Getting Ready to Throw Down

by Ed Meyer

posted on October 19, 2008 in Breeders Cup, General Discussion | No Comments >>

I’ll lay 6 to 5 that next weekend’s Breeders’ Cup XXV at Santa Anita turns out to be one of, if not the best, editions of an event that debuted at Hollywood Park in 1984 and has evolved into everything the industry could have envisioned.

A record 180 horses were pre-entered this week for the Breeders’ Cup, not surprising considering there are three new races for the second consecutive year. It’s the quality of the fields and the delicious match ups on the plate that figure to make this year’s event, scheduled for Oct. 24-25, one of a kind.

For starters, there’s the $5 million Classic, which will be minus Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown but still features arguably one of the most contentious fields in the previous 24 runnings.

We’ve got Curlin, who recently supplanted Cigar as the leading career money-winner in North America.

“Curlin has always spoiled us with his consistency, and that’s what we’re looking for, is more of the same,” trainer Steve Asmussen said Thursday.

Trainer Eoin Harty marvels at the horses the Classic has attracted.

Harty will saddle Santa Anita Derby and Travers Stakes winner Colonel John, who will be ridden by Edgar Prado.

Harty also trains Well Armed, who was cross-entered in the Classic but whose first preference is the Dirt Mile.

Colonel John has already displayed a fondness for synthetic tracks, but Harty doesn’t foresee that as being any sort of advantage.

“The only advantage I have is that I don’t have to ship,” he said.

Harty also indicated the perceived uncertainty of Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride synthetic track is overblown.

“It’s not vastly different to the surface we had in the spring,” the former Bob Baffert assistant said. “It’s got a little more bounce to it and a little more polymer in it. (Colonel John) seems to relish it, and I must say most of the horses that I watch out there train seem to love it too.”

In the Ladies’ Classic, which will spearhead the Breeders’ Cup first all-females day next Friday, it doesn’t get any better than Zenyatta-Ginger Punch showdown.

Defending Breeders’ Cup champ Ginger Punch goes against the unbeaten Zenyatta, who won their previous showdown in April when she streaked past Ginger Punch in the stretch of the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park to win going away.

“Ginger Punch was a champion last year and is still running tremendously this year, so (Zenyatta) will have to come up with her best effort to win this race,” owner Jerry Moss said. “We’re excited for her, but we don’t consider anything’s in the bag so to speak.”

Defending Sprint champion Midnight Lute is back and will face the likes of Street Boss, Lewis Michael, In Summation and J Be K as the six-furlong speed duel comes up as wide-open as usual.

Street Boss figures as one of the favorites despite his second-place finish in the Ancient Title Stakes on Sept. 27, and Lewis Michael won the Pat O’Brien Handicap like a monster at Del Mar.

Overall, there are seven former or defending champions pre-entered, along with 35 European imports. Eight of the 14 races were oversubscribed, meaning lots of owners and trainers are itching for the chance to shoot for one of the big prizes.

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