Kentucky Derby, Oaks starters prominent at 2023 Breeders' Cup

Nov 01, 2023 J. Keeler Johnson

Pretty Mischievous winning the 2023 Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs (Photo by

Pretty Mischievous winning the 2023 Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs (Photo by

Horses who competed in past editions of the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Kentucky Oaks (G1) are prominent among the entries for the 2023 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita.

The Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), the richest event of the 14-race program with a purse of $6 million, features three Kentucky Derby alumni. Zandon, third in the 2022 Run for the Roses won by 80-1 longshot Rich Strike, has remained in strong form ever since and enters the Classic off a 4 1/4-length victory in the Woodward (G2) at Aqueduct.

But two starts back, Zandon finished second by 6 1/4 lengths in the prestigious Whitney (G1) at Saratoga. The runaway Whitney winner was White Abarrio, who struggled when finishing 16th in the 2022 Kentucky Derby. White Abarrio may have been no match for Zandon under the Twin Spires, but the gray four-year-old has improved a lot since then and enters the Classic in career-best form.

Joining Zandon and White Abarrio in the Classic field is Derma Sotogake from Japan, an impressive UAE Derby (G2) winner who finished sixth with a troubled trip in the 2023 Kentucky Derby. Given an unencumbered run, Derma Sotogake is eligible to outrun his 20-1 morning line odds in the Classic.

Derby alumni can also be found in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1). Zozos and Charge It, who finished 10th and 17th in the 2022 Kentucky Derby, have bounced back since then to record victories against quality competition. Charge It crushed the Suburban (G2) by 4 3/4 lengths during the summer, while Zozos led all the way to win the Ack Ack (G3) at the start of autumn.

Past Kentucky Oaks starters entered at the Breeders’ Cup represent an even larger and more accomplished group than their Derby counterparts. No fewer than five Oaks alumnae are entered in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), including 2023 Kentucky Oaks winner Pretty Mischievous. Since scoring her big win at Churchill Downs, Pretty Mischievous has added victories in the Acorn (G1) and Test (G1) plus a runner-up finish in the Cotillion (G1) to her accomplished racing record.

Wet Paint, fourth as the favorite in the 2023 Kentucky Oaks and subsequently victorious in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), is another accomplished three-year-old in this year’s Distaff field. But she’s something of a longshot compared to older rivals Search Results and Clairiere, second and fourth in the 2021 Kentucky Oaks. Both have won at the Grade 1 level since facing off in the Oaks, and Clairiere has twice run well in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, finishing fourth in 2021 and third (beaten only a head) in 2022.

Another Kentucky Oaks representative in the Distaff field is Desert Dawn, who recorded a third-place finish as a 50-1 longshot in the 2022 Oaks. She hasn’t visited the winner’s circle since taking the Santa Anita Oaks (G2) in April 2022, but Desert Dawn remains a capable competitor at high levels and enters the Distaff off runner-up finishes in the Clement L. Hirsch (G1) and Zenyatta (G2).

There’s also a Kentucky Oaks starter entered in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1). Yuugiri, who faded from a pacesetting position to finish 13th in the 2022 Oaks, has since developed into a classy and accomplished sprinter. She’s won four of her five starts on dirt this year and enters the Breeders’ Cup off back-to-back wins in the Open Mind S. and Thoroughbred Club of America (G2).

It takes a high-quality horse to compete in the Kentucky Derby or Kentucky Oaks, and that quality is apparent when reviewing the Derby and Oaks starters entered at the Breeders’ Cup.

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