American Pharoah, Beholder among 10 in Breeders’ Cup Classic
Triple Crown champion American Pharoah will try to close out his career in style by winning the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic next week against a loaded field that includes two-time Breeders’ Cup-winning mare Beholder and Keen Ice, who handed him his only loss this year in the Travers.
Tonalist, the 2014 Belmont Stakes winner, and Frosted, who pressed American Pharoah much of the way in the Travers before finishing third, are also among the 10 horses expected to run in the 1 1/4-mile Classic, which will be shown live on NBC.
”It’s some good horses in there,” said Bob Baffert, who trains American Pharoah, ”but that’s what the Breeders’ Cup is supposed to be. It’s supposed to be tough.”
The Classic field is among a total of 200 horses – one less than last year’s record – which were pre-entered Wednesday for the $26 million, 13-race Breeders’ Cup world championships being held for the first time at Keeneland on Oct. 30 and 31.
New York-based trainer Chad Brown pre-entered a leading 14 horses in the two-day event. Coolmore had 10 horses pre-entered, tops among owners.
Final entries and the post-position draw will be Monday at Keeneland. Thirty-two foreign horses were pre-entered.
American Pharoah will attempt to become the first horse to sweep the Triple Crown and the Classic in the same year. The 3-year-old colt is expected to make his final start at the Lexington, Kentucky, track before being retired to stud.
American Pharoah will tackle older horses for the first time in his career, with 5-year-old mare Beholder looming as the toughest challenger. She’s won all five of her starts this year, including a dominating victory in the $1 million Pacific Classic over male horses at Del Mar.
”I feel confident I have him at that level that he’s going to run a big race,” Baffert said.
American Pharoah is set to work once more at his home base of Santa Anita on Monday before traveling to Kentucky the next day.
Beholder could become the first horse to win three different BC races and the first female to win the Classic since Zenyatta in 2009. She won the 2012 Juvenile Fillies and the 2013 Distaff.
Beholder was also entered in this year’s Distaff, but trainer Richard Mandella said he intends to run her against the boys in the Classic.
The mare was doing better Wednesday after developing a temperature while traveling to Keeneland on Monday.
”She was really tense on the flight,” Mandella said. ”I think that’s what triggered it. With a little treatment, she’s doing great.”
The Classic offers a rematch between American Pharoah and Keen Ice, who rallied to catch the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years in deep stretch in the Travers.
Frosted gets another shot at American Pharoah, too. Frosted, who was fourth in the Kentucky Derby and second in the Belmont and third in the Travers, is coming off a two-length victory in the Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 19.
”It’s a tough, tough race with American Pharoah and Beholder,” said Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains Frosted.
Also pre-entered in the Classic were English and Irish Guineas winner Gleneagles; Whitney winner Honor Code; Gold Cup winner Hard Aces; Smooth Roller; and Suburban Handicap winner Effinex.
The top race Oct. 30 is the $2 million Distaff for fillies and mares. Sixteen horses were pre-entered – two more than the limit.
Defending champion Untapable, who is 1 for 5 this year, will take on Sheer Drama, Wedding Toast, Got Lucky and Stopcharging Maria among other horses.
The field for the $3 million Turf, long dominated by European horses, is led by Golden Horn, who has lost just once in eight career races. The 3-year-old will try to become the first horse to win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the Turf. Other European contenders are Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Postponed; and 3-year-old filly Found from Ireland.
The U.S. entries are topped by United Nations winner Big Blue Kitten and Arlington Million winner The Pizza Man.
The $2 million Juvenile, whose winner is tabbed as the early favorite for next year’s Kentucky Derby, features undefeated Nyquist, who is 4-0 for trainer Doug O’Neill. Among his challengers are Brody’s Cause, Cocked and Loaded and Greenpointcrusader.
The event will open with four races Oct. 30, followed by nine races Oct. 31.
A maximum of 14 are allowed in each race, except the Dirt Mile and Filly & Mare Turf, which are capped at 12. Ten of the races drew more than the allowable limits.