Distaff headlines first day at Breeders' Cup - NBC Sports

Distaff headlines first day at Breeders' Cup
Two-time defending champ Royal Delta faces pair of challengers Beholder, Princes of Sylmar
October 31, 2013, 9:15 pm

Arcadia, Calif. -- The two-day Breeders’ Cup begins Friday with five races, including the much-anticipated $2 million Distaff, and the championship event will take place under ideal conditions at Santa Anita with sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80s expected on Friday and Saturday.

Originally designed to move from site to site each year, the Breeders’ Cup is in the second of a three-year run at Santa Anita. It’s a subject of considerable consternation for both fans and horsemen outside of California, who would prefer not to travel so far for three years in a row, but there’s no beating the weather at Santa Anita, especially when one considers the storms tormenting the Midwest and East Coast this week.

NBCSN will televise Friday’s races from 4-8 p.m. ET. Saturday's broadcast is scheduled for 3:30, with coverage shifting to NBC at 8.

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This is the 30th edition of the Breeders’ Cup, which began with only seven races back in 1984, and the Distaff is the only one on Friday’s program that has been around since the start. The Dirt Mile and Juvenile Turf will be held for the seventh time in 2013, and the Juvenile Fillies Turf and Marathon are in their sixth running.

Known as “The Great Race Place,” Santa Anita will be hosting the Breeders’ Cup for the seventh time. It’s one of the most scenic racetracks in the country, with the San Gabriel Mountains serving as a backdrop, and there’s so much history at the Art Deco-designed facility. Santa Anita opened in 1934 and has featured many of Thoroughbred racing’s greatest performers.

A terrific field of six will square off in the 1 1/8-mile Distaff, led by two-time defending champion Royal Delta. The 5-year-old mare attempts to go out on top in her final career start, but a pair of high-quality 3-year-old fillies, Beholder and Princess of Sylmar, will be looking to dethrone the queen. Slated for 7:35, the Distaff is the final Breeders’ Cup race on Friday afternoon.

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The Marathon comes first on Friday, and 10 horses will contest the 1 3/4-mile affair. It’s an unorthodox distance for American-based horses, with the major route races in the U.S. taking place at distances up to 1 1/2 miles, and last year’s event went to the Argentine invader Caliscopio. The year’s edition contains a pair of international raiders, Ever Rider from Argentina and London Bridge from England, in what looks to be an extremely well-matched field.

The Juvenile Turf follows the Marathon and Bobby’s Kitten is the 5-2 morning line favorite. An impressive stakes winner in his last outing at Belmont Park, the colt appears to tower above his U.S.-based rivals. His main competition figures to come from the four-horse foreign contingent, with Giovanni Boldini and Outstrip as possible major players.

The Dirt Mile is up next and it’s the only Breeders’ Cup race not restricted to 14 runners. Only 12 are allowed to start due to the short distance from the starting gate to the first turn, and outside draws are a major concern surrounding the two early favorites, Verrazano and Goldencents, who must start from posts 10 and 12, respectively. Other contenders include Alpha, Brujo de Olleros, Fed Biz and Golden Ticket.

The Juvenile Fillies Turf precedes the Distaff and has attracted a full field of 14. My Conquestadory, who overcame repeated trouble to post a stirring victory in the Grade 1 Alcibiades last time out, puts her perfect 2-for-2 mark on the line, but the talented youngster will have to overcome the far outside starting position. The extreme draw figures to benefit her main opponents, including a trio of formidable European shippers in Al Thakira, Chriselliam and Vorda.

The racing action promises to be exciting on Friday and serves as an excellent appetizer for Saturday’s smorgasbord of nine Breeders’ Cup events.