In a photo provided by Benoit Photo, Curlin is taken on a stroll around the grounds and paddock at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif., last Wednesday.
ARCADIA, Calif. - Curlin was made the early 7-5 favorite Tuesday in a field of 12 for the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic.
Curlin would likely earn Horse of the Year honors for the second consecutive year if he defends his title Saturday at Santa Anita in his first race on a synthetic track.
Without retired Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown in the field, Raven's Pass, winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in his last start, was made the 6-1 second choice. Like Curlin, Raven's Pass will be trying a synthetic surface for the first time.
Go Between, the Pacific Classic winner, was the third choice at 8-1.
Undefeated Casino Drive of Japan, Todd Pletcher-trained Fairbanks, and Duke of Marmalade and Henrythenavigator, both trained by Irishman Aidan O'Brien, were all 10-1.
"We've always wanted to face a good field and this is a great field," said Barbara Banke, wife of Curlin's owner Jess Jackson. "We're looking forward to the challenge."
Last year, Curlin won the Classic by 4 lengths on a sloppy track at New Jersey's Monmouth Park. He's expected to run in ideal conditions Saturday, with the forecast calling for sunshine and temperatures in the low 80s.
This year's Breeders' Cup features an all-female, five-race card on Friday, capped by the $2 million Ladies' Classic, previously known as the Distaff.
Zenyatta is the star of that show, with an 8-0 record that made her the 3-5 early favorite. Her owner Jerry Moss, who co-founded A&M Records, named the 4-year-old filly for the 1980 album "Zenyatta Mondatta" by The Police.
If Curlin falters and Zenyatta stays unbeaten against defending champion Ginger Punch (9-2) and last year's runner-up Hystericalady (15-1), she could be the rare filly to have a shot at Horse of the Year.
"That's something we really don't want to talk about," trainer John Shirreffs said.
Midshipman and Street Hero, winners of the major 2-year-old races in California, lead the 13-horse field for the $2 million Juvenile.
Both 2-year-olds are proven runners on the artificial surface, with Midshipman winning two of his three starts on it, and Street Hero finishing in the money on it in five starts. His lone victory came over Midshipman in the Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita on Sept. 28.
Trained by Bob Baffert, Midshipman drew the No. 11 post for Saturday's Juvenile, one of 10 races on that day's Breeders' Cup card.
Street Hero, a son of Street Cry who is bred, owned and trained by Myung Cho, will break from the No. 8 post. Munnings is the race's 7-2 favorite.
The 14 races to be run Friday and Saturday are worth $25.5 million.
Midnight Lute returns to defend his title as the 7-2 second choice in the $2 million Sprint for Baffert. Saturday's 6-furlong race will be just his second start this year and third since winning the Sprint by 4 3/4 lengths last year at Monmouth Park.
Street Boss is the Sprint's 3-1 favorite.
Baffert also considered running Indian Blessing in the Sprint, but opted instead to run her in the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint, where she drew the No. 5 post.
Kip Deville will defend his title in the $2 million Mile on the turf for trainer Rick Dutrow, who also trains Big Brown. The colt was suddenly retired because of an injury, denying the Breeders' Cup its most intriguing matchup between Big Brown and Curlin.
"It's kind of anticlimactic because we've been running big races all year and pointing toward this," said Michael Ivarone, Big Brown's principal partner who also co-owns Kip Deville.
Kip Deville is the 5-1 third choice and drew the No. 2 post; he started from the seven hole when he won by one length last year on Monmouth's turf that had been softened by pouring rain. Goldikova is the race's 3-1 favorite.
Among the other races:
• Soldier of Fortune is the 7-2 favorite for the $3 million Turf.
• Wait a While comes into the $2 million Filly & Mare Turf as the 3-1 favorite, having won three of her last four starts for Pletcher.
• Stardom Bound brings a two-race winning streak into the $2 million Juvenile Fillies, including the Oak Leaf Stakes at Santa Anita, where she rallied from 11th to win by 3 lengths.
• Undefeated Maram looks to extend her streak to three in a row in the $1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf from the No. 3 post.
• Pyro, considered a Triple Crown contender after winning the Louisiana Derby, tries to close out his season with a victory in the $1 million Dirt Mile.
• Paddy The Pro arrives for the $1 million Juvenile Turf off two straight victories in Ireland. He drew the No. 8 post under Gomez.
• Muhannak, winner of his last two races on synthetic surfaces in Europe, tries to carry his form to the United States in the $500,000 Marathon, which offers the smallest Breeders' Cup purse. He'll break from post 5 at 20-1 odds. Sixties Icon is the 2-1 favorite.
• Salute the Count will make his 45th career start in the $1 million Turf Sprint for Dutrow. The 8-year-old will be challenged by Idiot Proof, runner-up in last year's Sprint who switches to the grass this year.