Reigning Horse of the Year Curlin will face 11 rivals as he seeks to become the second repeat winner of the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park on Saturday. A win by Curlin would also likely cinch his second straight Horse of the Year title.
A total of 153 horses from major racing centers around the world have been entered in the 25th Breeders’ Cup World Championships – Thoroughbred racing’s most prestigious global event – with 14 races to be run over two days on Friday and Saturday, offering total purses and awards of $25,500,000 as the Arcadia, Calif., course hosts the event for the fourth time.
Trained by Steve Asmussen, Curlin has won all five of his main-track starts in 2008 en route to becoming the first North American-based horse to exceed $10 million in career earnings ($10,246,800). Curlin, installed as the 7-5 favorite, will break from post position nine in the 1 1/4-mile Classic as he tries to join Tiznow (2000, 2001) as the only repeat Breeders’ Cup Classic winner. His rivals include such international luminaries as Raven’s Pass, Duke of Marmalade and Casino Drive in a race that, like all the Breeders’ Cup main-track races this year, will be conducted on a synthetic surface for the first time.
The Breeders’ Cup begins with Championship Friday, featuring five races for female runners headlined by the $2 million Ladies’ Classic with the undefeated Zenyatta going for her ninth consecutive victory as the 3-5 morning line favorite in a field of eight. Among her seven foes is last year’s winner of this race, Ginger Punch.
The Breeders’ Cup lidlifter on Friday is the $1 million Sentient Flight Group Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint in which Indian Blessing will try to become the first horse in Breeders’ Cup history to win two different Championship races. Trained by Bob Baffert, Indian Blessing won last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Monmouth Park. The Filly & Mare Sprint drew a full field of 14, but that number could be reduced by one today should trainer Greg Gilchrist be forced to scratch his talented 3-year-old filly Indyanne due to a fever that she began to suffer from yesterday.
The second-richest race on Championship Saturday, the $3 million Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf, drew a field of 11 including previous Turf winners Better Talk Now (2004) and Red Rocks (2006). Topping the European contingent for the Turf is Soldier of Fortune, the morning line favorite at 7-2. A two-time Group I winner, Soldier of Fortune enters the Turf off a third-place finish in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe for noted Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien.
Two more 2007 Cup winners — Kip Deville (Mile) and Midnight Lute (Sprint) — will also return to defend their titles Saturday at Santa Anita.
Friday’s races will be televised by ESPN2 from 3:30-6:30 p.m. (ET). The nine races Saturday, concluding with the Classic, will air on two networks: from 1:00-3:30 p.m. (ET) on ABC and from 3:30-7:00 p.m. (ET) on ESPN.
BREEDERS’ CUP TO RECOGNIZE U.S. OLYMPIANS DURING FRIDAY FESTIVITIES
The Breeders’ Cup will recognize 2008 U.S. Olympic Team and California natives during the first day of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif. on Friday. Championship Friday will feature the first ever all-female racing card with races being run exclusively for fillies and mares, culminating with the $2 million Ladies’ Classic. Friday’s purses will now total $8 million, more than doubling last year’s Breeders’ Cup Friday purses.
Olympians scheduled to attend include:
* Candace Parker, the USA Basketball forward who helped the team win a gold medal in Beijing. Parker also plays for the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks.
* Misty May-Treanor, a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and three time Olympian who, along with partner Kerri Walsh, was part of the first female beach volleyball team to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals.
* Jennie Finch, the USA Softball pitcher who won a silver medal in Beijing and led USA Softball to a gold medal at the 2004 Games in Athens.
* Crystal Bustos, the USA Softball power hitter, who hit six home runs in Beijing during the silver medal run. Bustos also won gold medals in Athens (2004) and in Sydney (2000).
NEW Z-5 (SUPER HI-5) WAGER TO DEBUT AT CHURCHILL DOWNS, CALDER
Churchill Downs and Calder Race Course are teaming to offer a multi-track variation of the popular Super Hi-5 wager starting on Sunday, October 26 – the start of Churchill Downs’ 26-day Fall Meet.
The new “Z-5 (Super Hi-5)” will rotate the high-payout Super Hi-5, which calls on players to correctly select the top five finishers in a race in exact order, between the two racetracks – the first interstate jackpot of its kind in horse racing – giving players multiple chances to win lofty payouts each day.
The wager will also launch with a $10,000 jump-start pool guarantee and feature a “best buy” takeout of 19%, well below the norm for horse racing’s “exotic” offerings.
The Z-5 (Super Hi-5) will be offered daily on Churchill’s Race 3, Calder’s Race 6 and then again on Churchill’s final race of the day. If no one correctly selects five top horses in Churchill’s Race 3, the carryover pool will move to Calder’s Race 6, then back again to Churchill if there are no correct tickets. The zigzag rotation will continue to the following day and beyond until one or more lucky players get the winning sequence right. Whenever it’s hit, a new Z-5 (Super Hi-5) pool will start with the next track and race in the sequence.
“With four race tracks operating in different states at various times of the year, Churchill Downs Incorporated is uniquely positioned to create the first interstate jackpot carryover pool for players nationwide,” said Churchill Downs Incorporated vice president Tom Aronson. “The Z-5 (Super Hi-5) is especially compelling with large fields, and we can draw on our outstanding trainer and racehorse populations at two or more of our properties at any time to present players with a number of challenging races every day. We’ll test the concept with Churchill and Calder over the next month, and work from there.”
The Super Hi-5 quickly established itself as a signature carryover bet for Churchill Downs during the 2008 Spring Meet with 107 payouts exceeding $10,000, including a track record $107,912 on June 25. Also, there was a record three-day $2.15 million pool on May 8.
The multi-track Z-5 (Super Hi-5) will extend Churchill’s traditionally low 19% takeout to the Calder pool, making the wager a standout “best buy” among horse racing’s feature bets around the country.
“We want to give the popular Super Hi-5 pool a chance to expand its national fan base and offer consistent jackpot-size payouts,” Aronson said. “The best way to do that is increase the number of tracks, horsemen, horses and fans that participate, and to offer it at a special price.”
FREE, ONLINE “BREEDERS’ CUP PICK ALL CHALLENGE” TO OFFER NHC BERTH
Registration is open at http://www.ntra.com/ <http://www.ntra.com/> for the “Breeders’ Cup Pick All Challenge”, a free, online handicapping contest that offers a grand prize of an entry in the 2009 $1 million Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) to be held in January at Red Rock Casino, Resort and Spa in Las Vegas (airfare and accommodations included).
Contestants must place one hypothetical $2 win and place wager on each of the 14 Breeders’ Cup World Championships races to be held Friday and Saturday, October 24-25, at Oak Tree at Santa Anita Park. The player amassing the highest total will win the grand prize. Second prize is a 31.5″ Toshiba flat screen television. Cash prizes of $250 for third, $100 for fourth, and $50 for fifth through 10th places will also be offered. Top finishers who are registered members of the NHC Tour will also receive Tour points based on their finish.
“The Breeders’ Cup Pick All Challenge is a fun and easy way for fans to compete for prizes as they follow the 2008 Cup races from Oak Tree,” said Keith Chamblin, senior vice president of communications and industry relations for the NTRA. “Not only does the contest encourage interest in the Breeders’ Cup, it will introduce many to the experience of tournament play, which has enjoyed explosive growth in recent years thanks to the popularity of the National Handicapping Championship and the NHC Tour.”
There is a limit of one entry per person. Contestants must enter their picks for all five Friday Breeders’ Cup races by 3:30 p.m. (ET) on October 24. Picks for all nine Saturday Breeders’ Cup races must be entered by 1:00 p.m. (ET) on October 25. Contest win payoffs will be capped at $42.00 (20-1) and place place payoffs will be capped at $22.00 (10-1). For complete contest rules or additional information on the NHC and NHC Tour, visit http://www.ntra.com/ <http://www.ntra.com/> .