Kentucky Derby winner Authentic heads a field of 11 horses, possibly including filly and Preakness winner Swiss Skydiver against males, for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, with trainer Bob Baffert entering three horses in the US$6 million race that includes Belmont winner Tiz the Law.
Besides Authentic, second to Swiss Skydiver in the Preakness, Baffert has Improbable and Maximum Security in the 1 1/4-mile Classic at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky. The Hall of Fame trainer has won the race a record three times.
Baffert is glad horse racing is getting to stage its world championships in a year where sports have been turned upside down by the coronavirus. When the pandemic struck in mid-March, racing was shut down in hard-hit California.
“It was looking so gloomy. I feel really fortunate that we got to reopen and this is happening,” Baffert said. “Don’t complain and just enjoy that we’re running. That’s one thing I learned from it.”
Baffert is the all-time leader among trainers in Breeders’ Cup earnings with over $30 million. He’s currently under the microscope for multiple positive drug tests involving some of his horses, including filly Gamine, who is pre-entered in the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint.
The Classic field was among a total of 201 horses pre-entered Wednesday for the US$28 million, 14-race world championships on November 6-7.
“What I love about the Breeders’ Cup is it’s all about the best horses and best jockeys,” Baffert said.
Swiss Skydiver is also pre-entered in the Distaff, for which she is first preference to run against her own gender.
“That’s the first logical choice,” trainer Ken McPeek said of the Distaff. “It isn’t a decision set in stone yet. We’re not going to rule out the other race.”
McPeek said he likes his filly at the Classic distance of 1 1/4 miles and noted she would receive a break in the weights in that race. In the 1 1/8-mile Distaff, Monomoy Girl is expected to be the heavy favorite.
Swiss Skydiver has five graded stakes wins at as many different tracks. She defeated males in the Preakness on Oct. 3. If Swiss Skydiver runs in the Classic, she would try to become the first female to win the race since superstar Zenyatta did so 11 years ago.
“She’s just a real tough filly. It seems every race she seems to keep coming at them stronger and stronger,” McPeek said.
Tiz the Law won the Belmont, which opened this year’s reconfigured Triple Crown, and then finished second to Authentic in the Kentucky Derby for his lone defeat this year.
Others entered in the Classic are: By My Standards, Global Campaign, Higher Power, Tacitus, Title Ready, and Tom’s d’Etat.
“It looks like a tremendous race,” said Jack Knowlton, owner of Tiz the Law. “Just about everyone recognizes there’s not an awful lot that’s going to separate the top horses.”
In the US$2 million Juvenile, whose winner is tabbed as the winter Kentucky Derby favorite, 14 were pre-entered. Steve Asmussen, McPeek and Dale Romans each have two entries; Baffert and Todd Pletcher have one each.
Keeneland is hosting the richest two days in North American racing for a second time. As it was with the Triple Crown races, no fans will be allowed on site because of the coronavirus.
Trainer John Gosden will send his best horses, but the 69-year-old Brit will stay home.
“With everything going on, I’ve got a lot to run here,” he said. “It’s been a bit of a nightmare year.”
A total of 39 foreign horses were pre-entered. Trainer Aidan O’Brien is bringing 10 horses from Ireland, which imposed a 14-day quarantine on incoming visitors.
“The Breeders’ Cup is the championship race of the whole season worldwide,” O’Brien said. “Very important for everyone to keep making a living.”
O’Brien has two pre-entries in the US$4 million Turf: Magical and Mogul. He’s won the race six times.
Final entries and the post-position draw will be Monday.
The world championships will open with five races for juveniles in what’s billed as Future Stars Friday on November 6, followed by nine races on November 7.