LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Almost 180 of the best thoroughbreds in the world are entered in the two-day, 15-race Breeders' Cup Championships Friday and Saturday.
By Saturday night, some of the 177 will be christened superstars. But others will be considered disappointments, if for no other reason than how they take to the racing surface at Churchill Downs.
"You see it at the Derby, you see it here a lot in all races -- this is a horse-for-the-course type of track," trainer Larry Jones, who will send the Havre de Grace in the $5 million Classic, said. "There are horses that an awful lot are expected of and, at the end of the day, they just don't run well here."
In all, the horses will be racing for $26 million in purses, with most of the attention going to the Classic.
At Monday's post position draw, Uncle Mo -- scratched from the Kentucky Derby in May -- was made the 5-to-2 favorite despite drawing the No. 12 post position for a 13-horse field.
Uncle Mo has shown an affinity for the surface at Churchill, winning last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile. The Todd Pletcher-trainee missed more than three months of work with a liver ailment developed during Derby week. Then he ran second in the King's Bishop at Saratoga in August and won the Kelso Handicap at Belmont on Oct. 10.
"He's training well and he never had a problem with this track," said Pletcher. "It's a tall order, but we've come a long way since May."
Havre de Grace was made a 3-to-1 second choice, followed by So You Think (5-1) and Flat Out (6-1). Also in the field: Game On Dude (10-1), Stay Thirsty (12-1), To Honor And Serve (12-1), Drosselmeyer (15-1) and Ice Box, Rattlesnake Bridge and Headache (all 30-1).
Ice Box ran second to Super Saver in last year's Kentucky Derby at Churchill. But Game on Dude (fifth in the Derby Trial), Flat Out (sixth in the Stephen Foster) and Stay Thirsty (fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, 12th in the Kentucky Derby) are among those who haven't run their best at the track
On Monday, Havre de Grace didn't look that comfortable on the dirt while taking nearly 1:02 to travel five furlongs -- at least to everyone except her trainer.
"It's probably a D-plus work if they're trying to grade," said Jones. "And I sure wouldn't give it an A. But knowing her, we're OK. She shows up every time. And she's already had a race over Churchill, so we know she can make the course."
The Classic will cap a busy weekend at Churchill.
Six Breeders' Cup races are set for Friday: the $500,000 Juvenile Sprint, the $1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf, the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint, the $2 million Juvenile Fillies, the $2 million Filly & Mare Turf, and the $2 million Ladies' Classic.
The remaining nine go Saturday: the $500,000 Breeders' Cup Marathon, the $2 million Juvenile Turf, the $2 million Sprint, the $1 million Turf Sprint, the $1 million Dirt Mile, the $3 million Turf, the $2 million Juvenile, the $2 million Mile and the $5 million Classic.