Although our predilection for the Triple Crown races often obscures the Breeders' Cup behind the guise of a strange, end-of-year race that nestles itself deep into a day of college football, the event itself is one of the most unique in sports.
Spread over two days at Santa Anita Park, the Breeders' Cup offers 14 races over a series of classes. It's where you can not only see one of the most high-profile races in the world—the Breeders' Cup Classic—but also get a glimpse at some two-year-olds you may hear from again once the horse racing world returns to Churchill Downs.
Of course, most of the focus will still be on the Classic. Much in the same way The Players Championship serves as a "fifth major" in golf, the Classic serves as a fourth in horse racing.
The real draw of the Breeders' Cup Classic is simple: the sweet nectar of cash washing down upon the winning jockey and team owner. A whopping $5 million purse will get distributed late Saturday night—more than all three Triple Crown races combined. I'm still not sure who Mr. Breeder is and how he amassed such a fortune, but his event causes trainers and owners to crawl all over one another in an effort to win the prize.
But anyone who follows the sport will tell you that the Classic is but a capper to an excellent weekend at the track. The bonnet hats and celebrities looking for photo ops may dwindle, but the on-track action is as good or better than anywhere else in the world.
With that in mind, let's check in with a complete schedule for all 14 events in California.
When: Friday, Nov. 1 through Saturday, Nov. 2
Where: Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif.
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
|Friday, Nov. 1||Post Time (ET)||TV|
|Marathon Stakes (G2)||4:45 p.m.||NBC Sports|
|Juvenile Turf||5:25 p.m.||NBC Sports|
|Dirt Mile||6:05 p.m.||NBC Sports|
|Juvenile Fillies Turf||6:50 p.m.||NBC Sports|
|Distaff||7:35 p.m.||NBC Sports|
|Saturday, Nov. 2||Post Time (ET)||TV|
|Juvenile Fillies||3:05 p.m.||NBC Sports|
|Filly & Mare Turf||3:43 p.m.||NBC Sports|
|Filly & Mare Sprint||4:21 p.m.||NBC Sports|
|Geico Turf Sprint||5:05 p.m.||NBC Sports|
|Juvenile||5:43 p.m.||NBC Sports|
|Turf||6:22 p.m.||NBC Sports|
|Xpressbet Sprint||7:01 p.m.||NBC Sports|
|Mile||7:40 p.m.||NBC Sports|
|1||Last Gunfighter||Javier Castellano||Chad Brown||20-1|
|2||Paynter||Martin Garcia||Bob Baffert||12-1|
|3||Planteur||Ryan Moore||Marco Botti||20-1|
|4||Moreno||Joseph Talamo||Eric Guillot||15-1|
|5||Declaration Of War||Joseph O'Brien||Aidan O'Brien||10-1|
|6||Mucho Macho Man||Gary Stevens||Kathy Ritvo||5-1|
|7||Fort Larned||Brian Hernandez Jr.||Ian Wilkes||6-1|
|8||Palace Malice||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher||10-1|
|9||Game On Dude||Mike Smith||Bob Baffert||8-5|
|10||Will Take Charge||Luis Saez||D. Wayne Lukas||12-1|
|11||Ron the Greek||Jose Lezcano||William Mott||8-1|
|12||Flat Out||Joel Rosario||William Mott||12-1|
Breeders' Cup Classic Preview
Let's make one thing clear here: The Classic isn't the only race worth watching. It's the only one actually on NBC rather than NBC Sports Network, and it gets prime-time real estate, but there are four other events on the slate that carry a $2 million purse. That's double the Preakness and Belmont. Folks come to an early November race for a reason.
But if you can't watch the others—because, like, college football and stuff—the Classic should be an excellent reprieve from Miami-Florida State.
We've already covered why the race is monetarily unique. However, it's also an interesting race from an entry-requirement standpoint.
Each Triple Crown race requires the entrant horses to be three years old. That's the age at which thoroughbreds are typically in peak condition for racing but still young enough to take out to stud or breed. The whole thing is mostly a gambit for the latter point, but having the three-year-old distinction in place allows trainers to work a year or two in advance to get their prizes up to snuff.
The Classic? It's a damn gambit of competition. Horses must be at least three years old, but that is the only age requirement. Only weight restrictions are put in place to keep unfit thoroughbreds away from the track.
Wondering what that means? It means late bloomers get a chance to shine. It means that if you try once and fail, you can come back the next year and give it another go. And it means possible repeat winners.
Tiznow is the only horse to ever win back-to-back Classics, doing so in both 2000 and 2001. Fort Larned will try to join him this year. The 2012 champion just barely edged out the field in last year's Classic, running neck and neck down the stretch with Mucho Macho Man. At five years old, Fort Larned is looking to become the fourth horse that old to win since 1997.
It's safe to say the odds are against him. Fort Larned comes into Saturday's race at 6-1 odds, making him the third favorite behind the returning Mucho Macho Man and favorite Game On Dude. He also faces a field of 12 horses in which none of the entrants comes in at worse than 20-1 odds. This is more of a minefield than a competitive horse race.
Game On Dude (8-5) is best known by most racing fans for his run at the 2010 Belmont, but he's had quite a career over the past few years. The gelding, trained by Bob Baffert, has already won the Charles Town Classic and Pacific Classic Stakes this year. But history is going against Game on Dude. Never has a six-year-old won the Breeders' Cup's most prominent event.
Another notable in the field is Will Take Charge, one of the rare non-winning horses to race in all three Triple Crown events. Oh, and perhaps it's burying the lede to tell you Palace Malice, this year's winner at the Belmont Stakes, will also be taking part in the festivities.
I guess when a field is this deep, even Triple Crown race winners can fall by the wayside.
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