ARCADIA, CALIF — ARCADIA, Calif. -- More is on the line today at the Breeders' Cup than $10 million in purses.
In a year when the closest thing to an American super horse has been aged turf runner Star of Cozzene, it is likely that an impressive Breeders' Cup winner could emerge as Horse of the Year.
Star of Cozzene isn't even a factor.
He makes his next start in Tokyo at the Japan Cup for new Japanese owners and is not among today's entries at Santa Anita Park.
Instead, four or five scenarios could unfold today in an atmosphere "where the year-end championship is totally up in the air," said Lenny Hale, Laurel/Pimlico's vice president of racing who s erves on the nine-man Breeders' Cup Selection Committee, which decides which horses will run in the seven prestigious races.
"Everything depends on today," said Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens, who sends out Devil His Due in an attempt to upset favored Bertrando in the $3 million Breeders' Cup Classic.
Yesterday Bertrando could have been just another plain bay horse in a parade of about 15 dark bay or brown runners being cooled out on a path near Barn 24 of his trainer, Bobby Frankel.
But the 4-year-old colt will stand out among the nation's thoroughbreds today if he is an impressive winner of the Classic.
The horse is a one dimensional front-runner, who has been flown coast to coast and won his last two starts by a total of 16 1/2 lengths at Del Mar in California and at Belmont Park in New York. But before that he stopped on the lead in five consecutive races.
"He was arthritic and body sore, and Bobby has done a terrific job making him feel good again," said his jockey, Gary Stevens.
"It's a mental thing with him now. After his last two races, the horse thinks he's unbeatable. One thing for sure, though, is that I'm going for the lead. We are not about to change tactics with him now."
So much is at stake that Bertrando's owners, California businessmen Marshall Naify and Ed Nahem, almost perfunctorily put up $360,000 to enter the horse in the race. The fee is called a supplementary entry because the colt was not nominated to the Breeders' Cup by the end of his yearling year.
If Bertrand wins, he has a good chance to be Horse of the Year and will have increased value as a breeding animal. That's just one scenario.
If Devil His Due, already winner of $1.9 million this year, wins, he could be Horse of the Year. The same can be said for Best Pal, a gelding and another $360,000 supplemental entry.
But if these horses are upset, especially by one of the year's nondescript 3-year-olds, such as Colonial Affair, Miner's Mark or Wallenda, then standouts in lesser divisions could win the title.
Possibilities include 2-year-old colt Dehere; 3-year-old filly Sky Beauty, or turf horses Lure and Kotashaan, who are heavily favored or considered contenders in other Breeders' Cup races.
A 2-year-old has not been chosen Horse of the Year since Secretariat, in 1972 . But if favorite Dehere wins today's Juvenile Colts stakes authoritatively and there are upsets in the other races, he can emerge as Horse of the Year material.
The same can be said for Sky Beauty. She has dominated the 3-year-old filly division, and if she upsets older horses such as Hollywood Wildcat and Paseana in the Distaff, and upsets abound elsewhere, she's in line for Horse of the Year. No 3-year-old filly has won the title since Busher in 1945.
The same can be said of grass horses Lure in the Mile and Kotashaan in the Turf. If each wins, and others are upset, there is a shot for them to win the title. The last turf runner to be chosen Horse of the Year was the mare All Along in 1983.
If all of them are upset, and there are 19 European-based thoroughbreds here from some of the greatest yards, it's possible the title could go by default to Star of Cozzene, winner of four of six 1993 graded stakes.
"What it all boils down to," Jerkens said, "is this: It depends on which horse runs his best race that day, and, if, in the end, he's got the class."
FACTS AND FIGURES
What: 10th running of Breeders' Cup races
Where: Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, Calif.
TV: NBC (channels 2, 4), 1:30 p.m.
Races: Sprint ( 3/4 mile), Juvenile Fillies (1 1/16 miles), Distaff (1 1/8 miles), Mile, Juvenile (1 1/16 miles), Turf (1 1/2 miles), Classic (1 1/4 miles)