UPDATE: I've added a link to the spreadsheet with the names of the WAYI horses, as well as the potential contenders. I'll update and reference this file several times over the next couple of month as we come across information regarding potential Breeders' Cup starters.
Link: BC2011 Contenders
An additional reminder: if you want to watch race replays of the major graded stakes action, there is an NTRA video widget over on the left sidebar.
ORIGINAL POST: With the calendar moving into September, we are now a little over 60-days away from the 2011 Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs (Nov. 4th and 5th). The two month time frame means that most of this year's contenders will have one, maybe two more starts before shipping to Louisville. For horses like Stay Thirsty and Acclimation that raced this past weekend, it's likely they'll put in just one more race. (And I wouldn't be surprised to hear from one or two camps that they intend to "train up" to the Breeders' Cup.)
I've put together a file that provides a high-level take on potential entries for many of the Breeders' Cup races. I've ignored the juvenile races for the time being since that division is still highly volatile at this time of year. We could see a flashy maiden or stakes winner four weeks from the Cup that completely changes the prospective fields, so we'll worry about the juvenile races in another month.
For the non-juvenile races, I surveyed the graded stakes results on the year and simply populated the lists with some of the horses that stood out to me. These lists aren't complete or completely filtered for horses that are on the sidelines due to injury, but they are helpful in order to take a snapshot of the current Breeders' Cup landscape.
For the turf races, I'm not even attempting to predict the foreign runners that might make the trip. We know from past Breeders' Cups that several will take shots at the Turf, F&M Turf, Mile and juvenile races, but like the juvenile races, we'll have to wait until much closer to the Breeders' Cup to know what we've got.
An added element to the scheduling mix is the new British Champions Day at Ascot on October 15th. This inaugural event is likely to have a major impact on whether or not some of the European horses ship over. Instead of the five-week layoff between Arc weekend in France and the Breeders' Cup in the U.S., we now have the Arc, a two-week break to British Champions Day, followed by a three-week break to the Breeders' Cup. It's highly unlikely that any horse would attempt to run on all three of those days but it's possible that we see a two-of-three scenario.
With the formalities out of the way, let's take a look at the non-juvenile Breeders' Cup divisions and some of the standouts we've seen so far this year. (Horses that have their name underlined won a Breeders' Cup Challenge/Win And You're In race.)
Acclimation, Coil, First Dude and Tizway have won Win And You're In ("WAYI") races and have spots secured for the Classic. First Dude suffered an injury and was retired, so he's out. Acclimation is not nominated to the Breeders' Cup (and has seen his best success on Turf/Poly), so he's a question mark. Tizway is also qualified for the Dirt Mile, and Coil just finished dead last in the Travers. Not the prettiest group we've seen in recent times.
Havre de Grace is by all accounts pointing towards the Classic (and will take on the boys in the Woodward on Saturday), but Blink Luck appears to be more likely to go in the Ladies' Classic. We'll see if that holds up as we move towards November.
Uncle Mo could probably be listed in three spots, but I've got him as a Classic and Sprint contender although I highly doubt the connections would go for the Sprint, but who knows.
Shackleford, for as much as the Classic distance probably isn't his best, will likely continue down the same path.
Twirling Candy and Game On Dude will round out California's contingent. Both will likely prefer moving back to dirt, especially Game On Dude after his clunker over the Del Mar Polytrack in the Pacific Classic.
Cape Blanco (IRE) has come over from Europe and looked like the best turf horse on the continent in winning the Man o'War and the Arlington Million. Earnestly (JPN), Nathanial (IRE), and Sarafina (FR) won WAYI races outside of North America.
Gio Ponti's connections will probably opt for the Mile again this year (at least, that's what I'd do) since a mile and a half is a little more ground than he's comfortable with. Last year they looked at the Classic, and perhaps that is a possibility this year.
Bourbon Bay could be a contender for the Marathon (he won a WAYI race for that division) given his ability to get the distance, but the purse of the Turf is a much bigger prize. His connections have some options.
Acclimation makes sense in the Turf, perhaps more so than in the Classic given his preferred footing. But I'm guessing that if his owners supplement him he'll go to the Classic.
The American contingent appears to be at the mercy of the Euros (once again); horses like Celtic New Year, Winchester, and Banned are nice horses but they'll find the foreign continent to be extremely tough to overcome.
Ask the Moon, Blind Luck and Ultra Blend have spots secured through WAYI races. It would seem logical that Blind Luck would take a shot at the Classic but so far the connections appear to be on a path to the Ladies' Classic.
A lot of talent in this division: Havre de Grace (if she bypasses the Classic), It's Tricky, Royal Delta, Plum Pretty, Zazu, St. John's River, Buster's Ready, Her Smile... who knows how it will all shake out, but it looks like the Ladies' Classic will be a great betting race.
Switch and Turbulent Descent also are strong contenders to go towards the Filly & Mare Sprint, but the possibility remains that they'll try the Ladies' Classic.
R Heat Lightning is a long shot to make it back to full strength from her injury by the time the Breeders' Cup rolls around since I can't find a published work on this filly anywhere. But if she were to make it, she'd add another fascinating element to this race.
Courageous Cat, Immortal Verse (IRE), Sacred Choice (AUS), and Tres Borrachos have their tickets punched for Louisville.
Goldikova (IRE) will try for four in a row, but she'll likely face a tougher task in 2011 due to her age and the quality of her rivals. Sadly, we are unlikely to see European superstar Frankel (GB) in the U.S. this year. Hopefully that will happen in 2012. We also won't see Canford Cliffs (IRE) after he was retired following an injury sustained during his loss to Frankel at Glorious Goodwood.
Sidney's Candy, if his connections don't stick him in a race he has no business running in (like the Classic), would be a prime contender from the American contingent. He'll run in the Forego on Saturday, but I still think his best opportunity will come on the lawn.
Gio Ponti ran very well In the Mile last year and makes more sense in this spot given his distance limitations.
Caracortado has quietly put together a very nice year on the lawn out in California and has demonstrated that he's at his best when running at a mile on the grass.
Tizway qualified for the Dirt Mile when he won the Met Mile earlier this year but I'd be surprised if his connections were to go in the Dirt Mile when they can attempt a much more lucrative race in the Classic. That being said, right now I think Tizway fits into this race better than the Classic.
Awesome Gem is versatile enough that he could possibly try the Classic, but he's probably a better fit in the Dirt Mile.
The Washington-bred Noosa Beach was nominated to the Breeders' Cup for $25,000 during the open enrollment period this spring and will likely give it a shot come November.
Giant Ryan won the Smile Sprint at Calder to secure a place at the Breeders' Cup... and that's it.
How in the world are the King's Bishop and the Pat O'Brien not WAYI races? Yes, they are each seven furlongs, as opposed to the six of the Sprint. But they are two of the best sprint races on the calendar. I can't figure that one out.
How much time you got? The Sprint is one of the great Breeders' Cup races, even if I pick a winner in that race about once every ten years... okay, make it 20. Every track in the country has a horse that can scorch the track and light up the tele-timer.
The Factor has a lot of "flash" next to his name after his big performance in the O'Brien at Del Mar. He leads a very good list of contenders.
Big Drama is still an active horse (he had a work on 8/21) but he hasn't raced since winning the G3-Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream way back in mid-January. He's a severe outsider at this point.
Flashpoint bombed in the King's Bishop but he's still has the ability to run big in sprints.
Caleb's Posse was impressive in running down Uncle Mo last Saturday.
Black Caviar (AUS) and Margot Did (IRE) won WAYI races in Europe and Australia to qualify for the Turf Sprint. In truth, the North American turf sprinters are usually a step or two above their international counterparts, especially the European ones that run over completely different turf courses than here in North America.
UPDATED: I should add, I don't expect very many European sprinters to take a shot at the Breeders' Cup this year. Between the Prix de l'Abbaye on Arc weekend, and the British Champions Day Sprint, there isn't going to be a whole lot left to come over the Kentucky in November.
Bridgetown, Chamberlain Bridge, Amazombie, Euroears... any of those could be major players in this race come November. Smiling Tiger will probably keep sprinting on dirt (and I'm not sure the five furlongs would really fit him), but he'd be an interesting turf sprint prospect given his proficiency on synthetics.
Hilda's Passion and Irish Gypsy locked up spots in the starting gate but the rest of the division is really wide open.
Turbulent Descent and Switch probably fit better with the female sprinters, as opposed to the Ladies' Classic. My guess is that one of these two will end up here (probably Turbulent Descent), while the other tries to go longer.
Hot Summer scored a nice win at Saratoga last Saturday but we'll have to see how the form of that race holds up in the coming weeks; that field crawled home (even by Saratoga standards).
Misty For Me (IRE) and Beverly D. winner Stacelita (FR) are the two WAYI horses at this point. Stacelita has taken to North American racing in excellent fashion since shipping over from Europe and would likely have won the United Nations if not for a poor ride during that race.
French shippers Zagora (FR) and Aruna have been consistent and impressive since coming to the U.S.
Dubawi Heights (GB) was a good 2nd to Stacelita in the Beverly D. following wins at Hollywood in the Gamely and Wilshire.
Winter Memories flopped over a wet Saratoga turf course in the Lake Placid. Even if she gets back on track I'm not too sure how she'll fit into this group given the distance of this race and the fact she's never been tested past nine furlongs.
Mr. Nedawi (BRZ), A. U. Miner, Bourbon Bay won WAYI races, although A. U. Miner's win is apparently under investigation.
Who knows? Usually the Marathon contenders emerge from any of the following three groups:
-Classic contenders that don't measure up and need more ground than the Dirt Mile.
-Turf contenders that don't measure up but are also not cut out for the Turf Mile.
-European distance specialists that will attempt to switch from turf or synthetic to run on dirt for the Marathon.