Breeders Cup back at famed Churchill Downs
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Which is the more famous: Churchill Downs Race Course or the Breeders Cup races? It matters not. Both cause heads to turn and necks to crane when it comes to famous thoroughbred races. The hallowed ground in Louisville — host of the Kentucky Derby has the long-awaited Breeders Cup races this year.
The most anticipated of the 14 stakes races to held today and tomorrow at Churchill is the Breeders Cup Classic at the distance of 10 furlongs and carrying a purse of $6 million. The BCC will be the last of the nine races run tomorrow.
But first come the five juvenile races today. Whetting the appetites of bettors and those who just appreciate the regal beauty of the thoroughbreds, will be the Juvenile Turf Sprint, Juvenile Fillies Turf, Juvenile Fillies, Juvenile Turf and the Sentient Jet Juvenile.
Then on Saturday, there will be nine more races, topped by the Breeders Cup Classic, where a full field of 14 could go postward.
The strapping Accelerate, winner of five of his last six races, could be the post-time favorite in the Classic. Thick-chested and with a longer-than-long stride, the bold chestnut must acquit himself against the formidable competition sure to come from three European challengers — Mendelssohn, Thunder Snow and Roaring Lion. European thoroughbreds rarely run on grass, but Thunder Snow has career earnings of over $8.5 million, while Roaring Lion will carry bright red silks and has been trained by world famous Aidan O’Brien, whose trips to America have never produced much more than heartburn for the quiet conditioner.
White-maned Bob Baffert, probably America’s most recognizable trainer, is likely to send out West Coast, Collected and McKinzie in the Classic. Baffert uses rider Mike Smith on West Coast, a bay competitor with no-back-down courage. Catholic Boy deserves to be in this year’s Classic. He’s prevailed over stiff competition throughout his much-watched career.
On Saturday, there will be the $4 million Longines Turf and four races that tote purses of $2 million — the Longines Distaff, Mile, Twinspires Sprint and Filly and Mare Turf.
Churchill Downs now has the lights it has needed in other years, when the Classic was run as darkness quickly covered the peopled grounds.
The winner of Friday’s Sentient Jet Juvenille will become the instant favorite for next year’s Kentucky Derby.
However, the ultimate winner is thoroughbred racing, which rarely commands the public’s attention any more. The Breeders Cup races and Churchill Downs itself will make some at least switch back and forth on their television set between racing and college football this weekend.