Pre-entries for the 34th Breeders’ Cup were announced today. The two-day event, to be staged for the first time in Del Mar, north of San Diego, has attracted a record 36 European entries. The previous best was 30 in 2009, when Europe came away with six winners, also a record haul.
Predictably, Aidan O’Brien plans to send the largest party, his team of 14 headed by Churchill. The dual Guineas winner will most likely line up in the Classic, though he also has a second preference in the Mile. He’s joined on the plane by fellow Group 1 scorers Happily, U S Navy Flag, Rhododendron, Roly Poly, Seventh Heaven and Highland Reel.
Discussing his hopes, O’Brien said, “They’re all in good form. There’s a big chance Churchill will go for the Classic. Like Giant’s Causeway [O’Brien’s unlucky Classic second], he’s a miler you hope will get ten furlongs. He’s a big powerful colt so I’m hopeful he’ll act on the dirt. He’s certainly made like a dirt horse”.
British trainers Sir Mark Prescott and George Scott are also represented among the pre-entries with Marsha and James Garfield respectively.
Prescott was pessimistic about his Group 1-winning filly handling the tight inner turf track in the Turf Sprint, saying, “We took her to Chelmsford this morning, and she went OK, but wasn’t that tight around the turn. She’s improved since she won around the likes of Catterick and, now she’s got faster, I’m not sure she’ll go around the turn”.
Marsha has not raced around a bend since beaten at Dundalk in October 2015.
Scott was more optimistic about his charge in the Juvenile Turf, relating, “James [Garfield] should handle fast ground. He was quite workmanlike at home but did a bit of work before the Mill Reef that marked him out as a smart horse. Although his best form is at six furlongs, Frankie Dettori [who rides] tells me you need a six furlong horse to win the mile race”.
Hugo Palmer was excited about the likelihood of Home Of The Brave getting a run in the Mile. First reserve but with a number above him expressing the Mile as their second preference, the Godolphin colt will be unlucky not to make the cut. He wasn't really comfortable on the downhill track in the Turf Sprint at Santa Anita last year, and his trainer was quick to point out the form boost Suedois gave his runner.
"He shipped well last year so we've no worries on that score, and I'm excited about how much weight he still has on. He's really held his condition this season".
The pre-entries are determined by senior international handicappers from the longlist of provisional entries. The final declaration stage, and post position draw, will take place next Monday in Del Mar.