Now that the pre-entries are out, we finally have a good idea of what the 2011 Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs is going to look like in a little over a week. All in all, it was another good year for drawing horses to the event, especially in the juvenile races.
The Post position draw will take place on Monday, Oct. 31st, at which time all entries must chose their final race preferences.
Below are some thoughts on this year's pre-entries:
- Gio Ponti has first preference for the Classic, not the Mile. Goldikova's quest becomes a lot easier if Gio Ponti is in the Classic.
- Not much from the Europeans for the Mile; Strong Suit, Byword (GB), and Zoffany (IRE) represent an extremely "slimmed down" European challenge. Goldikova (IRE) hasn't been at her best in 2011, but she's still good enough to beat this field.
- The inaugural running of the Juvenile Sprint drew 12 horses, with two cross-entries.
The impressive Hansen was cross-entered in the Juvenile but was somewhat surprisingly not entered in the Juvenile Turf. I thought that might be an option given his performance on Polytrack (although recent history suggests it was a good move to not enter the Juv. Turf).
Hansen is one of the more interesting Juvenile contenders due to the surface and class questions. Because his two blowouts came at Turfway, there will probably be a tendency for many people to ignore him at the windows. But at the same time, it's not easy to win back-to-back races by 12+ lengths, especially on Polytrack surfaces that tend to bunch up at the finish. He's clearly a quality colt.
We haven't seen Hansen work over the main track at Churchill, but I hope he does in the next week.
- It's tough not to like the looks of Bob Baffert's Sweet Circle in the Juvenile Sprint. The son of Eddington has looked very impressive in his two wins at Del Mar and Santa Anita.
- The juvenile route races have, once again, overflowed with entries. While I agree with many of those that think we probably only need on juvenile race on the turf, it's tougher to argue that point when we see all four of these races filled to the brim each and every year.
The Juvenile Fillies Turf drew 22 pre-entries
The Juvenile Fillies drew 18 pre-entries
The Juvenile Turf drew 20 pre-entries
The Juvenile drew 16 pre-entries
All of the juvenile races, including the new Juvenile Sprint, look like they will be very nice betting races. Maybe not from a win perspective (the two dirt races tend to produce lower priced winners than other Breeders' Cup races), but the exotics should be quite enticing.
- On the flip side of the equation is the Breeders' Cup Turf, which drew only 11 pre-entries and had its traditional place as the last race before the Classic taken away. The decision to move the Turf down on the list, and elevate the Mile and the Juvenile to the last two races before the Classic, is absolutely correct (in my humble opinion). The Turf just isn't drawing the competition like the other races.
The Turf will now start the late Pick 4.
- The Sprint, which has seen a host of defections in recent weeks, also drew only 11 horses, with three of those having first preferences in the Dirt Mile (Caleb's Posse, Jackson Bend, and The Factor). If all three of those go in the Dirt Mile, we could see just 8 horses in the final field, a number that would match 2008 as the smallest Sprint field in Breeders' Cup history.
I find the lack of Sprint entries pretty interesting. The initial thought when the Dirt Mile was introduced was that it would be a catch-all for horses that couldn't make the cut for the Classic. But instead, at least in 2011, the Dirt Mile is drawing horses away from what has traditionally been a race with max fields, the Sprint.
- The Filly and Mare Turf came up loaded with quality horses but is likely to see two of the best - Midday (GB) and Sarafina (FR) - contest the Turf. Stacelita (FR), however, did not cross-enter into the Turf.
- Ice Box is currently on the outside of the Classic field but will likely draw into the race since Await the Dawn has first preference in the Turf. We haven't seen much from Ice Box in a long, long, long time, so I'm not sure how much of an impact, if any, he'll have on the Classic. Perhaps returning to Churchill Downs, where he ran well in the 2010 Kentucky Derby, will wake him up.