ARCADIA, Calif. – Breeders’ Cup Classic favorite Game On Dude, defending Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic winner Royal Delta, 2011 Kentucky Derby hero Animal Kingdom and grass course stars Wise Dan and Point of Entry lead the marquee among the 171 horses, including 26 from Europe and five also-eligibles, entered to run in the 29th Breeders’ Cup World Championship races to be held Friday and Saturday at Santa Anita Park.
Thoroughbred racing’s most prestigious global event, the Breeders’ Cup consists of 15 races worth a total of more than $25 million and hosted by Santa Anita for the sixth time with six races on Friday and nine on Saturday to be televised on NBC Sports Network and NBC. For the first time, the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic will be televised live and in primetime on NBC from 8-9 p.m. ET.
A complete list of Breeders’ Cup entries is available at www.breederscup.com
Lanni Family Trust, Mercedes Stable and Bernie Schiappa’s 5-year-old gelding Game On Dude has been installed as the 9-to-5 morning line favorite in the 1 ¼ miles Classic and will break from post position 5 in a field of 12 drawn for the Classic. A son of Awesome Again, Game On Dude leads a formidable team of 10 Breeders’ Cup contenders trained by Bob Baffert. Jockey Rafael Bejarano rode him for the first time winning the 1 1/8 miles Awesome Again Stakes over the track on Sept. 29 and will be back aboard Saturday.
Leading challengers to the favorite in a wide-open renewal of the Classic will be the Bill Mott-trained team of Preston Stable’s two-time Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Flat Out and Brous Stable and Wachtel Stable’s Ron the Greek, impressive winner of the Santa Anita Handicap in early March over the track and distance. Flat Out drew post 2 and Ron the Greek leaves from post 10.
Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith’s 5-year-old Irish-bred St Nicholas Abbey won the $3 million Breeders’ Cup Turf over the Churchill Downs course last year and is back to defend his title in the 1 ½ miles test leading a team of nine Coolmore invaders from Ireland trained by Aidan O’Brien, drawing post three in a field of 12.
However, the morning line favorite’s role at 3-to-1 in the Turf will go to Phipps Stable’s 4-year-old Kentucky homebred Point of Entry breaking from post 1 with regular jockey John Velazquez in the saddle for trainer Shug McGaughey. The son of Dynaformer is regarded among the best turf runners produced in the U.S. in recent seasons and goes into the race on a five-race win streak, most recently scoring in the Sword Dancer Invitational at Saratoga and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park.
In somewhat of a surprise development, trainer Dale Romans has opted to send both Priscilla Vacarezza’s 5-year-old gelding Little Mike and Donegal Racing’s 3-year-old Dullahan in the Turf. Both were pre-entered in two races with Little Mike’s other choice the Mile and Dullahan the Classic. Little Mike posted his biggest victory in the 1 ¼ miles Arlington Million and Dullahan has done his best work on synthetic tracks, winning the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in the spring and the Pacific Classic against older horses at Del Mar in August.
While the Classic and Turf highlight the nine Breeders’ Cup races Saturday, the title defense by Besilu Stable’s 4-year-old filly Royal Delta in the $2 million Ladies’ Classic at 1 1/8 miles will clearly be the highlight of Friday’s action with jockey Mike Smith aboard for trainer Bill Mott in a field of eight fillies and mares. The daughter of Empire Maker was installed the 9-to-5 favorite and breaks from post 6.
Royal Delta sealed an Eclipse Award campaign winning the Ladies’ Classic at Churchill Downs by 2 ½ lengths last fall for Mott but sold for $8.5 million days later at the Keeneland November sales to Besilu owner Benjamin Leon with Mott retained as trainer. Royal Delta goes into the race after a stunning 9 ½-length victory in the Beldame Stakes at Belmont. Mott pulled off the rare Ladies’ Classic-Classic double last year with Royal Delta in the former and upset winner Drosselmeyer in the latter.
However, in the path of Royal Delta’s title defense are two undefeated fillies – Stronach Stable’s 10-for-10 4-year-old Awesome Feather, trained by Chad Brown, and Stonestreet Stable and George Bolton’s 3-year-old My Miss Aurelia, winner of all six career starts for trainer Steve Asmussen. Both fillies won the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in their respective 2-year-old seasons. Royal Delta is one of eight defending or returning Breeders’ Cup champions entered for Friday and Saturday.
A particularly deep and accomplished field of nine was drawn for Saturday’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile with Morton Fink’s 5-year-old gelding Wise Dan, Team Valor International’s 2011 Kentucky Derby hero Animal Kingdom among the star players and Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith’s 4-year-old Excelebration (IRE) leading a team of several accomplished European-raced contenders in the race.
Trained by Charles Lopresti, Wise Dan breaks from post 2 as the 9-to-5 morning line favorite after posting three consecutive major victories, including the Woodbine Mile and Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland. Excelebration was very impressive winning the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes last out on Oct. 20. Trained by Aidan O’Brien, the son of Exceed and Excel was top-class all season, but had to settle for second-best on three occasions behind the highly-acclaimed Frankel during the campaign.
Animal Kingdom is an intriguing prospect in the Mile for trainer Graham Motion as the homebred son of Leroidesanimaux makes only his second start since suffering an injury in the 2011 Belmont Stakes and first since winning a turf allowance at Gulfstream Park in February, exiting that race with another injury.
· $2 million Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, 2-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles – Starlight Stable’s undefeated Shanghai Bobby (2-to-1) breaking from post 4 in a field of nine. A son of Harlan’s Holiday trained by Todd Pletcher, Shanghai Bobby won all of his four starts in New York, most recently the Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park on Oct. 6 by five lengths.
· $1.5 million Xpressbet Breeders’ Cup Sprint, 3-year-olds and up, six furlongs – Thomas Sanford and trainer Bill Spawr’s 6-year-old gelding Amazombie won the Sprint at Churchill Downs last year and has been made the 4-to-1 favorite to repeat on Saturday in a full field of 14.
· $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, 3-year-olds and up, one mile – Michael Lauffer, W.D. Cubbedge and partners’ 2011 Preakness Stakes hero Shackleford for trainer Dale Romans is the 2-to-1 morning line favorite in a field of nine, breaking from post 6 alongside Godolphin Racing’s Forego Stakes winner Emcee, the second choice at 5-to-2 for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin in post 7.
· $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, fillies and mares, seven furlongs – Fred and William Bradley, Carl Hurst and Brent Burns’ 4-year-old Kentucky homebred filly Groupie Doll has been made the even-money morning line favorite from post 9 in the field of 10 after posting four consecutive graded stakes victories, the last in the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 6.
· $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, 2-year-olds, one mile on turf – Juddmonte Farm’s Dundonnell is the 4-to-1 morning-line favorite in a full field of 14 with one more also-eligible. The Kentucky homebred won two of four starts in England this year for trainer Roger Charlton and drew post 6 after finishing second as the odds-on favorite last out at Doncaster on Sept. 15.
· $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, 3-year-olds and up, about 6 ½ furlongs on turf – Melnyk Racing Stable’s 5-year-old Bridgetown, runner-up in this race last year at Churchill Downs for trainer Todd Pletcher, drew post 9 in a full field of 14 with two others also-eligible. Winner of the Woodford Stakes at Keeneland in his last start, Bridgetown was made the 9-to-2 favorite in the wide-open event.
Completing the line-up for Breeders’ Cup Friday:
The European team looks very strong in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf with five contenders, including Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s English homebred 4-year-old filly The Fugue (GB) as the 7-to-2 favorite breaking from post 4 in a field of 12 after finishing a game second last out in the Darley Yorkshire Oaks at York. Among her principal rivals will be Darley Stable’s English homebred 4-year-old filly Nahrain (GB), runner-up in this race last year to longshot Perfect Shirl at Churchill Downs and winner of the Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park on Sept. 29 in a second trip to the U.S. for trainer Roger Varian.
A strong possibility appears likely for an undefeated 2-year-old filly to seal an Eclipse campaign in the $2 million Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies for the third straight year, following Awesome Feather in 2010 and My Miss Aurelia in 2011, and both still perfect going into the Ladies’ Classic later on the Friday card.
Mike Pegram and partners’ Executiveprivilege, five-for-five for trainer Bob Baffert, is the 2-to-1 morning line favorite breaking from post 2 in the 1 1/16 miles test after winning the Chandelier Stakes last out on Sept. 29 by 6 ¼ lengths over the track and distance.
Executiveprivilege’s chief rivals in the field of eight will be Stonestreet Stable’s pair of Dreaming of Julia and Kauai Katie, both also unbeaten at three-for-three in New York for trainer Todd Pletcher, the former winner of the Frizette Stakes at Belmont Park.
· $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, 2-year-old fillies, one mile on turf – Ben Keswick’s English-based Sky Lantern (IRE) was made the 3-to-1 favorite in a wide-open field of 14 with two others listed also-eligble. Trained by Richard Hannon, the daughter of Red Clubs won the Moyglare Stakes last out at The Curragh on Sept. 9.
· $500,000 Breeders’ Cup Marathon, 3-year-olds and up, 1 ¾ miles – Shortleaf Stable’s 3-year-old Atigun, fourth in both the Travers Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup in his last two starts for trainer Ken McPeek and was installed the lukewarm favorite at 9-to-2 in a full field of 14.
· $500,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint, 2-year-olds, six furlongs – Bruce Chandler and partners’ Merit Man, winner of his two starts at Del Mar and Santa Anita for trainer Bob Hess, Jr., was made the solid 8-to-5 favorite and will break from past 3 in the field of seven.