Horse Racing: A Look Ahead to the 2013 Breeders Cup at Santa Anita

A total of 172 horses were pre-entered for Friday and Saturday’s 2013 Breeders Cup at Santa Anita this past week, which was eight less than last years total of 180. Leading the way were 2012 Breeders Cup Classic winner Fort Larned, leading Horse of the Year candidates Wise Dan and Game On Dude as well as probable champion three year old filly Princess of Sylmar.

An eye popping 18 either winners (9) or second place finishers (also 9) will be returning from last year.

The returning winners include the aforementioned Fort Larned (Classic), Royal Delta (Distaff), Wise Dan (Mile), Little Mike (Turf), Groupie Doll (Filly & Mare Sprint), Beholder (Juvenile Fillies), Mizdirection (Turf Sprint), Flotilla (Juvenile Fillies Turf) and Trinniberg (Sprint).

The nine who placed in last year’s Breeders’ Cup include Mucho Macho Man, Flat Out, Point of Entry, Marketing Mix, The Fugue, Obviously, Capo Bastone, The Lumber Guy, and Reneesgotzip.

Of course, the $5 million Classic will be the featured event, drawing (give or take) about 13 horses led by Game On Dude, Fort Larned and Santa Anita surface lover Mucho Macho Man. The Classic will not only have Horse of the Year implications but probably champion three year implications as well with both Belmont and Jim Dandy Stakes winner Palace Malice and Travers and Pennsylvania Derby winner Will Take Charge also expected to be in the group.

So far, to me, the most interesting and competitive race during the two days is the BC Distaff. The Distaff, which will be run on Friday at eight furlongs, will rematch leading older female, and two time champion, Royal Delta vs. three year old filly Princess of Sylmar. Those two met in the Beldame Stakes on Sept. 28 with Princess of Sylmar beating Royal Delta by two lengths.

The Distaff might not be just a two horse race however. 2012 champion Beholder and multiple stakes winner Close Hatches and Authenticity are also pre-entered.

It looks as though reigning and defending Horse of the Year Wise Dan will have his work cut out for him as approximately 12-14 turf runners will be entered in the BC Turf Mile including Wise Dan’s conqueror his last time out, Silver Max.

Other pre-entered races that grabbed my attention in the “most competitive” sense were Saturday’s BC Turf at 1 ½ miles for $3,000,000. European filly The Fugue will cross the pond to take a shot at the boys and might very well be the favorite off back to back Group: 1 wins in her last two races. She, too, might have her hands (or hooves) full with Big Blue Kitten, last year’s winner of this race, Little Mike and the stretch running Point of Entry, who is mega-talented but coming off an injury .

The next race that I looked at the entries closely (actually which race DIDN’T I look closely at?) was the Juvenile (males) race. The thus far sensational Havana will lead the way, and albeit electrifying stretch runner Honor Code has elected to go in another direction, Havana might still have a tough time with as many as 15 might still show up to face him. One of those 15 is Strong Mandate, who bombed in his last race, but might be dangerous should he bounce back.

The Filly and Mare Sprint pre-entries shows champion Groupie Doll and Dance to Bristol, that should be a good match up even though both are coming off losses.

I will be watching the Juvenile Turf (male version) closely as well. I saw that Bobby’s Kitten, a blow out winner of the Pilgrim Stakes in his last at Belmont, was pre-entered. He might turn out to be a good one (if he isn’t already).

The BC (Dirt) Mile is also intriguing with the likes of (possibly) the once beaten Graydar, gorgeous Haskell winner Verrazano, two-time Grade: 1 winner (Woodward, Travers) Alpha, former Triple Crown contender Goldencents and an improving (worked a :46.3 half on Sunday) Fed Biz.

On the human side, trainers Bob Baffert, Todd Pletcher and Doug O’Neill have each pre-entered horses nine horses with Baffert (Game On Dude, Paynter) and Pletcher (Graydar, Palace Malice) both putting a pair in the Classic.  

D. Wayne Lukas will add to his record 156 starters by sending out five more in this years Breeders Cup. His five include  Strong Mandate, Skyring, All Cash, Fast Bullet, Tour Guide and Will Take Charge.

Aidan O’Brien will send five horses over from his Ballydoyle base, led by Declaration of War.

A couple of other good stories in the Breeders Cup that I will be paying special attention to is trainer Richard Mandella, who is on a wild rollercoaster ride.

In 1993, Mandella won two Breeders’ Cup winners and two stakes winners on the undercard. Ten years later, in 2003, Mandella made history by winning an unprecedented four Breeders’ Cup races in a single day. Now, another 10 years later, he is back with Beholder, Indy Point  and Vionnet.

Another good storyline is the comeback of Secret Circle in the BC (Dirt) Sprint. If you recall, Secret Circle was on his way to the 2012 Kentucky Derby before being stopped cold by a sesamoid injury and was laid up for about 1 ½ years before finally returning in an Oct. 14 optional claimer/allowance race at Santa Anita. The good looking bay colt registering a clear cut win and stopped the clock in a blazing 1:07.4 for six furlongs.

“He needed time and then we brought him back, then he had one little issue, but now he’s back and that was a great work today,” trainer Bob Baffert said Wednesday after Secret Circle worked four furlongs in :47 at Santa Anita.

Thanks for reading…