The ongoing expansion of the Breeders' Cup World Championships produced another milestone mark Wednesday as stars Havre de Grace, Uncle Mo, and Goldi kova were among the record 193 horses pre-entered for the 15-race lineup at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4 and 5.
With the Juvenile Sprint, an open race for 2-year-olds run at 6 furlongs, added to the Breeders' Cup program for the first time this year, the number surpassed the previous mark of 184 set last season when the event was also at Churchill Downs.
The Breeders' Cup will be at Churchill Downs for a record eighth time this year. The Louisville track first hosted the event in 1988.
The list of pre-entries was largely devoid of any major surprises as multiple Grade I- winning filly Havre de Grace and reigning juvenile champion Uncle Mo were cross entered in the Ladies' Classic and Dirt Mile, respectively, but they have first preference to run in the $5 million, 11/4-mile Classic.
"The only reason we wouldn't run in the Classic is if we drew the one hole or saw something completely different with the weather on Friday or Saturday," said Rick Porter, owner of Havre de Grace. "We're using the entry in the Ladies' Classic strictly as an insurance policy."
Uncle Mo, winner of last year's Juvenile, is one of eight returning or former Breeders' Cup winners pre-entered. The others are Big Drama, California Flag, Chamberlain Bridge, Eldaafer, Goldikova, Midday and Shared Account.
Other leading contenders on the Classic pre-entry list include multiple Group I winner So You Think, Jockey Club Gold Cup victor Flat Out and Travers Stakes winner Stay Thirsty.
Three-time Eclipse Award winner Gio Ponti, runner-up in last year's Breeders' Cup Mile, was entered in both the Mile and Classic with first preference in the Classic. However, trainer Christophe Clement said Wednesday the seven-time Grade I winner would "most likely" go in the Mile.
Overseas entries came in at 29 this year, up from 2010 when 26 international contenders were pre-entered but still short of the record 37 from 2009.
The most notable of the European entrants is the champion mare Goldikova, who is seeking an unprecedented fourth straight Mile triumph. Although the brilliant daughter of Anabaa has lost three of five starts this year, trainer Freddy Head said he doesn't think the 14-time Grade/Group I winner is any less dangerous than she has been in previous seasons.
"She looks the same, she works the same at home, and her form is as good or even better than last year," Head said. "I'm coming with a lot of confidence."
The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Trappe Shot was pre-entered in both the Dirt Mile and the Sprint, but he was inadvertently left off the list of Sprint pre-entries. The colt was added to the list for the Sprint, but he has first preference to run in the Dirt Mile.
Trainer Aidan O'Brien will have a strong contingent from his Ballydoyle stable including Await the Dawn and St Nicholas Abbey in the Turf.
A maximum of 14 starters are allowed in each of the 15 Breeders' Cup World Championships races with final entries being taken on Monday.
There will be up to two also-eligible horses for each Championship race. The also-eligible horses will be designated in accordance with the Breeders' Cup Racing Directors/Secretaries Panel's order of preference for each Championship race that is oversubscribed at the time of pre-entry.
Multiple Grade I winner Get Stormy had his first work since running second in the Shadwell Turf Mile on Oct. 8, covering 5 furlongs in 1:00.80 on the Keeneland turf Wednesday morning.
Trainer Tom Bush said the son of Stormy Atlantic would ship to Churchill on Saturday but would not have another serious move in advance of his expected start in the Breeders' Cup Mile on Nov. 5.
"It was just about what we were looking for," Bush said of the work. "He finished up strong and galloped out strong. I think we did what we needed to do. He'll gallop at Churchill Sunday and gallop up to the race."
Bush is admittedly more nervous than excited about the Breeders' Cup — and with good reason. The Mile is shaping up as the arguably best race on the World Championships card with three-time race winner Goldikova, three-time Eclipse Award champion Gio Ponti, and Grade I winners like Sidney's Candy and Turallure among the expected entrants.
Get Stormy was 11th in last year's Mile, but he has been a drastically better horse this season. The striking bay has earned wins in the Grade I Maker's Mark Mile and the Grade I Turf Classic — the latter of which came over the Churchill turf.
"We think he's a better horse (than last year)," Bush said. "Of course, too, we're not hurt if the ground comes up on the soft side. It's not a penalty for us whereas some horses just don't seem to handle it."
■ Other notable Breeders' Cup contenders in action Wednesday were Gio Ponti, who covered 5 furlongs in company over Belmont Park's inner turf in 1:02.11, and Ladies' Classic candidate It's Tricky, who was credited with a 5-furlong work in a bullet 1:00.10 over Belmont's main track.