(credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

This Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Classic may lack the star power and historical significance that came with the entry of Zenyatta in last year’s edition, but it still brings together a classy field of America’s best equine athletes. This year’s thirteen entries include a 2-year-old Eclipse champion and a female trying to become the second filly or mare ever to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The Classic will be the finale of the 2011 Breeders’ Cup weekend that will feature 15 Championship races this Friday and Saturday at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. The post time for the Classic is 7pm Eastern. [ See full Breeders’ Cup TV schedule ]

Here is a preview of all thirteen competitors for the 28th running of the Breeders’ Cup Classic:

Uncle Mo
Morning Line odds: 5/2
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: John Velazquez
Career record: 7 starts, 5 wins, 1 second, 1 third
Most significant career win: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Churchill Downs, 2010)
Notes: Owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher return to Churchill Downs with their 2-year-old champion and winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Forced to scratch out of this year’s Kentucky Derby due to an infection, Uncle Mo returned to racing in the summer and won impressively last out at Belmont Park in the Kelso Handicap at one mile. He is the morning line favorite for the Classic but questions remain about his ability to win at the race’s 1 1/4 mile distance. He has only one career victory over one mile, the 1 1/16 mile Juvenile during last year’s Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs.


Havre de Grace
Morning Line odds: 3/1
Trainer: Larry Jones
Jockey: Ramon Dominguez
Career record: 14 starts, 8 wins, 4 seconds, 2 thirds
Most significant career win: Woodward Stakes (Saratoga Race Course, 2011)
Notes: The only female in the race, she will try to become the second filly or mare to ever win the Breeders’ Cup Classic. She ran third in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic and missed a perfect record in 2011 by a nose when she finished second to the superb Blind Luck in the Delaware Handicap. She defeated males in the Woodward Stakes this summer at Saratoga. Larry Jones, who trained the ill-fated Eight Belles in the 2008 Kentucky Derby, calls Havre de Grace the best horse he has ever trained. While she created some questions with an average workout on Monday, she remains a solid contender to “beat the boys” in this year’s Classic.


So You Think
Morning Line odds: 5/1
Trainer: Aidan O’Brien
Jockey: Ryan Moore
Career record: 19 starts, 12 wins, 4 seconds, 1 third
Most significant career win: Cox Plate (Australia, 2009 & 2010)
Notes: Arguably the most accomplished of the 2011 Classic entries and the only foreign horse entered. He is a multiple Group 1 winner on two continents. He won the Cox Plate in Australia twice and has won three Group 1 races in Europe. In his last two races, he finished fourth in the Arc de Triomphe and second in the Champion Stakes at Ascot. The only question (and it’s a big one) is his ability to transfer his ability to the dirt. All of his nineteen races have come over the turf, which is where all high class racing is done overseas. His trainer Aiden O’Brien has won just about every significant race in the world, but has yet to win a Breeders’ Cup Classic.


Flat Out
Morning Line odds: 6/1
Trainer: Charles “Scooter” Dickey
Jockey: Alex Solis
Career record: 12 starts, 5 wins, 3 seconds, 0 thirds
Most significant career win: Jockey Club Gold Cup (Belmont Park, 2011)
Notes: “Scooter” Dickey, Flat Out’s 70-year-old trainer, has been training thoroughbreds since 1963 and Flat Out is the best horse of his career. The 5-year-old Flat Out had an injury-plagued early career but blossomed in 2011 with wins in the Suburban Handicap and Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. He finished second to Havre de Grace in the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga but was only two lengths behind her at the finish line. Flat Out received rave reviews for his impressive workout this past weekend at Churchill Downs in preparation for the Classic. He has a huge shot to put his well-deserving trainer in the winner’s circle on Saturday evening.


Game on Dude
Morning Line odds: 10/1
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: Chantal Sutherland
Career record: 13 starts, 5 wins, 3 seconds, 0 thirds
Most significant career win: Santa Anita Handicap (Santa Anita Park, 2010)
Notes: Bob Baffert’s only Classic contender, after the scratch of Prayer for Relief, Game on Dude will be ridden by Chantal Sutherland who will attempt to become the first female jockey to win the Classic. Game on Dude has been among the best older horses on the West Coast during 2011 winning the Santa Anita Handicap and the Goodwood Stakes. He has finished first or second in eight of his thirteen career races. His sire, Awesome Again, won the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1998.


Stay Thirsty
Morning Line odds: 12/1
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Career record: 11 starts, 4 wins, 3 seconds, 1 third
Most significant career win: Travers Stakes (Saratoga Race Course, 2011)
Notes: Trained and owned by the same owner/trainer combo as Uncle Mo, Stay Thirsty won the Travers Stakes at Saratoga but most recently finished third in the Jockey Club Gold behind Classic contenders Flat Out and Drosselmeyer. Considering the lack of superstars among the 3-year-old class this year, Stay Thirsty doesn’t inspire much confidence that he will be able to move past the top contenders in this year’s Classic. He will be at higher odds than his stable mate Uncle Mo but sports a better 3-year-old campaign and a win at the Classic distance of 1 1/4 miles.


To Honor and Serve
Morning Line odds: 12/1
Trainer: William Mott
Jockey: Jose Lezcano
Career record: 9 starts, 5 wins, 1 second, 2 thirds
Most significant career win: Pennsylvania Derby (Philadelphia Park, 2011)
Notes: A well regarded 2-year-old who won two graded stakes races at Aqueduct last fall, he disappointed during his early 3-year-old campaign and missed the Triple Crown series because of an injury. He returned to racing in August and put together two impressive victories including a win in the Pennsylvania Derby against Classic competitors Ruler on Ice and Rattlesnake Bridge. Like the other 3-year-olds in the race, he has yet to prove himself against accomplished older horses.

Morning Line odds: 15/1
Trainer: William Mott
Jockey: Mike Smith
Career record: 15 starts, 4 wins, 5 seconds, 2 thirds
Most significant career win: Belmont Stakes (Belmont Park, 2010)
Notes: Drosselmeyer is one of two Belmont Stakes winners entered in this year’s Classic. He has only one win this year in a minor stakes race at Belmont Park. One of his better career performances came in his last race, when he finished strong to place second behind Flat Out in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He seems an unlikely winner, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him finish third or fourth at long odds.


Morning Line odds: 30/1
Trainer: Michael Maker
Jockey: Paco Lopez
Career record: 26 starts, 8 wins, 5 seconds, 5 thirds
Most significant career win: Hawthorne Gold Cup (Hawthorne Race Track, 2011)
Notes: The 5-year-old gelding has the most career starts (26) among this year’s Classic contenders. After a long career running in allowance races, he jumped up in class in 2011 and won two graded stakes including the 1 1/4 mile Hawthorne Gold Cup in his most recent race. This is by far the toughest field he has faced and he will need to run the race of his life to have any impact on this year’s Classic.


Ice Box
Morning Line odds: 30/1
Trainer: Nick Zito
Jockey: Corey Nakatani
Career record: 15 starts, 3 wins, 1 second, 1 third
Most significant career win: Florida Derby (Gulfstream Park, 2010)
Notes: In 2010, as a 3-year-old, Ice Box won the Florida Derby and finished second in the Kentucky Derby. Since then, he has been out of winning form. In his last two races, he showed little and was well beaten. The long time partnership of Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito and owner Bob LaPenta are swinging for the fences in the Classic with a horse that has no positive form to speak of — he will be a deserving longshot.


Rattlesnake Bridge
Morning Line odds: 30/1
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin
Jockey: Calvin Borel
Career record: 7 starts, 2 wins, 3 seconds, 1 third
Most significant career win: Long Branch Stakes (Monmouth Park, 2011)
Notes: The 3-year-old Rattlesnake Bridge is the only horse in the field without a graded stakes win. He ran a huge race in the Travers Stakes this summer at Saratoga, finishing second at odds of 14 to 1. His jockey Calvin Borel, who has pulled off a fair share of impossible wins including the Kentucky Derby at odds of 50 to 1 in 2009, would deserve to be honored in bronze at the entrance of Churchill Downs if he can win aboard his 2011 Classic mount.


Ruler on Ice
Morning Line odds: 30/1
Trainer: Kelly Breen
Jockey: Garrett Gomez
Career record: 10 starts, 3 wins, 3 seconds, 2 thirds
Most significant career win: Belmont Stakes (Belmont Park, 2011)
Notes: The second Belmont Stakes winner in the race, Ruler on Ice will be facing older horses for the first time in his career. He finished behind 3-year-old Classic entries To Honor and Serve and Stay Thirsty in his last two races. He gets the service of world class jockey Garrett Gomez who won the Classic last year aboard Blame. Ruler on Ice shocked the racing world when he won the Belmont Stakes, and he would rock the racing universe if he could pull off the upset in the Classic.


Prayer for Relief
Morning Line odds: 30/1
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: Rafael Bejarano
Career record: 9 starts, 5 wins, 1 second, 1 third
Most significant career win: Super Derby (Louisiana Downs, 2011)
Notes: Prayer for Relief did not make the trip to Louisville due to a fever and will scratch from the race.


Race Analysis and Picks:
The morning line favorite Uncle Mo is one fast horse, but there are legitimate doubts about his ability to be effective at 1 1/4 miles. It would not be a surprise to see him out of the top four. A result that could produce huge paydays for those holding winning trifecta and superfecta tickets.

Of the six other 3-year-olds entries besides Uncle Mo, none look ready to beat the accomplished older horses they will face in the 2011 Classic.

So You Think has run in some big races overseas, but he has never raced over a dirt surface. All of his races have come on turf. Aiden O’Brien has had far more accomplished entries fail in the Classic — So You Think seems a wise bet against for win honors.

Havre de Grace is the pick to win this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. She has been the most consistent horse (male or female) in 2011. She will get a slight weight break against the top male contenders and has proven her mettle against the boys once already in this year’s Woodward Stakes. Trainer Larry Jones has shown he can get a filly ready for a big effort and he has done a brilliant job keeping Havre de Grace in peak form throughout 2011.

Flat Out has moved up in the minds of handicappers with his impressive workout over the Churchill Downs surface this weekend. He has won at the Classic distance of 1 1/4 miles in winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup and looms the biggest threat to Havre de Grace.

PICKS: 1) Havre de Grace 2) Flat Out 3) Game on Dude 4) Drosselmeyer

The Breeders’ Cup is a great time to immerse yourself in the Sport of Kings. If you are new to racing and are looking for a place to learn about handicapping and betting races, be sure to check out the Beginner’s Corner at Hello Race Fans. To keep up on the latest Breeders’ Cup news with a variety of perspectives from around the virtual racing community, click over to Raceday 360. And, of course, the Breeders’ Cup site is a primary source for information about the big event this weekend. Good luck!

Kevin Martin is the CEO of the racing history site Colin’s Ghost, a contributing editor at Hello Race Fans, and a founding member of TURF.


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