The Breeders’ Cup began 27 years ago
at Hollywood Park with seven season-ending championship races and an
unprecedented $10 million in purses. This year’s version, hosted by Churchill
Downs, will be a 15-race, $26 million extravaganza, held over two days, and
encompass almost every division of the sport. It will be the richest two-day
event in the history of horse racing worldwide. And even though 2010 Horse of
the Year Zenyatta won’t be competing, don’t worry. There are plenty of
story lines and exciting match ups that will no doubt make this year’s version
every bit as exciting as any in previous years.
The Championships get under way this Friday afternoon at
4:10 p.m. ET. There will be six BC races televised on ESPN2 with the highlight of
the evening being the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Ladies' Classic contested under
the lights at historic Churchill Downs at 7:30 p.m. The action continues
Saturday beginning at 1:20 p.m. with coverage on ABC, ESPN and TVG.
I plan to be at the track all day, both days, but I have
to confess that what I’m most looking forward to is the final 100 minutes on
Saturday. That intense period will feature back-to-back-to-back runnings
of the $2 million Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (post time 5:25 p.m. ET),
the $2 million TVG
Breeders’ Cup Mile (6:07 p.m.) and the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (7:00
p.m.). In quick succession, we will identify the winter-book favorite for
the 2012 Kentucky Derby and the likely Horse of the Year winner this coming
January in Los Angeles at the Eclipse Awards. As if that weren’t enough,
sandwiched in between those two great contests is the brilliant Champion,
Goldikova, seeking to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile for an incredible and
unprecedented fourth consecutive year. These final three races of the
Championships are shaping up to be something very special indeed.
As is almost always the case, the Juvenile has attracted
the best from the East, West, Midwest and Canada, plus two interesting
prospects from the United Kingdom. I’m still debating my picks in this race but
I have narrowed it down to Union Rags, Creative Cause and Drill. I might
put all three into an exacta box. I may also single a long shot—Take
Charge Indy or Dullahan—because if I have learned anything in my years following
the Breeders’ Cup it’s to expect the unexpected.
You can be sure that racing fans around the world will be
focused on the great 6-year-old race mare Goldikova. Although she’s the
favorite, this won’t be a walkover. A full field of international runners,
including the multiple Eclipse Award winner Gio Ponti, will seek to deny
Goldikova an unprecedented “four- peat”. I like Goldikova but seeing the
way Gio Ponti closed to win the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland a few weeks
ago, I have to bet a few dollars on the Christophe Clement trainee as well.
All of this sets the stage for another epic
Classic. Havre de Grace, the second-choice in the morning line behind
Uncle Mo, will attempt to become only the second female to win the Breeders’
Cup Classic (following Zenyatta in 2009). A Classic victory also would propel
her to Horse of the Year and result in an unprecedented third consecutive year
in which a female has captured Horse of the Year honors. It won’t be easy. The
Classic field includes at least four other horses—Flat Out, Game On Dude, Stay
Thirsty and Uncle Mo—who can lay claim to HOY with a victory. Should none
of the above win, Eclipse Award voters will be left with some head-scratching
decisions. My head tells me that the Classic and Horse of the Year will
go to Havre de Grace, but I will probably also bet a few dollars on Game On
Dude because jockey Chantal Sutherland has a legitimate shot at becoming the
first female jockey to win the Classic.
So those are some of my
picks. What horses do you like and why? Let me hear from you.