Shared Belief, California Chrome top loaded Breeders' Cup Classic field
Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome and undefeated Shared Belief will face off in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic next week, with Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist also in the overcrowded field.
They are among a record total of 201 horses, including five defending champions, which were pre-entered Wednesday for the $26 million, 13-race Breeders' Cup world championships being held for the third straight year at Santa Anita on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.
Fifteen horses -- one more than the limit -- were pre-entered for the 1-1/4-mile Classic.
Trainer Art Sherman will saddle California Chrome, who finished fourth in the Belmont behind winner Tonalist in losing his bid to become horse racing's first Triple Crown winner in 36 years. After an extended break, Chrome returned to racing in the Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 20 and finished sixth behind winner Bayern.
"Every time your horse throws a little bit of a clunker you get a little bit concerned," Sherman said, adding that Chrome didn't run his usual races in the Belmont or Pennsylvania Derby.
"You hate to cry wolf, but you haven't seen the Chrome that I know," he said.
Bayern represents Bob Baffert's latest attempt to win the Classic. The Hall of Fame trainer is 0 for 12, including losses by now-retired Game On Dude the past three years. Bayern also won the Woody Stephens and the Haskell Invitational.
"He looks like he's doing as well as he has been," Baffert said.
Shared Belief is 7 for 7 lifetime, and a victory in the Classic would make him a favorite for Horse of the Year honors. He missed the Triple Crown series with foot issues but has dominated racing during the second half of this year, with victories in the Pacific Classic and the Awesome Again. Co-owned by sports talk host Jim Rome, Shared Belief could also claim champion 3-year-old honors with a win in the Classic.
"Chrome, on his good day, he's as good as any of them," Baffert said. "Shared Belief, we know what he can do. Bayern, we know what he can do. It's a matter of who brings their `A' game that day and who gets the trip."
After beating California Chrome in the Belmont, Tonalist went on to win the Jockey Club Gold Cup last month.
"There's a half dozen horses that could win it," Sherman said of the Classic.
Final entries and the post-position draw will be Monday at Santa Anita, which is hosting the event for the eighth time. Thirty-eight foreign horses were pre-entered.
Also pre-entered for the Classic was Travers winner V.E. Day; Candy Boy; Toast of New York; Cigar Street; Footbridge; Gold Cup winner Majestic Harbor; Whitney winner Moreno; Prayer for Relief; and Ziro.
The headline race Oct. 31 will be the $2 million BC Distaff for fillies and mares at 1-1/8 miles.
Untapable won her first four starts this year, including the Kentucky Oaks and Mother Goose before finishing fifth in the Haskell.
Among her rivals will be Close Hatches, who also won her first four races this year and then finished fourth in the Spinster this month.
"It was a little bit of a head scratcher. I'm not sure what happened," trainer Bill Mott said. "I think she'll rebound at Santa Anita."
An ankle injury will keep two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan out of the $2 million Mile, and his defection triggered a flood of 25 pre-entered horses. They include Obviously, who finished third and fifth in the past two runnings.
There will be nine races Nov. 1, including the $2 million Juvenile. American Pharoah, trained by Baffert, will be the likely favorite. Baffert has another entry, One Lucky Dane. Todd Pletcher and Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien have two each.
The two-day event will open Oct. 31 with four races.
A maximum of 14 are allowed in each race, except the Dirt Mile, which is capped at 12.