ARCADIA // Curlin was made the early 7-5 favourite in a field of 12 for the $5 million (Dhs18.3m) Breeders' Cup Classic. Curlin would likely earn US Horse of the Year honours for the second consecutive year if he defends his title on Saturday at Santa Anita in his first race on a synthetic track. With the favourite been given a kind draw selecting the No. 9 post for the race. Without the retired Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Big Brown in the field, Raven's Pass, winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in his last start, was made the 6-1 second choice on Tuesday.
Like Curlin, Raven's Pass will be trying a synthetic surface for the first time. Go Between, the Pacific Classic winner, was the third choice at 8-1. Undefeated Casino Drive of Japan, Todd Pletcher-trained Fairbanks, and Duke of Marmalade and Henrythenavigator, both trained by the Irishman Aidan O'Brien, were all 10-1. "We've always wanted to face a good field and this is a great field," said Barbara Banke, wife of Curlin's owner Jess Jackson. "We're looking forward to the challenge."
Last year, Curlin won the Classic by four-and-a-halve lengths on a sloppy track at New Jersey's Monmouth Park. He is expected to run in ideal conditions. This year's Breeders' Cup features an all-female, five-race card on Friday, capped by the $2m Ladies' Classic, previously known as the Distaff. Zenyatta is the star of that show, with an 8-0 record that made her the 3-5 early favourite. If Curlin falters and Zenyatta stays unbeaten she could be the rare filly to have a shot at US Horse of the Year.
Midshipman and Street Hero, winners of the major two-year-old races in California, lead the 13-horse field for the $2m Juvenile. Both two-year-olds are proven runners on the artificial surface, with Midshipman winning two of his three starts on it, and Street Hero finishing in the money on it in five starts. Munnings is the race's 7-2 favourite. The 14 races to be run on Friday and Saturday are worth $25.5m. Midnight Lute returns to defend his title as the 7-2 second choice in the $2m Sprint for Baffert.
Saturday's six-furlong race will be just his second start this year and third since winning the Sprint by four-and-three-quarter lengths last year at Monmouth Park. Street Boss is the Sprint's 3-1 favourite. Baffert also considered running Indian Blessing in the Sprint, but opted instead to run her in the $1m Filly & Mare Sprint, where she drew the No. 5 post. Kip Deville will defend his title in the $2m Mile on the turf for trainer Rick Dutrow, who also trains Big Brown. The colt was suddenly retired because of an injury, denying the Breeders' Cup its most intriguing match-up between Big Brown and Curlin. Kip Deville is the 5-1 third choice and drew the No. 2 post. Goldikova is the race's 3-1 favourite. Among the other races: - Soldier of Fortune is the 7-2 favourite for the $3m Turf, Wait a While comes into the $2 million Filly & Mare Turf as the 3-1 favourite.
Stardom Bound brings a two-race winning streak into the $2m Juvenile Fillies, while the undefeated Maram looks to extend her streak to three in a row in the $1m Juvenile Fillies Turf from the No. 3 post. Pyro, considered a Triple Crown contender after winning the Louisiana Derby, tries to close out his season with a victory in the $1m Dirt Mile. Paddy The Pro arrives for the $1m Juvenile Turf off two straight victories in Ireland. He drew the No. 8 post under Gómez.
Muhannak, winner of his last two races on synthetic surfaces in Europe, tries to carry his form in the $500,000 Marathon, which offers the smallest Breeders' Cup purse. He will break from post 5 at 20-1 odds. Sixties Icon is the 2-1 favourite. *AP