A new race, a record number of entrants and competitive fields from around the world marked yesterday's announcement of pre-entries for the $13 million Breeders' Cup series on Nov. 6.
A record 128 horses were entered in the eight races at Gulfstream Park, including the $1 million Filly and Mare Turf, which will be run for the first time. The list includes 25 horses from Europe, as well as American stars from coast to coast.
"It's difficult to top the Triple Crown for hype," said trainer D. Wayne Lukas, referring to the spring series for 3-year-olds. "But in the Breeders' Cup we showcase every division. It is really a championship series."
This will be the 16th running of the sport's marquee event, which rotates among North America's major tracks.
The record number of entrants stems from the addition of the new race. A more meaningful statistic is the average number of horses a race. This year it's 16, compared to the record of 18 for the 1994 Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs.
Still, six of the eight races attracted more entrants than starting spots, limited to 14 a race. The top eight in each race were based on points earned in graded stakes in North America. The next six were chosen by a panel of racing officials headed by Lenny Hale of the Maryland Jockey Club.
The panel also ranked the extras, or "also eligibles." Many of them will get into their respective races because numerous horses were entered in more than one race, and some inevitably will drop out because of sickness and injury.
Final entries will be accepted and post positions drawn Wednesday at Gulfstream Park, the Florida track located between Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
All eight races will be televised live by NBC from 1 to 5: 30 p.m. on Nov. 6.
The $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic attracted 18 horses, including Lemon Drop Kid, owned by part-time Maryland residents Jinny Vance and Laddie Dance, and Supreme Sound, trained by Michael Dickinson at his Tapeta Farm in North East.
Supreme Sound is the first "also eligible." He probably will make the field because Daylami, one of the best of the European horses, is entered in both the Classic and the Turf but will likely compete in the Turf.
Mike Watchmaker, national handicapper for the Daily Racing Form, named Behrens the early 3-1 favorite in the Classic.
Bob Baffert, the California-based trainer, enters the series with perhaps the strongest hand of any trainer in Breeders' Cup history.
Baffert trains eight Breeders' Cup hopefuls, including two in the Classic (General Challenge and River Keen) and two in the Juvenile (Forest Camp and Captain Steve).
Baffert will saddle the favorite, or near favorite, in five of the eight races.
"Everybody's telling me I'm going to go in there and win three or four races," Baffert said. "I keep telling them it's not that easy. You need racing luck. I'm just hoping to sneak in there and come out with one."