Breeders’ Cup Classic

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Accelerate tops entries for 14-horse Breeders’ Cup Classic

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The Breeders’ Cup World Championships will have its biggest entry field along with a new race, which means plenty of story lines.

Especially in its main event.

Accelerate leads the 14-horse field for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, which will offer the 5-year-old a rematch against West Coast in a marquee race that’s missing unbeaten Triple Crown winner Justify.

Horse racing’s 13th Triple Crown champion, who was trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, was retired with an ankle issue in July after winning all six career starts this year. Baffert’s confirmed entries in the Classic are McKinzie and West Coast, whom Accelerate beat by 2 1/4 lengths last month at Santa Anita.

Monomoy Girl will seek another Grade 1 win at Louisville’s Churchill Downs in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. The filly has won eight of 10 starts, including the Kentucky Oaks in May at Churchill.

A record 221 horses were announced Wednesday for the 35th World Championships on Nov. 2-3. The 14-race schedule totaling a record $30 million in purses includes the inaugural Juvenile Turf Sprint on that Friday, the 2nd.

The Distaff and Dirt Mile have been moved to Saturday’s nine-race Cup card culminating with the Classic.

The Breeders’ Cup entries include a record 51 foreign horses aiming to race at Churchill Downs, which will host for the record-tying ninth time. Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien has 18 entries, including 2017 Juvenile Turf champion Mendelssohn in the Classic. Coolmore Stud’s 20 pre-entries are up six from last year.

Final entries and the post-position draw are Monday.

No matter which spot Accelerate starts from in the Classic, the quest will be capping his roll with another victory.

The John Sadler-trained colt has won five of six starts including his victory over West Coast, who can avenge that finish and improve on a third place in last year’s Classic that helped him earn the Eclipse Award as top 3-year-old male.

However, Sadler likes the current performance of the California-based son of Lookin at Lucky.

“He’s got a good style that he can stalk the speed; he doesn’t have to be in front,” Sadler said in a teleconference. “He’ll get a good trip, no doubt. The other thing I’m comforted by is he is proven on an off track if we get rain.”

As for Baffert, a Classic win would be his fourth in five years. Besides McKinzie, which won the Grade 1 Pennsylvania on Sept. 22, the trainer has Collected among five horses just outside the 14-horse limit.

“We feel like he deserves a chance at the Classic,” Baffert said. “I can’t believe how many pre-entered. I was hoping to get Collected in there. He was a little late to the party, but he’s doing well and working well.”

Oscar Performance aims to defend his Cup Mile win on turf in his third consecutive Breeders’ Cup start. The 4-year-old is coming off a 1 1/2-length victory in the Woodbine Mile and has won two of three starts this year.

Five races for 2-year-olds highlight the Breeders’ Cup first day as “Future Stars Friday.” The $1 million Turf Sprint is open to colts and fillies and will cover 5 1/2 furlongs.

Gun Runner 9-5 favorite for Breeders’ Cup Classic

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DEL MAR, Calif. — Gun Runner, the top older horse on the East Coast, is the slight 9/5 favorite for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Saturday at Del Mar.

He breaks from the No. 5 post while defending champion Arrogate starts from the rail as the 2-1 second choice.

Del Mar is hosting the $28 million, 13-race Breeders’ Cup for the first time. The season-ending championships open with four races on Friday followed by nine, including the Classic, on Saturday.

Gun Runner arrives on a three-race winning streak, all Grade 1 stakes, for trainer Steve Asmussen. The 4-year-old posted dominant victories in the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs and the Whitney and Woodward Stakes at Saratoga. His last defeat was to Arrogate in Dubai.

Arrogate, the world’s all-time leading money earner with $17.3 million, is one of four Classic runners trained by Bob Baffert. He also sends out Collected (6-1), Mubtaahij (12-1) and Travers winner West Coast (6-1) in the Classic, the richest race of the weekend.

Keen Ice retires, will miss Breeders’ Cup Classic

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Keen Ice will be retired after wrenching his right ankle while galloping and won’t run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 4, which was scheduled to be his career finale.

Jerry Crawford, president of Donegal Racing, says the injury isn’t severe, but it was enough for the owners to decide to end the 5-year-old’s career. Keen Ice will be retired to Calumet Farm in Lexington, Kentucky, and begin stallion duties next year.

Keen Ice finished third in last year’s BC Classic and fourth in the 2015 edition. He was third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont in his last start on Oct. 7.

The horse had career earnings of $3,407,245, with three wins in 24 career starts. Keen Ice was trained by Dale Romans early in his career and most recently by Todd Pletcher.

Keen Ice is perhaps best known for upsetting Triple Crown champion American Pharoah to win the 2015 Travers Stakes at Saratoga. He finished seventh in the 2015 Kentucky Derby and third in the Belmont Stakes.

Crawford says Donegal Racing will be first in line to buy any progeny of Keen Ice.