Breeders’ Cup preview weekends don’t get much bigger than this one.
There are 13 races in four countries which carry direct entry into Breeders’ Cup contests for the winners, along with a number of races which will have a direct bearing on the Breeders’ Cup even though they don’t have official Breeders’ Cup Challenge status.
Few runners from the U.S. 3-year-old classic division that contested the Triple Crown races this year are represented. The best chance any of them may have on Breeders’ Cup day could be Derby fifth-place finisher Practical Joke, who looks a strong chance for the Dirt Mile.
However, anyone trying to figure out the Breeders’ Cup picture should be watching at the weekend.
The most important trial for the Breeders’ Cup Classic is the Awesome Again Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita Park. The favorite is Cupid, who earned a start in last year’s Kentucky Derby with victory in the Rebel Stakes (G2), though a fall-off in form meant he didn’t race at Churchill Downs.
This year his victories include the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1), and victory in the Awesome Again will confirm the strength of trainer Bob Baffert’s team, which also potentially includes Arrogate, Collected, and West Coast.
West Coast would be the favorite to win the Eclipse Award for Champion 3-Year-Old Male at the moment due to his Travers Stakes and Pennsylvania Derby victories, but one horse that has a rough chance of toppling him runs at Belmont Park on Saturday.
Turf horses don’t normally win 3-year-old honors, but few sophomores have been more impressive this year than Oscar Performance. Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner has won three consecutive races this year, including the Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) and Secretariat Stakes (G1).
He races against older horses in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (G1) on Saturday, and victory in this and the Breeders’ Cup Turf could give Eclipse Award voters something to think about.
Other races to look at include the Zenyatta Stakes (G1) for fillies and mares at Santa Anita, in which the favorite is Paradise Woods, the beaten favorite in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) earlier this year.
Three races with relevance to next year’s Kentucky Derby are also being held this week. The FrontRunner Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita is the second race in the main Road to the Kentucky Derby series, while across the Atlantic, there are two races which form part of the inaugural European Road to the Kentucky Derby: the Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday, and a third on Sunday.
(Cupid Photo by Coady Photo/Oaklawn Park)