Ten racetrack storylines to keep an eye on during the first-ever Breeders' Cup World Championships at Keeneland Race Course:
1. The Crown Prince vs. the Queen. For the first time since its inception in 1984, the Breeders' Cup is slated to have the presence of a Triple Crown winner with American Pharoah looking to end his career with a victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Since racing has been blessed with an abundance of riches this year, the race is also expected to feature champion mare and future Hall of Famer Beholder. The 2012 Juvenile Fillies winner and 2013 Distaff heroine will attempt to become the first horse to win three separate Breeders' Cup races.
2. The royal subjects. The last time the Breeders' Cup tried to bill the Classic as a two-horse race was Bernardini vs. Lava Man in 2006 — the year that Invasor won. So while Beholder and American Pharoah will dominate the lead-up, remember there are Grade I winners like Keen Ice, Tonalist and Honor Code perfectly capable of being a successful spoiler.
3. Runhappy. Maria Borell has five wins in her burgeoning career as a trainer. All of those victories have come this year and four of them have been delivered by Runhappy, the Grade I-winning son of Super Saver who just may steal the show in the Breeders' Cup Sprint against a field expected to include multiple Grade I winner Private Zone.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
4. O'Neill juveniles. Trainer Doug O'Neill has tried to corner the market on good 2-year-olds this season, conditioning Grade I winners Ralis and Nyquist for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Though Grade I Alcibiades winner Gomo will miss the Juvenile Fillies because of a chip in her ankle, O'Neill has another contender in that spot in Land Over Sea.
5. Sophie Doyle. Doyle, England's champion female apprentice jockey in 2010, came to the United States less than two years ago in search of more success. Doyle earned her first graded stakes victory and simultaneously put herself in position for her first ever Breeders' Cup mount when she rode the 5-year-old mare Fioretti to victory in the Grade II Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes on Oct. 3 to earn a spot in the Filly & Mare Sprint. Doyle is also hopeful her brother James, who rides for the Godolphin racing stable in Europe and the United Arab Emirates, will join her at Keeneland for the Breeders' Cup.
6. European influence. European shippers are always a force to be reckoned with, especially in the turf races. This year's contingent could be particularly strong with Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Golden Horn slated to contest the Breeders' Cup Turf and Group I victor Gleneagles, who is probable to test dirt for the first time in the $5 million Classic.
7. Girls vs. Boys. Beholder isn't the only female who is planning to make everyone wish they could run like a girl. Grade I winner Tepin and Group I winner Esoterique are both expected to tackle male counterparts in the Breeders' Cup Mile, a race that has been won by distaffers six times.
8. Mark Casse for the win. The multiple Sovereign Award-winning trainer has saddled 23 Breeders' Cup starters without a win. He comes into this year loaded for bear with as many as six possible starters, led by Tepin in the Mile.
9. Weather. Fair or not, whether Keeneland's first-ever Breeders' Cup is viewed as a success will hinge in part on how well Mother Nature cooperates. It was sleeting in Central Kentucky on Breeders' Cup Saturday in 2014, but there is just as good a chance it could be 60 degrees this October 30-31. Fingers crossed for the latter.
10. Logistics. Keeneland has turned itself inside out adding the temporary facilities needed to host the Breeders' Cup, and the pressure is on for the track and its staff to prove they can handle the influx. If fans end up waiting in endless lines for bathrooms, food and betting windows and held hostage by ridiculous traffic, luxury chalets will be the last thing anyone remembers.