The Breeders' Cup Classic might have one of its strongest fields ever, with the likes of Zenyatta, Blame, Quality Road and Lookin At Lucky all pointing toward it, but it doesn't appear as though the presence of that Fearsome Foursome is going to keep the field size down. Pre-entries to the Breeders' Cup were due Monday and were to be announced Wednesday, and the potential field for the Classic, like an Energizer bunny on steroids, kept growing, and growing, and growing.
The latest to join the party was trainer Nick Zito, who said from New York that he had pre-entered two horses, Fly Down and Morning Line, in the $5 million Classic, to be run Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs. Zito said Morning Line also was going to be pre-entered in the $1 million Dirt Mile, "but he'll definitely go in the Classic," Zito said.
Late last week, the connections of turf star Paddy O'Prado announced he would run in the Classic, joining First Dude as representatives from the barn of trainer Dale Romans. Espoir City has arrived from Japan. Musket Man is going to take another shot at Blame and Quality Road. Haynesfield, fresh off his runaway victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, might be the horse of the moment. Gio Ponti, though more likely to run in the Mile on turf, was expected to be pre-entered in the Classic, too. Toss in a few dreamers, like Pleasant Prince, and the field for the Classic should number at least a dozen.
For Zito, a win in the Classic would go a long way toward evening the ledger on a mind-boggling list of close calls this year. Though he has won the Florida Derby and Pennsylvania Derby this year, Zito has finished second in the Kentucky Derby, Belmont, Travers, Holy Bull, Fountain of Youth, and Wood Memorial, and third in the Preakness and Jockey Club Gold Cup.
"I don't think I've ever had a year like this," Zito said Monday morning. "It's kind of amazing, all the seconds. We lost the Travers by a whisker. It's kind of tough not winning one of those big races. If we'd have won any one of those, it would be a year to remember. But you've got to be content. You've got to be grateful. We've got one more big shot."
Zito said his horses -- including Cool Coal Man, who will run in the Dirt Mile -- would head from New York to Kentucky over the weekend. Both of his Classic runners are 3-year-olds. The nation's leading 3-year-old, Lookin At Lucky, worked six furlongs in 1:10.80 on Monday morning at Hollywood Park.
The pre-entry stage is the first stage of a two-step process. At this point, horses can be named to two races. But by next Tuesday's final entry day, when post positions are drawn, remaining entry fees must be paid and horses can only be entered in one race.
The Breeders' Cup will be held Nov. 5 and 6 at Churchill Downs, which is playing host to racing's championship event for a record seventh time. Churchill Downs also will play host to the Breeders' Cup next year, mirroring the schedule at Santa Anita in 2008-09.
There are 14 Breeders' Cup races. Six -- the Marathon and the five races exclusively for female horses -- will be run Nov. 5 as part of a 10-race card that will end under the lights. The remaining eight Breeders' Cup races, ending with the Classic, will be run Nov. 6 as part of an 11-race card.
Zenyatta's quest to remain unbeaten in her 20th and final start will be the focal point of the event. She won the Classic last year and the Ladies' Classic in 2008. She will be joined by Goldikova in attempting to win at the Breeders' Cup in three consecutive years. Goldikova will seek her third straight victory in the Mile, against males on turf, earlier on the Nov. 6 card.