I don't know if there is a day I look forward to as much as pre-entry day for the Breeders' Cup. The Derby and the Derby draw are great events and certainly one of the great times of the year, but the day we find out the pre-entries for all of the Breeders' Cup divisions I feel like a kid at Christmas - I can't wait to open up the past performances to see what I'm going to find. Even if all the of entries are about what I was expecting them to be, there's still a rush knowing that there's a week and a half to go before the Cup and it's time to start getting serious from a handicapping perspective.
Like many of you I'm going to be spending much of the next day pouring through the past performances for each of this year's Breeders' Cup pre-entries. Already there are a few races that look like they are going to be fantastic from a betting perspective and others that might involve throwing a dart a the wall. Below the jump are a few of my thoughts on the pre-entries for several of the divisions.
The Classic looks about like what we thought it would look these past few months, with just a few minor exceptions. Just a quick glance at the horses pre-entered suggests that pace will, at a minimum, be honest. Crown of Thorns and Dakota Phone have 1st preference in the Dirt Mile, which should allow both Morning Line and Pleasant Prince to draw into the race. This is important due to the fact that Morning Line is a need-to-lead front-runner; his presence adds even more early pace to the race.
Just taking a quick glance at the PPs, the following horses all like to be up near the lead in the early stages: Espoir City (JPN), Etched, First Dude, Haynesfield, Morning Line, Musket Man and Quality Road. That's potentially half the field that wants to either lead or stalk the early pace.
It's hard not to be a bit disappointed with the field in this year's Turf. Eleven horses have pre-entered but three of them - Paddy O'Prado, Red Desire (JPN) and Plumania - have 1st preference in other races, leaving us with potentially an 8-horse field. This race could set-up perfectly for Al Khali due to the small field and the lack of a dominant early speed presence.
The field size for the Turf is a bit of a disturbing trend over the past decade. The race hasn't seen a full field of 14 since 1999 at Gulfstream, and five times out of the last eight years the race has drawn less than ten. Last year's seven-horse field at Santa Anita was the smallest in the history of the Breeders' Cup Turf.
If an Arc winner is going to every win a Breeders' Cup race, this would appear to be the year to do it. Workforce (GB) will enter a field that is ripe for the taking and if he runs anywhere near his Arc or Epsom Derby victories he will win by daylight. Of course, that's much easier said than done and if history is any indication, this might be the race to try and beat what will surely be an odd-on favorite.
Juvenile Turf & Juvenile Fillies Turf
When the Breeders' Cup introduced the two juvenile races on the grass many within the horse racing industry described the additions as overkill and unnecessary. Judging by how fast owners and trainers have rushed to fill the entry box for these two races you'd have to say they've been a huge success. There have been three editions of the Juvenile Turf and two for the Juvenile Filly Turf, and every race maxed out at the 12-horse limit. This year the limit was increased to fourteen and it appears likely that both races will go to post with full fields.
Goldolphin's Biondetti jumps off the list of the list of pre-entries for the Juvenile Turf after winning the Group 1 Gran Criterium at San Siro (Italy) back on October 9th. He's also won over a synthetic surface in England and should take to the firmer turf courses here in North America.
The Juvenile Fillies Turf looks like a fantastic betting race with some very nice North American contenders. Jessamine winner Kathmanblu and Miss Grillo winner Winter Memories lead the charge but any number of these juveniles could take the top spot.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Yikes...twenty-two fillies and mares pre-entered the ladies' version of the Sprint, with only two holding preferences in other races. Who's going to be the favorite in this race? A bunch of these fillies and mares have some big wins but they also all have some vulnerability. Rightly So will probably be the morning line favorite but it's anybody's guess how the betting will unfold in this one.
Informed Decision is the defending champion but with the race moving to dirt this year she would appear to be a mid-shot, at best.
This race has all the making of producing some serious payouts in the tote board; if you can get a piece of this race, any piece, you could end up having a very nice weekend.
Only twelve pre-entries in the Ladies' Classic with one filly, Evening Jewel, having 1st preference in the Filly and Mare Sprint. Regardless of the fact that the field won't be full, the race is very deep and even. Blind Luck is the clear divisional leader but Acting Happy, Havre de Grace, Life At Ten, Malibu Prayer, and Persistently are all contenders for the crown.
It looks like 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird will get into this year's Dirt Mile in what appears to be a race way, way out of his comfort zone. The gelding ran well in one-turn races as a juvenile at Woodbine but he's a long ways from those days and will be facing a field with a ton of experience and a lot of speed.
Since his upset win in the Kentucky Derby, Mine That Bird has run in eight consecutive Grade 1 or Grade 2 races and he hasn't finished better than 5th since stepping up to face older horses in the Goodwood last October.
Like the Turf, the Mile didn't draw and overly large number of pre-entries (11, with Gio Ponti 1st preference in the Classic) but you can't deny that this field has some eye-popping names. Goldikova (IRE), Paco Boy (IRE), Proviso (GB) and Sidney's Candy headline what will be one of the most watched races of the 2010 Breeders' Cup.
I'd love to be able to find a way to beat what will certainly be a heavily bet Goldikova but that will probably be a futile endeavor on my part. The Irish-bred, French-trained filly wins on hard ground, on soft ground, she wind from the front of the pack or from the rear; Goldikova is simply the best miler in the world and one of the best of all-time.