It is time for the questions to be answered, as 15 horses -- seven of them 3-year-olds -- have been entered for the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park, with Horse of the Year and the 3-year-old male and older male championships up for grabs.
The 9-5 morning line favorite Shared Belief, last year's champion 2-year-old male, is one of four sophomores who control their own destiny in the voting for Horse of the Year honors. It has been pretty well accepted that if Shared Belief, California Chrome, Tonalist or Bayern win the Classic ,they will have nailed down the top honor, especially with defending two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan on the sideline. A Travers Stakes Breeders' Cup Classic double could even put V. E. Day in the picture, depending on how the other 3-year-olds fare.
With Mike Smith aboard, Shared Belief will break from the 6 post."I hope he gets away a little better than in the Pacific Classic and can get a good position into the first turn and then work out a trip from there," Smith said.
BREEDERS' CUP CLASSIC DRAW
Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum Brands winner California Chrome is the 4-1 second choice from the 13 post, so there are no worries about him getting stuck on the inside. With the starting gate limited to 14, Argentine-bred Big Cazanova is on the also-eligible list.
"I love his post poisition," trainer Art Sherman said of the Derby winner. "We won't have to be anchored down there this time. I just want to see him in contention turning for home and we'll see who's best."
Another big question is the pace scenario, with the one-dimensional Bayern and Moreno both expected to rocket to the lead, which should result in some torrid fractions. Moreno drew post 4, while Bayern will be outside him in post 7. If there is a defection, then you can add speedster Big Cazanova to the mix, heating up the pace even more. Of course, if one of these horses should happen to get loose on the lead for whatever reason, he is going to be extremely tough to catch.
The older horse division, which has been depleted by the retirement or defections of Mucho Macho Man, Game On Dude, Palace Malice and Will Take Charge, is pretty much in turmoil, with the Eclipse Award totally up in the air. Palace Malice, by virtue of his earlier triumphs, still looks to be the one to catch, but cases can be made for Moreno and Zivo. Even in-and-outers Majestic Harbor and Imperative would be in the discussion, although none of the older horses in the Classic, with the exception of Moreno, boasts a championship résumé. The older horses bookend the field, with Prayer For Relief breaking from post 1 and Majestic Harbor on the far outside in post 14.
What makes this year's Classic even more perplexing and unusual is that the two big headliners, Shared Belief and California Chrome, have done all their serious training at Golden Gate Fields and Los Alamitos, respectively, while Tonalist, Zivo, V.E. Day and Cigar Street did all their training in New York. Another starter, Toast of New York, trained in England and was making his third trip to the United States this year and second to California.