Trainer Shug McGaughey left the door open Wednesday for his two star fillies to challenge Cigar in the Breeders' Cup Classic by pre-entering them for the $3-million race as well as the $1-million Distaff.
McGaughey doesn't have to make a decision about Heavenly Prize and Inside Information until next Wednesday, when entries will be taken for the seven Breeders' Cup races at Belmont Park on Oct. 28.
Although Cigar, who has won 11 consecutive races, nine of them this year, is expected to be the shortest-priced favorite ever in the Classic, there will be a full field of 14 horses if McGaughey runs one of his fillies. Fifteen horses were pre-entered, with Jed Forest on the also-eligible list in the event any of the first 14 don't run. Only three previous Classics have been run with the 14-horse maximum.
"I'm not surprised [at the number of horses pre-entered]," said Bill Mott, who trains Cigar. "This is a very important race and it's worth $3 million. Many of those horses have a good reason to be in there."
Because of their sex, both of McGaughey's 4-year-old fillies would carry 123 pounds, three less than Cigar, in the 1 1/4-mile Classic.
Heavenly Prize, last year's 3-year-old filly champion even though she lost by a neck to One Dreamer in the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs, had a four-race winning streak snapped when Serena's Song beat her by three-quarters of a length in the Beldame at Belmont on Oct. 7.
Inside Information has won 13 of 16 starts and would be undefeated in seven races this year if she hadn't finished second to Classy Mirage after stumbling at the start of the Ballerina Handicap at Saratoga in August.
"I'm [pre-entering in two races] to keep my options open," McGaughey said. "I'm leaning toward the Distaff, but I'm leaving the door wide open for Heavenly Prize in the Classic, and I'm leaving the door open just a little bit for Inside Information. Both of these fillies are special. One's a champion and the other one could have been undefeated this year. But I'm not assuming anything. The Distaff looks like it might be an easier race to win than running against the colts [in the Classic]."
McGaughey has won five Breeders' Cup races, the same number as Neil Drysdale. Only Wayne Lukas, with 12, has won more. Lukas will run eight horses this year, including Golden Attraction, the favorite in the Juvenile Fillies, and Hennessy and Honour And Glory, among the leading contenders in a wide-open Juvenile.
For the first time during his long streak, Cigar looked vulnerable in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, at Belmont on Oct. 7, when he beat Unaccounted For by one length. That was Cigar's shortest winning margin in the 11 victories.
Mott's initial analysis of the Gold Cup hasn't changed. "My horse didn't handle the track very well," he said Wednesday. "It was fast on top, but sticky underneath, and he was carried wide on the turn [for home]. He had to work harder than he usually does."
The only victories by distaffers against males in the Breeders' Cup came when Very Subtle won the Sprint in 1987 and Safely Kept captured the same race in 1990. Only two fillies have run in the Classic, Triptych finishing sixth in 1986 and Jolypha running third in 1992.
Neither Heavenly Prize nor Inside Information has run against males. Heavenly Prize has won twice at 1 1/4 miles and Inside Information has never run that far.
Although Serena's Song is one of the 11 horses pre-entered in the 1 1/8-mile Distaff, Roxy Roxborough, the Las Vegas oddsmaker, still makes Heavenly Prize the 3-2 favorite, with Serena's Song 2-1 and Inside Information 5-2. Roxborough has Cigar listed at 1-2 in the Classic.
A total of 101 horses, 25 fewer than last year and the smallest number since 1989, were pre-entered for the seven races, which are worth $10 million. The Sprint and the Mile, a grass race, were the most popular, drawing 21 and 24 pre-entrants, respectively. Some of the horses in those races are also eligible for other races.
Eighteen horses were pre-entered from Europe, eight less than last year. The most notable absentee is Lammtarra, who was retired after winning the Arc de Triomphe.
Pre-entry costs are 1% of the race purse per horse--$30,000 for the Classic, $20,000 for the Turf and $10,000 for each of the other five races. Owners must pay another 1% for their horses to run.
Breeders' Cup Pre-entries
$1-million Juvenile Fillies--Cara Rafaela, Classy 'n' Bold, Flat Fleet Feet, Gastronomical, Golden Attraction, La Rosa, My Flag, Mystic Rhythms, Ocean View, Tipically Irish.
$1-million Sprint--Classy Mirage, Da Hoss, Desert Stormer, Friendly Lover, Golden Gear, Hever Golf Rose, Lake Coniston, Lit De Justice, Mr. Greeley, Not Surprising, Our Emblem, Poplar Bluff, Track Gal, You And I. Also eligible: Owington, French Deputy, Goldminer's Dream, Lord Carson, Ft. Stockton, Demaloot Demashoot, Boone's Mill.
$1-million Distaff--Borodislew, Forested, Golden Klair, Heavenly Prize, Inside Information, Jade Flush, Lakeway, Mariah's Storm, Serena's Song, Top Rung, Vinista.
$1-million Mile--Caress, Cherokee Rose, Da Hoss, Dove Hunt, Fastness, Fourstars Allstar, Harayir, Mighty Forum, Ridgewood Pearl, Savinio, Sayyedati, Shaanxi, Soviet Line, The Vid. Also eligible: Poplar Bluff, Earl of Barking, Ventiquattrofogli, Nicolotte, Dumaani, Dowty, Johann Quatz, Manilaman, Rare Reason, Wild Zone.
$1-million Juvenile--Appealing Skier, Blushing Jim, Diligence, Editor's Note, Exetera, Hennessy, Honour And Glory, Odyle, Sampras, Seacliff, Secreto De Estado, Unbridled's Song, Winter Quarters.
$2-million Turf--Alice Springs, Awad, Carnegie, Celtic Arms, Flitch, Freedom Cry, Halling, Hernando, Lando, Northern Spur, Rifapour, Signal Tap, Tamure, Turk Passer. Also eligible: Talloires.
$3-million Classic--Celtic Arms, Cigar, Concern, Freedom Cry, French Deputy, Halling, Heavenly Prize, Inside Information, L'Carriere, Peaks And Valleys, Soul Of The Matter, Star Standard, Tinners Way, Unaccounted For. Also eligible: Jed Forest.