Fusaichi Pegasus is back at the scene of his greatest triumph, and this time he could be the star of a show with an international cast.
The Kentucky Derby winner was made the 8-5 early favorite Wednesday to win the $4.77 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs, although he has raced only once because of minor hoof problems since being upset in the Preakness on May 20.
It will be the last race for the 3-year-old colt, who will be retired to breeding under a deal valued at $60 million-$70 million.
Trainer Neil Drysdale said he is pleased with how Fusaichi Pegasus is coming up to the race, "but, on paper, this looks like a severe test. I'm always nervous about everything. If you have been around long enough, you know the improbable can happen. I don't take anything for granted."
Fusaichi Pegasus won the one-mile Jerome Handicap Sept. 23 at Belmont Park for his sixth victory in seven starts this year.
Five of Fusaichi Pegasus' rivals in the 14-horse field also are 3-year-olds Albert the Great, Captain Steve, Tiznow, England-based Giant's Causeway and Ireland-based Pine Dance. Two other contenders are 1999 Classic winner Cat Thief and Lemon Drop Kid.
All of these horses have won important stakes.
The 1 1/4-mile Classic is one of eight Breeders' Cup races, with total purse of $15.2 million.
While Giant's Causeway, a winner of five Group I stakes in England this year and making his dirt-track debut, is a 5-1 co-second choice with Albert the Great, Tiznow and Lemon Drop Kid, foreign invaders are favored in two other races.
Petrushka, winner of her last three starts in Ireland and England, is the 5-2 early choice to beat 13 rivals in the 1 3/8-mile Filly & Mare Turf. Her chief rival could be Perfect Sting, winner of the Diana Handicap at Saratoga.
The 5-2 early pick in the 1 1/2-mile Turf is Montjeu, winner of 11 of 15 career starts in England, Ireland, France and Japan, but a loser of his last two. Among 12 rivals are Kalanisi, second in the Juddmonte International and winner of the Dubai Champion in England in his last two starts, and Manndar, winner of the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs and the Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park.
Riboletta, a supplemental entry for $400,000, is the odds-on favorite to win the 1 1/8-mile Distaff for her seventh straight stakes victory. Also in the field of nine fillies and mares is Beautiful Pleasure, winner of the Distaff last year when she was champion older filly or mare.
Churchill Downs being the home of the Kentucky Derby, there is a lot of interest in the 1 1/16-mile Juvenile, which has attracted a strong field of 14 colts.
Flame Thrower, unbeaten in four starts including three stakes, is the 3-1 early choice, although he drew the No. 12 post. Three other leading contenders are A P Valentine, winner of the Champagne at Belmont Park; Street Cry, beaten a head and a neck in two starts agains Flame Thrower; and Arabian Light, winner of the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland.
The 1 1/16-mile Juvenile Fillies drew 13 starts, with Raging Fever, unbeaten in five starts including four stakes, the 7-2 early favorite. Three of her rivals are Notable Career, winner of the Oak Leaf at Santa Anita; Cindy's Hero, winner of the Del Mar Debutante; and Freefourracing, who won the Indian Summer at Keeneland after four starts in England.
Top contenders in the 14-horse field for the six-furlong Sprint appear to be Kona Gold and Caller One, each the winner of three straight stakes.
The third race on the grass is the 14-horse Mile. There is no hot favorite, but leading contenders seem to be War Chant, winner of Santa Anita's Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile, his only start on turf; Ladies Din, winner of the Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar; King Cugat, winner of the Arlington Classic at Arlington International; Indian Lodge, winner of her last start in France; and Dansili, second to Indian Lodge in his last start.
A total of 106 horses will contest the eight races.
NBC will televise the Breeders' Cup live from 1 p.m.-5:30 p.m. EST.
©2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed
© 2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.