Led by the sensational mares Zenyatta and Goldikova, both of whom will be seeking unprecedented third victories in the Breeders' Cup, a total of 184 horses were announced on Wednesday as the pre-entries for the 27th Breeders' Cup, a 14-race, $26 million extravaganza to be held Nov. 5-6 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.
Blind Luck, this year's winner of the Kentucky Oaks, has been pre-entered in the Ladies' Classic, and Mine That Bird, the upset winner of the 2009 Kentucky Derby, is in the Dirt Mile.
In addition to Goldikova, the most prominent international entrant is Workforce, the winner of the Arc de Triomphe, who will race in the Turf.
Though officially announced on Wednesday, pre-entries had to be submitted by Monday, and the 184 pre-entries were announced on Tuesday as a record. On Monday, horses could be put into two races. Eighteen horses were so designated, bringing the total number of entries in the 14 races to 202. Most prominent among those cross-entered is Gio Ponti, who was placed in both the Classic and the Mile, with the Classic being listed as his first choice.
Gio Ponti, a double Eclipse Award winner last year following a second-place finish in the Classic and a turf victory in the Arlington Million, has never raced on natural dirt, so the Classic would mark his first start on that surface in a career that thus far has numbered 22 races. The Classic was run on the synthetic Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita the previous two years.
Final entries are due next Tuesday, and post positions will be drawn.
Of the 14 races, six received more pre-entries than can actually start. In those cases, the field is determined first by horses who have captured respective Win and You're In races during the year, then by points earned in graded stakes races, and finally by an international committee of racing officials, which fills out the remaining slots and puts the overflow horses on an also-eligible list, in order of preference.
In the Classic, for instance, 16 horses were pre-entered, but only 14 will be allowed to run. No more than 14 are expected to seek starting berths in the race at entry time next Tuesday, though, because both Crown of Thorns and Dakota Phone are expected to go in the race currently designated as their first choice, the Dirt Mile.
In races that are still oversubscribed at the final entry stage, two also-eligibles will be drawn and listed on the program in the case of late scratches.
The Classic will anchor the second day of competition. Preceding it that day will be, in order, the Juvenile Turf, Sprint, Turf Sprint, Juvenile, Mile, Dirt Mile, and Turf. On Nov. 5, the Ladies' Classic will be the last of six Breeders' Cup races, following, in order, the Marathon, Juvenile Fillies Turf, Filly and Mare Sprint, Juvenile Fillies, and Filly and Mare Turf.
The 1 1/4-mile Classic, at $5 million the richest Breeders' Cup race, has an outstanding field featuring the leading contenders for Horse of the Year, including Zenyatta, older stars Blame, Quality Road, and Haynesfield, and Lookin at Lucky, last year's male 2-year-old champion and this year's top 3-year-old male following victories in the Preakness and Haskell. International spice is provided by Japanese invader Espoir City. And while the connections of Gio Ponti mull over which race to go in, another grass standout, Paddy O'Prado, will go in the Classic, his chances boosted by a third-place finish over this surface in the Kentucky Derby six months ago.
Paddy O'Prado also was pre-entered in the Turf, and Morning Line also was pre-entered in the Dirt Mile, but the connections of both horses have said the Classic, their first choice at the pre-entry stage, is their intention.
If Gio Ponti goes in the Classic, he will need a new rider, because his regular rider, Ramon Dominguez, rides Haynesfield in that race.
The Classic field, including riders, is Blame (Garrett Gomez), Espoir City (Tetsuzo Sato), Etched (Alan Garcia), First Dude (Robby Albarado), Fly Down (Julien Leparoux), Haynesfield (Dominguez), Lookin at Lucky (Martin Garcia), Morning Line (Javier Castellano), Musket Man (Eibar Coa), Paddy O'Prado (Kent Desormeaux), Pleasant Prince (Joel Rosario), Quality Road (John Velazquez), and Zenyatta (Mike Smith). There is no rider yet for Gio Ponti. And both Crown of Thorns and Dakota Phone are expected to defect for the Dirt Mile.
This will be the seventh Breeders' Cup held at Churchill Downs, which will also play host to the event in 2011.