The first Breeders' Cup hosted by Keeneland has its first tangible, positive indicator as 200 horses were pre-entered Wednesday, including 32 international contenders, for the two-day event taking place at the track Oct. 30-31.
The total is just short of the record of 201 pre-entries recorded last year when the Breeders' Cup was at Santa Anita for a third consecutive year. A total of 13 races make up the Breeders' Cup card.
The $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic has 10 horses pre-entered for the 1¼-mile test including Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and two-time Breeders' Cup race winner Beholder.
Beholder, winner of the 2012 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies sand 2013 Breeders' Cup Distaff, is attempting to join Zenyatta as the only female runners to win the Classic. The 5-year-old Beholder, who spiked a slight fever Tuesday but was reported to be in good order Wednesday, will also aim to be the first horse to win three different Breeders' Cup races should the daughter of Henny Hughes start in the Classic.
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Beholder is also pre-entered in the Distaff but has first preference for the Classic.
"I think the Breeders' Cup Classic this year with American Pharoah and Beholder promises to be one of the deeper races we've seen in quite some time from top to bottom," said Craig Fravel, president and CEO of Breeders' Cup. "While there won't be 14 starters there will be nine or 10 of the best horses in the world.
"We put an awful lot of time and effort into recruiting horses. And our horsemen are very familiar with Keeneland. Even if they haven't run a Breeders' Cup here, most of them have run here before. They're very comfortable with it and they know what a great job the track does."
Of the 13 Breeders' Cup races, only the Classic, Turf, and Juvenile Fillies were not oversubscribed. A maximum of 14 starters are allowed in each of the races with the exception of the Dirt Mile and Filly & Mare Turf which allow 12.
The 32 entries from overseas is down from the 38 that pre-entered in 2014. The European contingent is rife with quality, most notably multiple Group I winner Golden Horn, who is seeking to become the first reigning Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner to also prevail in the Breeders' Cup Turf.
Aidan O'Brien trainee Gleneagles, winner of the 2015 English and Irish Guineas, is slated to start in the Classic.
For the second year in a row, Chad Brown leads all trainers with 14 contenders pre-entered including multiple Grade I winner Stephanie's Kitten in the Filly & Mare Turf and defending Turf Sprint winner Bobby's Kitten for Nicholasville-based owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey.
The Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf led all races with 27 horses pre-entered. The Turf Sprint, which had a record 29 horses pre-entered in 2014, has 19 pre-entered this season.
Entries for all 13 races will be Monday, with the post-position draws later that day.