INGLEWOOD, CALIF., NOV. 17 -- "This will be the best Breeders' Cup race that has ever been run," Jack Van Berg predicted today. As Alysheba's trainer, he is clearly prejudiced, but he is right that the Breeders' Cup Classic will offer a rare spectacle.
The $3 million event at Hollywood Park Saturday will match Alysheba against Ferdinand, and it will be the first time in the 1980s that two Kentucky Derby winners haved faced each other. Almost every time this has happened before -- Spectacular Bid versus Affirmed, Seattle Slew versus Affirmed, Secretariat versus Riva Ridge -- the result has been a memorable racing drama.
A field of 12 is expected to be entered when post positions are drawn Wednesday morning. Its members have earned $14 million, making it the richest field of thoroughbreds ever assembled.
Besides the two favorites, the lineup will include Skywalker, the winner of last year's Classic; Afleet, the Canadian colt who has ardent support from many handicappers; and Bold Arrangement, the much-traveled English colt who finished second in the 1986 Kentucky Derby.
The Classic will be the premier attraction of the seven Breeders' Cup races, which offer a total of $10 million in prize money. But most of the other fields are deep and interesting, too, largely because they have attracted strong foreign contingents. There had been fears that the late date of the Breeders' Cup this year would reduce foreign participation, but those fears proved ill-founded. Next to the Alysheba-Ferdinand confrontation, the most interesting rivalry is America versus the world.
In the $2 million Turf, this country's leading grass horse, Theatrical, will face Trempolino, who won France's most important race, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, beating the best horses in Europe.
While that race might be considered a tossup, European horses should dominate the $1 million Breeders' Cup Mile, which is run on the turf. Miesque and Millgram, the continent's two best milers, will head the field. California-based Temperate Sil will be America's top representative.
Both 2-year-old races on the Breeders' Cup program will be wide-open, dominated by youngsters from the powerful stable of Wayne Lukas and given extra interest by the presence of foreign horses. Lukas will saddle five of the starters in the Juvenile Fillies. Their most intriguing challenger is a filly from Puerto Rico, which is not known for producing top thoroughbreds. Balquiria has won all eight of her races. "We're going to find out if she's another Bold Forbes," trainer Juan Ciuro said this morning.