Best Horses In This Year's Breeders' Cup
by Victor Ryan - 11/01/2006
There is no shortage of star power set for Saturday's Breeders' Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs, as most of the best horses from around the globe are set to converge on America's most famous racetrack. Here are a few of the best horses in this year's Breeders' Cup to follow:
Three horses have dominated the worldwide racing headlines in 2006: Bernardini and Lava Man in North America and George Washington in Europe. In a year racing fans were sadly reminded of the sport's devastating lows with the breakdown of Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, it becomes especially sweet the above named trio will be eyeball-to-eyeball when the gates spring open for the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic Saturday evening.
George Washington hails from the powerful Ballydoyle yard of trainer Aidan O'Brien in Ireland and the 3-year-old's two wins this year were both Group I's, the classic Two Thousand Guineas in the spring and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes against older foes. The son of Danehill has never raced on dirt, but O'Brien considers George Washington to be the most talented horse to ever set foot at Ballydoyle, which really is an amazing statement considering the long line of top-class racehorses that outfit has produced. Remember, the boys from Ballydoyle tried a similar feat with Giant's Causeway in 2000. The European champion ran on dirt for the first time in the 2000 Classic and provided one of the most thrilling stretch runs in Breeders' Cup history when losing a photo finish to two-time Classic winner Tiznow.
In addition to those three in the event's richest race, other champions will be crowned. The Breeders' Cup Turf carries the day's second biggest purse, $3 million, and features one of the two former Breeders' Cup champions set to run. Better Talk Now was an upset winner of the Turf at Lone Star in 2004. He's been a cut below the world's top grass horses since that big effort, but he won the Canadian Grade II Sky Walker Stakes Sept. 24 at Woodbine in his final Breeder' Cup prep. Trainer H. Graham Motion obviously knows how to get him ready for the big day.
The Turf also features several other top horses, most notably Cacique for trainer Bobby Frankel and English Channel from the powerful Todd Pletcher stable. The main threat from overseas appears to be Hurricane Run, who won the prestigious Arc de Triomphe in 2005 and was a disappointing fourth in this year's edition. However, Hurricane Run could be dangerous with this group.
The other former B.C. champion is Ouija Board, a bulldog of a mare from Europe who never misses a dance and routinely beats males overseas. She proved her ability to American racing fans by winning the 2004 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf in her only North American start and returning for last year's Breeders' Cup at Belmont Park and running a game second to Intercontinental.
Other top females to watch on Breeders' Cup day are turf runners Gorella and 3-year-old sensation Wait a While, both of whom campaigned this year in North America; and Fleet Indian, who is expected to go off the favorite in the Breeders' Cup Distaff for Pletcher. Fleet Indian has been perfect in six starts this year with the last two coming in the Beldame and Gazelle Stakes in New York, both of which are Grade I races. Fleet Indian has been so impressive, it was reported that following her win in the Delaware Handicap on July 16 she was the most heavily bet in the Las Vegas future books of any horse pointing to the Breeders' Cup.
It won't be easy for 'Indian to complete a perfect season, however, as the Breeders' Cup Distaff is perhaps the deepest race on the World Championship program.
Victor Ryan is a race analyst for Today's Racing Digest in Carlsbad, Calif. He was formerly an Editor for the Blood-Horse Magazine in Kentucky and prior to that spent time on the backstretch as a turf writer for the Thoroughbred Times and North County Times.