War Emblem gets chance to retire in Classic style
NEW YORK - War Emblem has a chance to retire in Classic style -- with a victory in the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic at the World Thoroughbred Championships.
The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner will take on 13 rivals in the BC Classic at Arlington Park on Oct. 26, including Pacific Classic winner Came Home and Travers Stakes winner Medaglia d'Oro.
"He looks fantastic, he's put on some weight and everything's good,'' War Emblem's trainer Bob Baffert said Thursday. "I think he'll show up.''
The 3-year-old War Emblem was sold for $17 million last month, and will be shipped to Japan after the Classic to stand at stud. Fittingly, his last stop comes at the same track where his career first started -- with a win Oct. 4, 2001.
A total of 104 horses were pre-entered Thursday for eight Breeders' Cup races that usually determine divisional champions and Horse of the Year. Official entries and post positions will be drawn Wednesday.
The 1 1/4-mile Classic has a full field of 14 -- seven 3-year-olds and seven older horses. Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Evening Attire leads the older-horse contingent.
European star Rock of Gibraltar was pre-entered for the Classic but is likely to run in the BC Mile, a distance at which he's unbeaten in five starts this year.
Rock of Gibraltar was one of nine horses cross-entered, but trainer Aidan O'Brien has until Wednesday to make a final decision. The trainer also pre-entered Hawk Wing in both races.
"It's possible the two would line up in the Classic,'' O'Brien said. "But for Rock of Gibraltar, it would be going into unknown territory.'' Rock of Gibraltar has never raced farther than a mile.
Medaglia d'Oro, trained by Bobby Frankel, is the Daily Racing Form's early 4-1 favorite, with Came Home at 5-1. War Emblem and Evening Attire are 6-1.
While Baffert bids farewell to War Emblem, the trainer hopes his baby brigade will produce a top Kentucky Derby contender for 2003.
In the 1 1-8-mile BC Juvenile, Baffert sends out undefeated Vindication -- the 7-2 favorite -- plus Kafwain and Bull Market, the 1-2 finishers in the Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita on Oct. 5. The field of 14 also features undefeated Sky Mesa, Champagne Stakes winner Toccet and a pair of Patrick Biancone colts -- Whywhywhy and Zavata.
In the 1 1-8-mile BC Juvenile Fillies, Baffert will go with Atlantic Ocean, Composure and Santa Catarina. The field of 12 also includes unbeaten Storm Flag Flying, the even-money favorite coming off a win in the Frizette at Belmont on Oct. 5. Santa Catarina is 5-1, and Composure 6-1.
Baffert and Frankel dominate the American entries with seven apiece, while O'Brien pre-entered 10 horses. Europe will send as many as 23 horses to the Breeders' Cup.
Frankel is 1-for-42 in Breeders' Cup races _ Squirtle Squirt won the Sprint last year, and Baffert is 2-for-29, his last win coming in the Juvenile Fillies with Silverbulletday.
While Baffert is loaded with 2-year-olds, Frankel has a more diverse group, with Medaglia d'Oro and Milwaukee Brew in the Classic, Aldebaran and Beat Hollow in the Mile, Banks Hill and Starine in the Filly & Mare Turf, and Denon in the Turf.
Azeri, the top-rated filly in the World Thoroughbred rankings, heads an eight-horse field for the 1 1-8-mile Distaff in what shapes up as one of the most competitive races on the card. Azeri is the 7-5 favorite over Take Charge Lady, listed at 3-1.
A winner in seven of her eight starts this year, the 4-year-old filly will also face Kentucky Oaks and Alabama Stakes winner Farda Amiga, and Gazelle and Beldame winner Imperial Gesture.
Rock of Gibraltar is the 8-5 favorite in the Mile, with Hawk Wing at 5-1. Beat Hollow and another O'Brien entry, Landseer, were also pre-entered. Both are 8-1.
In the Sprint, the talented filly Xtra Heat, a winner in 24 of 31 career starts, heads a 14-horse field that includes Orientate, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, and Kalookan Queen and Kona Gold, both trained by Bruce Headley.
Orientate is the 2-1 favorite, with Xtra Heat at 5-1, and Swept Overboard at 6-1. Xtra Heat was second in last year's Sprint.
In the 1 1/4-mile Filly & Mare Turf, defending champion Banks Hill takes on 13 challengers, including 7-2 favorite Golden Apples, Islington and Kazzia. Banks Hill is the second choice at 4-1.
A field of nine was pre-entered for the 1 1/2-mile Turf, led by 2-1 favorite High Chaparral and 3-1 second choice Golan. High Chaparral won six in row before being sidelined for three months with a cough. He was third in the Prix de Arc de Triomphe on Oct. 6, his first start since the layoff. Also in the field is 7-year-old gelding With Anticipation, sixth behind Denon in the Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont last month.