The Breeders' Cup unveiled its pre-entrants for the 31st annual World Championships the morning of Oct. 22 at Santa Anita Park, with 201 horses named for the 13-race festival Friday and Saturday, Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.
A face-off between undefeated Shared Belief and dual classic winner California Chrome will anchor this year's event in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic. The race will include fellow 3-year-old standouts Tonalist and Bayern.
The pre-entrants include 37 individual winners from the Breeders' Cup "Win & You're In" Challenge series races and 38 overseas stars. Among the horses named to the first stage are returning winners Goldencents (Mile), Ria Antonia (Distaff), Dank (Filly & Mare Turf), Secret Circle (Xpressbet Sprint), and Magician (Longines Turf).
Disappointingly, this year's World Championships will not include two-time Breeders' Cup winners Wise Dan and Beholder due to ailments.
Final entries are due Monday, Oct. 27, with the post-position selection draw for the 2014 Breeders' Cup set for Wednesday, Oct. 29. The Breeders' Cup will be televised live by NBCSN and NBC, with the Breeders' Cup Classic to be broadcast live and in prime time Nov. 1 on NBC from 8-9 p.m. EDT.
The Breeders' Cup Classic will be run on the main track at 1-1/4 miles. An oversubscribed field of 15 horses has been pre-entered.
Since the event's inception in 1984, 11 winners of the Classic have been voted Thoroughbred racing's Horse of the Year, and with California Chrome and Shared Belief leading the way, this year's race could produce No.12.
Steve Coburn and Perry Martin's California Chrome took the sports world by storm this year with rousing victories in Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby, and Preakness Stakes for trainer Art Sherman. The California-bred son of Lucky Pulpit ran fourth in his bid to become racing's 12th Triple Crown winner in the 1-1/2-mile Belmont Stakes, and returned to the races in the mile Pennsylvania Derby Sept. 20, finishing sixth behind Bayern.
While California Chrome dominated racing during the first half of 2014, Shared Belief has been the big horse during the second half.
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, Jungle Racing, Alex Solis II, George Todaro, and Jason Litt's Shared Belief was an easy choice for 2-year-old champion in 2013 as he went undefeated and untested in three starts, which culminated in a 5-3/4-length win in the CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park in December. The son of Candy Ride missed the Triple Crown season with lingering foot issues but quickly rose to the forefront of his division off victories in a pair of Grade 1 "Win and You're In" races for the Classic over older horses: the TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar in August and Santa Anita's Awesome Again Stakes Sept. 27.
With the Breeders' Cup's all-time winning rider Mike Smith aboard, Shared Belief will put his perfect 7-for-7 record on the line in the Classic and would be odds-on to win Horse of the Year, as well as the 3-year-old championship, with a win.
Robert Evans' Tonalist, trained by Christophe Clement, has built an impressive resume of his own and would warrant a long look for both titles with a Classic win. The son of Tapit didn't break his maiden until January at Gulfstream Park but gained national attention when he upset California Chrome in the Belmont, then secured an automatic berth into the Classic when he beat older horses in the Jockey Club Gold Cup Sept. 27.
Also prominent in the BC Classic is Kaleem Shah's front-running Bayern, dominant victor in the William Hill Haskell in July and in the Pennsylvania Derby for trainer Bob Baffert. The son of Offlee Wild will try to extend his high cruising speed to 1-1/4 miles in the Classic.
Trainer Jimmy Jerkens pre-entered Travers Stakes winner V. E. Day for owner Magalen Bryant, and the son of 2007 Breeders' Cup Turf winner English Channel should relish the 1-1/4 mile distance. The remaining group of 3-year-olds pre-entered for the Classic includes C R K Stable's Candy Boy, third in the Pennsylvania Derby for John Sadler; and Toast of New York, who was second to Shared Belief in the Pacific Classic. Toast of New York won the UAE Derby in Dubai in the spring for Jamie Osborne.
The Classic has been won by older horses in 10 of the past 12 runnings, with Curlin in 2007 and Raven's Pass in 2008 being the only 3-year-olds to win in that stretch. Southern Equine Stable's 4-year-old Moreno, a son of 2004 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Ghostzapper who won the Whitney in August for trainer Eric Guillot, and Gallant Stable's Majestic Harbor, who rolled to victory in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita in June for trainer Sean McCarthy, lead the older horses pre-entered in the BC Classic.
Friday's headline event is the $2 million Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff at 1-1/8 miles for fillies and mares. Juddmonte Farms' Close Hatches was the undisputed divisional leader off a 4-for-4 record this year for trainer Bill Mott but will need to rebound from a fourth-place finish at 1-5 in the Juddmonte Spinster at Keeneland Oct. 5. The 4-year-old daughter of First Defence was second to Beholder in last year's Distaff.
The undisputed queen of the 3-year-old fillies is Ron Winchell's homebred Untapable, who has dominated her rivals in all five starts against her peers this season for trainer Steve Asmussen. The daughter of Tapit won her first four starts of the year, including the Longines Kentucky Oaks in May and the Mother Goose in June, but then was a disappointing fifth when favored in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in July.
Untapable rebounded with a win in the Cotillion Stakes Sept. 20 at Parx Racing and will put her 7-for-10 career record on the line when she tests older fillies and mares for the first time in the Distaff.
While the Classic and Distaff figure to have deserving and identifiable favorites, the $3 million Longines Breeders' Cup Turf and $2 million Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf are shaping up as deep and wide-open affairs.
The Turf, run at 1-1/2 miles, is led by Flaxman Holdings' homebred Main Sequence, who has done little wrong in winning all three U.S. starts in Grade 1 company for trainer Graham Motion. The 5-year-old son of Aldebaran is 7-for-17 lifetime in a career that started in Europe and has had a nose for the finish line in his three starts this year, as all three wins have come in photo finishes.
Coolmore's defending Turf champion Magician will also attract support for Aidan O'Brien. The 4-year-old son of Galileo has won just once this year, but has been second in three top-level races, including the Arlington Million. In addition to Magician, Europe figures to send formidable foes in Juddmonte Farms' homebred Flintshire, second to Treve in the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe; Andrew Black and Owens Promotion's Brown Panther, winner of the Irish St. Leger Sept. 14, and Highclere Thoroughbred Racing's Telescope, for trainer Michael Stoute, a four-time winner of the Turf.
The Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, run at 1-1/4 miles, is led by Ken and Sarah Ramsey's homebred Stephanie's Kitten, who could be the favorite off her sharp win in the "Win and You're In" Flower Bowl at Belmont Sept. 27 for trainer Chad Brown. Stern competition should come from Fiesolana, who earned an automatic Filly & Mare Turf bid with her win in Leopardstown's Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron in September for trainer Willie McCreery and the Niarchos Family, and defending champion Dank, who has started just twice this year, most recently a fifth-place finish in Prince of Wales at Royal Ascot.
Wise Dan's defection from the $2 million Breeders' Cup Mile has opened up the race considerably as 25 horses were pre-entered. The Europeans are led by Al Shaqab Racing's Toronado, who won the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot for trainer Richard Hannon. The 4-year-old son of two-time Breeders' Cup Turf winner High Chaparral lost the Prix de Moulin de Longchamp by just a head in his most recent start Sept. 14.
Qatar Racing's Trade Storm, who won the Ricoh Woodbine Mile Sept. 14 for David Simcock, has been pre-entered, as has Wertheimer et Frere's Anodin, a full-brother to three-time Mile winner Goldikova.
For further information on the horses pre-entered in other Breeders' Cup races, please see our coverage on BloodHorse.com.
A maximum of 14 starters are allowed in each of the 13 Breeders' Cup World Championships races with the exception of the Dirt Mile, which is limited to 12. Breeders' Cup has adopted a field selection system for fields that are oversubscribed. It ranks horses in order of preference based first on Breeders' Cup Challenge race winners, then a point system, and then the judgment of a panel of racing experts.
The field selection system was implemented following the taking of pre-entries Oct. 20 to officially rank the oversubscribed fields. The panel of racing secretaries and directors ranked all horses pre-entered in those races. After pre-entry, any vacancies in the fields will be filled by horses in order of panel preference.
Scratch time Oct. 31 for all championships races is at 8 a.m. PDT.