LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Drama has surrounded the Breeders’ Cup when it has been run at Churchill Downs, ranging from the stirring rally by Personal Ensign in the 1988 Distaff to retire unbeaten, to the narrow loss suffered by Zenyatta in the 2010 Classic in a similar bid to have a perfect career.
Similar memories are bound to be made on Saturday at Churchill Downs, on a card on which five previous BC race winners will try to win again, including Mendelssohn, who is seeking to become the first horse in the Breeders’ Cup’s 35 years to win a race on turf and on dirt. Trainer John Sadler will send out four runners, including two likely favorites, in a quest to finally get his first Breeders’ Cup win. And the great filly Enable, a two-time winner of the Arc de Triomphe, will try to become the first horse to win the Arc and the Turf in the same year.
All that and more will unfold during the nine Breeders’ Cup races which are the focal point of a 12-race card on Saturday that begins at 10:45 a.m. Eastern.
The unquestioned star of this Breeders’ Cup is Enable, who won her second Arc on Oct. 7 and enters the Turf with a record of nine wins in 10 starts. She is the 4-5 favorite on the line set by Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form’s national handicapper, and is even-money on the morning line of Mike Battaglia of Churchill Downs.
Her rivals include Talismanic, the upset winner of the Turf last year.
Enable is trained by John Gosden, who won the British trainers’ title this year owing to the success of a number of high-class runners, including Roaring Lion, who has won four straight Group 1 races – most recently the Queen Elizabeth II at Ascot on Oct. 20 – and now will try the dirt for the first time in the Classic.
“It’s a huge challenge,” Gosden said Wednesday. “He only won the QE II 11 days ago. He’s traveled incredibly well.”
Gosden said his biggest concern with Roaring Lion is the spray of dirt he’ll encounter.
“The American horses are so fast from the gate, and they’ll go the first quarter way quicker than the last quarter, so you don’t think you’ll be anything but off the pace,” Gosden said. “The problem is the dirt in the face. Horses climb, aren’t used to it. They start losing the rhythm of their breathing, and that’s a big problem. He’s drawn down in [post] 2; he’s going to see a lot of dirt coming back at him from there.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled with the horse. If it was a mile and a quarter on turf, he’d beat anything.”
Among the horses he’ll have to beat are Mendelssohn, who won last year’s Juvenile Turf, and Accelerate, who along with Catalina Cruiser in the Dirt Mile, Selcourt in the Filly and Mare Sprint, and Catapult in the Mile will try to give Sadler his first Breeders’ Cup win.
“It’s probably the best group we’ve brought,” Sadler said.
Accelerate is the 7-2 favorite in the Classic on Watchmaker’s line and is 5-2 on Battaglia’s line.
Catalina Cruiser is favored at 7-5 on Watchmaker’s line and at 8-5 with Battaglia in the Dirt Mile.
Trainer Peter Miller has two returning race winners in male sprint champ Roy H in the Sprint and Stormy Liberal in the Turf Sprint. Imperial Hint, second to Roy H in last year’s Sprint, is rated the one to beat in the Sprint this year. He is 2-1 on Watchmaker’s line, 9-5 with Battaglia.
Watchmaker has Stormy Liberal as the 7-2 favorite in the Turf Sprint, while Battaglia made Disco Partner the 7-2 favorite in that race.
Oscar Performance, the Juvenile Turf winner two years ago, tries to win the Mile against several European invaders, including Polydream, who is the lukewarm favorite at 4-1 on Watchmaker’s line and is 5-1 with Battaglia.
Europeans also look formidable in the Filly and Mare Turf, in which Wild Illusion is the 3-1 favorite on Watchmaker’s line. Battaglia has Sistercharlie, one of five runners in this race trained by Chad Brown, favored at 3-1.
A rare meeting of two Kentucky Oaks winners – Abel Tasman and Monomoy Girl – highlights the Distaff. Monomoy Girl is the 2-1 favorite on the lines of both Watchmaker and Battaglia.
Marley’s Freedom is a solid favorite in the day’s first Breeders’ Cup race, the Filly and Mare Sprint. She is 2-1 on Watchmaker’s line, a shorter 8-5 on Battaglia’s line.
– additional reporting by David Grening
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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