-up effort behind Stevie Wonderboy in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last fall at Belmont. Henny Hughes easily captured the Vosburgh Stakes at Belmont last out on Oct. 7 in his first start against older horses.
Henny Hughes was installed the 2-to-1favorite breaking from post 4 with Bordonaro second choice at 3-to-1 coming out of post 6. A California-bred son of Memo trained by Bill Spawr, Bordonaro has won nine of 12 career starts, most recently the Ancient Title Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita on Oct. 7 in his final tune-up for the Sprint.
Once again in the $2 million Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, the Pletcher stable fields a team of three in the 1 1/16-mile test for 2-year-olds, including Michael and Doreen Tabor’s CIRCULAR QUAY as the 5-to-2 favorite and James Scatuorchio’s SCAT DADDY as the 4-to-1 second choice in the full field of 14.
Perhaps the most wide-open contest on the card will be the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at 1 1/16 miles with J. Paul Reddam’s Oak Leaf Breeders’ Cup winner CASH INCLUDED the 3-to-1 favorite breaking from post 5 in the full field of 14. Frank Calabrese’s DREAMIN OF ANNA has won all three of her starts easily and was made the second choice at 4-to-1 after drawing the rail.