The two-day Breeders’ Cup Championship begins Friday, Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Cal. Over the course of 14 races, 160 horses will compete for top honors as Breeders’ Cup champions. For those that don’t follow horse racing after the first Saturday in May, the Breeders’ Cup is to horse racing as the Super Bowl is to football or the World Series is to baseball; the best of the best come together to compete in the Breeders’ Cup. In last year’s Breeders’ Cup, locals took home the grand prize in seven of nine races on the Saturday card. Four of those winners will return to attempt a repeat.
Louisville favorite Dale Romans is stacked with contenders in this year’s Breeders’ Cup. He’ll send out five runners, including defending Breeders’ Cup Turf champion, Little Mike. After last year’s win, Little Mike shipped to Dubai where he competed in the Dubai Duty Free (G1) on the Dubai World Cup card. The overseas adventure must have taken something out of the gelding because he was slow to return to form, getting his first win for the year in the Belmont Turf Classic Sep. 28. The Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) is race 9 on Saturday’s card.
Romans also sends out Silver Max, who comes in on a three-race win streak. He’ll attempt the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) over the turf course. It’s the 11th race on the Saturday card. Suns Out Guns Out will try to go the distance when he tackles the 1 ¾ mile Breeders’ Cup Marathon (G2), the first of the Breeders’ Cup races and race 6 on the Friday card.
Romans was set to send out two young colts that we may see next year on the Kentucky Derby trail--Cleburne and Medal Count. Cleburne won the Iroquois (G3) at Churchill Downs Sep. 7 and Medal Count is a maiden winner. The pair were set to attempt the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), but news broke late Thursday that Cleburne suffered a bucked shin and will have to miss the race. The good news is that the injury is minor and the colt should recover quickly and be ready to step out onto the Kentucky Derby trail next year. Medal Count will have to bring home the Juvenile win for Romans. A field of 13 two-year-olds will take to the dirt in the 1 1/16 mile Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Saturday.
Also returning to Santa Anita in hopes of a repeat victory is trainer Ian Wilkes. He’ll send out defending Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned. Jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. will be in the saddle with hopes of grabbing his second Breeders’ Cup win. Fort Larned has had his ups and downs this year, winning only twice in five starts, both wins coming at Churchill Downs.
Lexington-based trainer Charlie LoPresti returns with defending Breeders’ Cup Mile champion and reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan. He’ll attempt to retain his crown in the Breeders’ Cup Mile in race 11 on Saturday. Although he comes in off a loss in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G2) at Keeneland, where he finished 1 ¼ lengths behind Romans’ Silver Max, it’s the only defeat since last year’s Breeders’ Cup for the six-year-old gelding.
Defending champ, Groupie Doll, will try to give trainer Buff Bradley another victory when she defends her title in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) on Saturday. Groupie Doll has not shown the brilliance she did coming into this race last year and appears the least likely of the group to grab the elusive back-to-back Breeders’ Cup win.
Kentucky Oaks winner Princess of Sylmar and Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice will take on their elders in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Distaff (G1) on Friday and the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) Saturday, respectively. Both of these young standouts have shown that they’re more than capable of competing with the big dogs.
Princess of Sylmar won the Beldame Invitational (G1) against older at Belmont Sep. 28 where she beat the reigning Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Royal Delta. Palace Malice finished second, 6 ¾ lengths behind Ron the Greek when he took on elders in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont the same day.
For fans of University of Louisville basketball, take note that Coach Rick Pitino’s RAP Racing has ownership in Cease, who will run in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon (G2), and Goldencents, who will run in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1). Both races run Friday.
The first post for the Breeders’ Cup races on Friday is 4:45 p.m. EDT and the first post for Breeders’ Cup races on Saturday is 3:05 p.m. EDT. The races can be seen on NBC Sports Network, HRTV and TVG. NBC will air the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Saturday beginning at 8:00 p.m. EDT.
Also, Churchill Downs will be hosting a viewing party of all races Friday and Saturday and has altered its own racing schedule so as not to run live races while a Breeders’ Cup race is running. First post at Churchill Downs on Friday is 2:00 p.m. EDT and 2:15 p.m. EDT on Saturday.
Photo: Courtesy Breeders' Cup