A total of 180 horses, including eight defending or former Breeders’ Cup champions, were pre-entered for the 2012 Breeders’ Cup World Championships, it was announced on Wednesday.
Led by multiple Grade 1 winner Game On Dude, defending Ladies’ Classic champion Royal Delta, dominating turf stars Wise Dan and Point of Entry, and 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, this year’s Breeders’ Cup promises to be one of the most competitive renewals in recent memory.
The 29th Breeders’ Cup World Championships, Thoroughbred racing’s most prestigious global event, consisting of 15 races and purses totaling more than $25 million over the two days, will be held at Santa Anita Park for the sixth time on Friday, Nov. 2 and Saturday, Nov. 3. There will be six Breeders’ Cup races on Championship Friday and nine Breeders’ Cup races on Championship Saturday.
The Breeders’ Cup will be televised live by the NBC Sports Network and NBC. For the first time, the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic will be televised live and in primetime on NBC (8-9 p.m. ET).
The Breeders’ Cup Classic, the climactic event of the Championships, will be run on the main track at 1 ¼ miles. Since the event’s inception in 1984, 11 winners of the Classic have been voted Thoroughbred racing’s Horse of the Year, and this year, several horses could lay claim to that title with a Classic victory. This Classic is led by Diamond Pride, Lanni Family Trust, Mercedes Stable and Bernie Schiappa’s 5-year-old Game On Dude, trained by Bob Baffert. In 2011, Game on Dude held the lead into deep stretch in the Classic at Churchill Downs, only to be overtaken in the final yards by 15-1 Drosselmeyer.
This year, Game On Dude has returned to win four races in six starts, including the Californian, the Hollywood Gold Cup and most recently the Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita Park, where he has won all five of his career starts. Baffert, has won eight Breeders’ Cup races in his Hall of Fame career, but has yet to win the Classic.
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott won last year’s Classic with Drosselmeyer. Mott, who also trained 1995 Classic winner Cigar, has pre-entered four horses for this year’s race: Ron the Greek, Flat Out and To Honor and Serve. Royal Delta has been pre-entered as a second choice Brous Stable and Wachtel Stable’s 5-year-old Ron the Greek, was the division leader during the first half of 2012 with wins in the Santa Anita Handicap in March and the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs. Preston Stable’s Flat Out, who earned an automatic berth into the Classic with a win in Belmont Park’s September 29 Jockey Club Gold Cup through the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series, was fifth in last year’s Classic, when trained by Scooter Dickey. To Honor and Serve, a winner of 8 of 16 lifetime starts, won the Woodward Stakes in Saratoga in September.
Janis Whitham’s homebred Fort Larned earned an automatic Classic berth in Saratoga’s Whitney in August and will look to build off his third-place run in the Gold Cup. Ian Wilkes trains the 4-year-old son of E Dubai, who is 7-for-18 lifetime and also owns wins in Gulfstream Park’s Skip Away in March and the Prairie Meadows’ Cornhusker in June. Reeves Thoroughbred Racing’s Mucho Macho Man, who won Belmont’s Suburban in July and was beaten a neck by To Honor In Serve in the Woodward for trainer Kathy Ritvo; Will Farish Jr.’s Pool Play, perfect in two starts over conventional dirt, with wins in the Hawthorne Gold Cup on Oct. 6 and last year’s Foster; Triple B Farm’s Richard’s Kid, third in the Awesome Again, and 2011 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes winner Brilliant Speed, would also deserve Classic consideration.
Since the retirement of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another in June, the 3-year-olds have taking turns beating each other and will bring a mixed bunch to the Classic. Godolphin Racing’s Alpha is the most accomplished, having won 4-of-7 this year for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, including dead heating for the win in the Travers. Donegal Racing’s Dullahan beat Game On Dude in track record time in Del Mar’s “Win and You’re In” Pacific Classic in August. The son of Even the Score has been a synthetic specialist and won Keeneland’s Blue Grass (GI) in April but did finish third in the Derby for trainer Dale Romans. Paul Reddam’s Handsome Mike, who upset the Pennsylvania Derby for his second career win for trainer Doug O’Neill, has also been pre-entered.