Led by an international cast that includes Game On Dude, defending Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned, European stars Declaration of War and The Fugue, 162 horses (one also-eligible), including 16 European-trained runners, were entered Monday for the 30th Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park to be run Friday and Saturday, Nov. 1-2.
Thoroughbred racing’s most prestigious global event with 71 Grade or Group I winners among those entered, the Breeders’ Cup consists of 14 races worth a total of $27 million in purses and awards, and will be run at Santa Anita for the seventh time with five races Friday and nine Saturday to be televised on NBC Sports network and NBC.
Janis Whitham’s Fort Larned and Reeves Thoroughbreds’ Mucho Macho Man finished one-two in the 2012 edition of the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita with Diamond Pride LLC and Lanni Family Trust’s Game On Dude a disappointing seventh as the favorite. The trio leads the talented field of 12 drawn for Saturday’s renewal of the 1¼ miles test over the same track and distance.
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith has ridden Game On Dude to victory in four of his five starts this year and will be back aboard Saturday as the 8-5 morning line favorite breaking from post 9. The 6-year-old gelded son of 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic Awesome Again with earnings of $5.6 million was never more impressive than winning the Pacific Classic by 8½ lengths at Del Mar last out Aug. 25 with Martin Garcia filling in for Smith as he traveled to New York that day for the mount on champion Royal Delta at Saratoga.
Fort Larned and Mucho Macho Man also were very impressive in their final Classic tune-ups with Fort Larned capturing the Homecoming Classic at Churchill Downs for trainer Ian Wilkes and ‘Macho Man’ a 4¼-length score in the Awesome Again Stakes over the Santa Anita track for trainer Kathy Ritvo. Fort Larned breaks from post 7 under regular jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. and Hall of Fame veteran Gary Stevens will be aboard Mucho Macho Man for the second time leaving the gate from post 6 as the 5-1 second choice.
Other leading contenders include Dogwood Stable’s 3-year-old Belmont Stakes hero Palace Malice prominent among trainer Todd Pletcher’s team of eight Breeders’ Cup runners with jockey John Velazquez. Mrs. John Magnier’s 4-year-old Irish-trained challenger Declaration of War leads trainer Aidan O’Brien’s Coolmore team and Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott has the veteran duo of Preston Stable’s 7-year-old Flat Out and Brous Stable and partners’ 6-year-old Ron the Greek, third and fourth in the Classic last year, respectively.
Mott sends out Besilu Stable’s 5-year-old mare Royal Delta to highlight Friday’s card as she bids for a “three-peat” in the $2 million Distaff (known as Ladies’ Classic in 2011-12) in a field of six. Mott also saddles Juddmonte Farm’s 3-year-old Close Hatches in the 1 1/8 miles test. Mike Smith will take his regular seat on Royal Delta, the 8-5 morning line favorite, as she bids to reverse the result of a runner-up finish behind King of Prussia Stable’s 3-year-old filly Princess of Sylmar in the Beldame Stakes last out at Belmont Park on Sept. 20.
Pletcher guided Princess of Sylmar to six wins from seven starts this year, including the Kentucky Oaks and Alabama Stakes prior to the Beldame. Javier Castallano rides the daughter of Majestic Warrior as the 9-5 second choice while Pletcher also will be represented by Padua Stable’s 6-year-old mare Authenticty in the race with strong credentials of her own.
Priscilla Vaccarezza’s 6-year-old gelding Little Mike is also among the eight 2012 Breeders’ Cup champions defending their titles as he breaks from post 4 with jockey Mike Smith in the saddle in a field of 12 drawn for the $3 million Turf on Saturday run at 1 ½ miles. Trained by Dale Romans, the son of Spanish Steps posted a 17-to-1 upset in the race last year over Phipps Stable’s favored Point of Entry. Little Mike looked good winning the Turf Classic at Belmont last out for his first victory in five starts since the Breeders’ Cup, including two sub-par races in Dubai to begin the season.
Trainer Chad Brown has two top contenders in the Turf in Kennet and Sarah Ramsey’s pair of 5-year-old Big Blue Kitten, beaten nose last out by Little Mike in the Turf Classic with a head-bob, and 4-year-old Real Solution, third, beaten only a length for it all in the Turf Classic after winning the Arlington Million (on disqualification) with Little Mike sixth. Both of the Ramseys’ stars are by his leading North American stallion Kitten’s Joy. Jockey Joe Bravo retains the mount on Big Blue Kitten and Javier Castellano will ride Real Solution.
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey brings back 5-year-old Point of Entry in the Turf in his first start since the homebred son of Dynaformer won the Manhattan Handicap on Belmont Day, June 8, emerging from the victory with a condylar fracture in his left hind cannon bone. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez was his regular rider before he went to the sidelines and will be back aboard Saturday. They fell a half-length short of catching Little Mike in the Turf last year.
European-trained runners have had major success in the Turf over the years and a trio of contenders entered is led by Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s 4-year-old English-bred filly The Fugue to be ridden by regular partner William Buick for trainer John Gosden. The daughter of Dansili finished third in the Filly & Mare Turf over the course last year and comes here this season after scores in the Yorkshire Oaks and Irish Champion Stakes, the latter against colts.
Another high point of the Saturday card will be the return of Morton Fink’s 6-year-old gelding Wise Dan in defense of his stunning tally in last year’s $2 million Mile, a performance that sealed his Horse of the Year campaign. Jockey John Velazquez has ridden the son of Wiseman’s Ferry to victory in three of his last four starts this year and retains the mount Saturday as they break from post 8 as the even-money morning line favorite in the field of 10.
Trained by Charles LoPresti, Wise Dan had won nine straight races, all turf course stakes going back to summer of 2012, until being upset last out when second behind Mark Bacon and Dana Wells’ 4-year-old Silver Max after the Shadwell ‘Turf’ Mile at Keeneland was forced off grass and run on the Polytrack surface at 1 1/16 miles.
A son of Badge of Silver trained by Dale Romans, Silver Max went into the Shadwell after victories in the Oceanport Stakes at Monmouth Park and Bernard Baruch at Saratoga. Winner of the Virginia Derby among five turf stakes last year, Silver Max will have regular rider Robby Albarado in the saddle as they break from post 3.
Also back from last year’s renewal of the Mile will be Anthony Fanicola and Joseph Scardino’s 5-year-old gelding Obviously with jockey Joe Talamo aboard for trainer Mike Mitchell. The Irish-bred son of Choisir led the field past the furlong marker last year before giving way late, beaten only two lengths for it all by Wise Dan with 2011 Kentucky Derby hero Animal Kingdom between them in second.
Sheik Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani’s 3-year-old Irish-bred Olympic Glory and Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith’s Cristoforo Columbo represent Europe in the Mile. Another son of Choisor trained by Richard Hannon, Olympic Glory won the British Champions Mile at Ascot last out on Oct. 19 after solid runner-up efforts in the Prix du Moulin at Longchamp and Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville.
The European team also will be well represented in Saturday’s $2 million Filly & Mare Turf with James Wigan’s 4-year-old English-bred filly Dank leading the way after already winning a major prize in the U.S this year in the Beverly D. at Arlington International Racecourse last out on Aug. 17 for trainer Michael Stoute. Jockey Ryan Moore will be back aboard the daughter of Dansili in the 1 ¼ miles test breaking from post 1 in the field of 10.
The most fancied American-trained hopes include Richard Santulli’s 5-year-old Irish-bred mare Laughing riding a four race win streak, including the Flower Bowl Invitational last out at Belmont for trainer Alan Goldberg; Pamela Ziebarth’s Tiz Flirtatious and Glen Hill Farm’s Marketing Mix, 5-year-olds that finished one-two last out in the Rodeo Drive Stakes over the Santa Anita course and distance on Sept. 28. A daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, Marketing Mix finished second in the Filly & Mare Turf last year for trainer Tom Proctor, beaten less than a length by Zagora.
Trainer Chad Brown’s sends out an accomplished duo of the Ramseys’ Kitten’s Dumplings and Martin Schwartz’s French-bred Alterite, 3-year-olds that finished one-two last out in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland on Oct. 12. The Schwartz-Brown team won the race last year with Zagora.
Two other returning 2012 Breeders’ Cup champion s defending their titles Saturday will be Fred and William (Buff) Bradley’s 5-year-old homebred mare Groupie Doll in the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint and Sherry Racing’s 4-year-old Trinniberg in the $1.5 million Xpressbet Sprint, both acclaimed Eclipse champions for the season.
Groupie Doll was installed the 5-2 favorite in the field of 12 drawn for the race with regular partner Rajiv Maragh aboard for trainer Buff Bradley and Maragh also rides Trinniberg for trainer Bisnath Parboo in a field of 12 in the Sprint as an 8-1 outsider as he bids to bounce back from a subpar prep when last of seven in the Santa Anita Sprint here on Oct. 4
Good Friends Stable’s Private Zone was made the 3-1 morning line favorite for the wide-open Sprint breaking from post 7.
Also on Friday, Jim Rome’s Mizdirection returns to defend her title in the $1 million Geico Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. The daughter of Mizzen Mast was installed as the 4-to-1 morning line favorite in the field of 14.