The expectation grows as we approach the start of the 29th edition of the Breeders' Cup this Friday from the Santa Anita Race Park in Arcadia, California.
"The Great Race Place" will be serving as the host for American horse racing's premier event for the third time in five years.
All the entries have been finalized, and all the signs point to this edition being one of the most contested and memorable in history—not because there will be an overload of superstars, but because the overall quality will make it a very leveled one.
Six races stand out. The Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies are bringing a ton of interest, and fans everywhere are labeling it as the East vs. West showdown. Both races will seemingly be very tactical races.
The Ladies' Classic presents the reigning champ, Royal Delta, defending her title against a fine field led by the winners of the last two Juvenile Fillies, Awesome Feather (2010) and My Miss Aurelia (2011.)
The Turf features Point of Entry, America's best hope in recent years to end the European domination in the race.
The Mile is another turf race that has been thoroughly dominated by Euros. This year, Wise Dan brings an impressive streak that presents him as the slight favorite, but Excelebration (IRE), the best runner in the world not named Frankel at a Mile, will have a say in the outcome.
The Classic has Game on Dude and Flat Out leading a very fine field of older horses that will battle it out for the big prize, but the race also has Horse of the Year award implications.
In the Juvenile Fillies, the four best fillies in the nation will square off. Unbeaten stablemates Dreaming of Julia and Kauai Katie will be the east coast's best, facing Executiveprivilege (unbeaten in five starts) and Beholder, the west coast's best.
The jockeys will have the race in their hands. And we have four of the best aboard them: two of the all-time best in John Velazquez and Garrett Gomez, and two of the best of the newer generation in Rafael Bejarano and Rosie Napravnik.
You can also look at the trainer angles here. On one side, you have Todd Pletcher (Dreaming of Julia, Kauai Katie), who has been the top trainer in the nation since the second half of the last decade.
On the other are Hall of Famers Bob Baffert (Executiveprivilege) and Richard Mandella (Beholder). Hollywood is just miles away. Let's start the script for this movie.
Each coast has two speeedsters and two stalkers. Beholder with Bejarano is expected to go right for the lead, taking advantage of her rail post, while Kauai Katie with Napravnik will have to settle in close second, having the outside post.
Dreaming of Julia with Velazquez and Executiveprivilege with Gomez should stalk the leaders.
Beholder and Kauai Katie will have to be able to outrun each other and have enough to hold off Dreaming of Julia and Executiveprivilege. Now, these last two have to make sure they don't make an early move that would cause the other to have more left at the end.
This should be a race where we see a very close finish, with possibly an exciting "mano-a-mano" during the stretch.
The Juvenile is essentially a battle between the east coast's Shanghai Bobby (unbeaten in four starts) and the west's Power Broker, who comes from a very impressive win on his first start on dirt—coincidentally at Santa Anita.
We see another showdown between the trainer-jockey combos of Todd Pletcher-Rosie Napravink (Shanghai Bobby) and Bob Baffert-Rafael Bejarano (Power Broker).
Both horses have shown the ability to stalk the pace, and that will be key here. It will make them basically run a match race that could end up in another thrilling stretch duel that would surely bring everyone to their feet.
If Point of Entry will end Europe's domination in this race, he will have to defeat a very good field led by the defending champion, St Nicholas Abbey (IRE) and the filly Shareta (IRE).
Point of Entry comes off five straight stakes wins, including three straight Grade I races. He has impressed with his workouts and seems primed to fire his best race.
St Nicholas Abbey (IRE) and Shareta (IRE) disappointed in the Arc but had been running great prior to it—especially Shareta (IRE), who had defeated the Arc winner Solemia in her prior race and finished second in the Arc the year before.
Japanese import Trailblazer (JPN) goes for his second race on US soil and will have a half-mile more to work on Saturday, and that should benefit him.
Another intriguing horse is Dullahan, who has been a monster on synthetics. But he has yet to transfer that form to the turf and would still have to see if he can handle the 12 furlongs.
What makes this race one that many would consider as the best race of the event is that it may be the field with the highest quality— from the top contender down to the longest shot.
Royal Delta and Awesome Feather come from crushing their opposition in their most recent starts. They are both working lights-out and come into the race in the best shape of their lives.
My Miss Aurelia has been able to step up to every new challenge during her career and has overcome all of them, beating Questing (GB) in her most recent race in a thrilling stretch battle. Now, she will face another one, but she has shown she can run with the top two.
Besides the top three, you have Questing (GB), who before her recent hard-fought loss to My Miss Aurelia had won two straight Grade I races and was considered as a possible favorite for this race.
Love and Pride has been moving forward in her recent races and was the last one to defeat Royal Delta
Grace Hall, Include Me Out and Class Included all have races that show, with a move forward, they can contend for the win here.
The Classic will always be the pinnacle of the Breeders' Cup, but in my opinion it will play second string this year to the Mile.
Game on Dud, the likely favorite, is unbeaten in five starts over the course and has been one of the best horses in the division all year long. He has been blazing his workouts and has the top jockey in the west aboard and a perfect post.
Flat Out was the losing favorite on this race last year but couldn't deliver on the sloppy track. He is once again coming off a win in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and is the top contender to Game On Dude.
Ron The Greek comes off a dull effort in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. But his form prior to that and his workouts show he is ready to bounce back up and contend, especially if there is an honest pace upfront.
Some other horses to watch for are Fort Larned, Mucho Macho Man and To Honor and Serve.
This race has the most implications, and you can be sure it will draw the most international attention of any race.
According to the official Timeform world rankings, Excelebration (IRE) is co-ranked third with Cirrus Des Aigles (FR) with 135 points, and Wise Dan is fifth with 134 points.
Frankel (GB) leads the way with 147, and Black Caviar (AUS) is second with 136. A win here by Wise Dan or Excelebration (IRE) could bump them all the way to second behind Frankel (GB).
For Wise Dan, it could mean he could also earn Horse of the Year honors and validate his status as a possible Dubai World Cup participant next year.
They are not alone. Moonlight Cloud (GB), Obviously (IRE) and the returning winner of the 2011 Kentucky Derby, Animal Kingdom, make this field a stellar one that promises fireworks as they pass the wire.
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