Trainer Michael McCarthy’s improving 3-year-old Rushie joined the crowded group of 23 total pre-entries for the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile (G1), which is shaping up to be one of the deepest and most competitive races of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships weekend at Keeneland on November 6 and 7.
McCarthy is no stranger to winning this race; he saddled City of Light to victory in 2018 at Churchill Downs in his penultimate start before ending his career on top in the 2019 Pegasus World Cup (G1). Rushie has won 3 of his 6 starts in 2020 while never missing the board during that stretch, and he was most recently seen clearing off late in the Pat Day Mile Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs. Prior to that, he was third in both the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and the Blue Grass Stakes (G2), the latter held over this dirt course in July.
A strong second-place finish in the Pacific Classic Stakes (G1) on the Del Mar dirt convinced trainer Mark Glatt to pre-enter Sharp Samurai – a multiple graded stakes winner on turf – in both mile-long events, but the Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile is his top preference. He’s finished second, third, or fourth in his past 8 starts and is expected to attract Irad Ortiz Jr., the nation’s leading jockey in wins and earnings who piloted Spun to Run to an upset victory in last year’s edition.
Vekoma earned dual berths into the Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile and the Sprint earlier this summer, though the Sprint is his first preference. The George Weaver trainee is unbeaten in 3 starts this year, including the Carter Handicap (G1) and the Met Mile (G1), though he’s gone unraced since that latter race on July 4. He also won 3 of his first 4 career starts, including the 2019 Blue Grass.
Bruce Lunsford homebred Art Collector won 4 straight to start 2020, including the Blue Grass in July, before suffering his first defeat of the year in the Preakness Stakes (G1) last time out. He was considered a leading contender for the Kentucky Derby (G1) before a minor issue prevented him from entering the starting gate that was resolved by the Preakness.
Knicks Go returns to the World Championships after finishing second in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and should enjoy running at Keeneland just as much as any of the pre-entries. Along with pulling a 70/1 upset in the Breeders’ Futurity Stakes (G1) over this course in 2018, he set a new record for 1 1/16 miles on the local dirt after defeating optional claimers by over 10 lengths on October 4.
The 2019 Preakness champion War of Will is expected to make his swan song appearance in this event. He has multiple Grade 1 scores on his resume; along with last year’s Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, he won the Maker’s Mark Mile Stakes (G1) over the local turf back in July.
Trainer Grant Forster has been pointing Pirate’s Punch to this race for several months and seems to have him at the top of his game after winning the Salvator Mile Stakes (G3) at Monmouth Park last time out. Of his 5 career wins, 3 have come in 2020, and he is scheduled to reunite with jockey Jorge Vargas Jr. as he steps onto the biggest stage of his career.
Complexity is expected to vie for favoritism if he passes the entry box, based on his scintillating last-out victory in the Kelso Handicap (G2). He was a disappointing 10th in the 2018 Juvenile but has won 2 of his 3 starts in 2020, and his lone defeat was a strong second-place effort in the Forego Stakes (G1).
Despite racing overseas against vastly different competition, the Japan-based Hideyuki Mori’s charges both have strong American dirt pedigrees. Pingxiang, a 3-year-old son of top stateside sprint sire Speightstown, returned from seven months away to win a 7-furlong sprint at Nagoya on September 30. Jasper Prince, a 5-year-old mare by Violence, won the 7-furlong Enif Stakes at Chukyo 2 starts back before not taking to the muddy going in the Green Channel Cup at Tokyo. Pingxiang’s first preference is this race, while Jasper Prince made the Sprint her top choice.
Other pre-entries include Bodexpress, Bon Raison, C Z Rocket, Global Campaign, Hog Creek Hustle, Jesus’ Team, Midnight Sands, Mr Freeze, Mr. Money, Nashville, Owendale, Silver Dust, and True Timber.