The 2018 Breeders’ Cup gets underway on Friday with the historic Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky, playing host to the two-day event.
The festival should prove plenty of high-quality racing, as some of the best horses, riders and owners take part in 14 races.
The event culminates on Saturday with the eagerly-anticipated Breeders’ Cup Classic. The race sees 14 thoroughbreds aged three and over compete for the $6 million dollar purse.
NBC Sports will provide coverage of the action on Friday and Saturday. The races will also be streamed on the Breeders’ Cup website, Facebook Live and Periscope. Full coverage details are available here.
Friday’s Races (Nov. 2, all times ET)
Juvenile Turf Sprint, 3:21 p.m.
Juvenile Fillies Turf, 4 p.m.
Tito’s Handmade Vodka Juvenile Fillies, 4:40 p.m.
Juvenile Turf, 5:22 p.m.
Sentient Jet Juvenile 6:05 p.m.
Saturday’s Races (Nov. 3, all times ET)
Filly and Mare Sprint, 12 p.m.
Turf Sprint, 12:38 p.m.
Dirt Mile, 1:16 p.m.
Maker’s Mark Filly & Mare Turf, 2:04 p.m.
Twinspires Sprint, 2:46 p.m.
Mile, 3:36 p.m.
Longines Distaff, 4:16 p.m.
Longines Turf, 4:56 p.m.
Classic, 5:44 p.m.
The outlook is for cool and cloudy conditions on Friday in Louisville, according to Weather.com. A high of 57 degrees is forecast, with a 20 per cent chance of rain.
Saturday brings a slightly improved forecast, but with conditions remaining unsettled. The outlook is for partly cloudy conditions and a similar chance of rain.
There’s likely to be keen interest in the weather after Churchill Downs hosted the wettest Kentucky Derby on record back in May, according to the National Weather Service.
Breeders’ Cup Classic Favourites
All eyes will be on Saturday’s final race, and there’s plenty of contenders eyeing first place and the $3.3 million prize that comes with it, per the event website.
Accelerate heads into the race as the favourite. The John Sadler-trained horse is on a three-race winning streak after finishing first at the Pacific Classic, the Awesome Again Stakes, and the Gold Cup at Santa Anita.
Sadler said Accelerate has been looking “super-duper” in preparations for Saturday’s big race, per Ed Golden at Horse Racing Nation.
He also spoke about the five-year-old’s form in 2018:
Horse Racing Nation @HR_Nation
John Sadler’s in town and talking Accelerate. Something new to know about last year’s @BreedersCup try… https://t.co/kHCnNFY8mR
If Accelerate were to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic, then Sadler believes he should be named Horse of the Year ahead of Triple Crown winner Justify, per Bob Ehalt at the event website.
Accelerate will face a tough field packed full of horses who have enjoyed success this season, including Pennsylvania Derby winner McKinzie and Catholic Boy who claimed victory at the Travers Stakes:
Breeders’ Cup @BreedersCup
Watch Catholic Boy win the 2018 Travers Stakes! ????????????????
#TraversDay #HorseRacing https://t.co/tRhEigf9YE
McKinzie is just one of three entries for trainer Bob Baffert, who also has West Coast and Collected competing in the race. Collected finished as runner-up in the 2017 Classic behind winner Gun Runner.
Baffert told Ed Golden of Santa Anita publicity (h/t Art Wilson at Orange County Register), McKinzie faces a tough challenge.
“At the start of the year, McKinzie was one of my best horses until Justify came along,” he said. “The Classic is a tall order for him because he’s only had one prep coming off a layoff, but McKinzie will move up off that race.”
Beating Accelerate to the post looks a tough ask for any of the other 18 horses who will rival the favourite for victory on Saturday. Sadler’s horse comes into the race in great form and looks to have the quality to maintain his winning run.