The 2008 Breeders' Cup Championships saw two major changes, the introduction of three new races, and the redistribution of the races with all the distaff events held on Friday. Saturday featured nine of the 14 championship races, headlined by the Classic. Again, sunny skies and dry desert heat topping 90 degrees greeted spectators and participants alike, and the Pro-Ride surface appeared to favor late runners as early speed horses tended to fade late. The turf course was very firm as it was Friday, and the main track's surface temperature topped 130 degrees.
The $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) is a 1 1/4 mile trip over the main Pro-Ride track for older horses. Horse of the Year and defending champion Curlin was sent off as the 9-10 favorite in the field of 12 over Pacific Classic winner Go Between at 8-1 and European invader Duke of Marmalade at 9-1, seventh in the Arc last time out after winning the Juddmonte International.
Casino Drive and Fairbanks contested the early pace for the first six furlongs through fractions of 23.77, 47.60, and 1:11.64, with Go Between and Duke of Marmalade stalking them 3rd and 4th. Turning for home, the pacesetters faded from contention as Curlin, who sat back in 8th down the backstretch, came out to make his run towards the front. Curlin was wide on the turn and easily passed the tiring pacesetters, gaining the lead at the 3/16 pole. However, he too would tire on the synthetic surface, as 13-1 longshot Raven's Pass passed him late to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Henrythenavigator in 1:59.27. It was another 3/4 length to Tiago third, while heavy favorite Curlin was another neck back in fourth.
On to Part 2 with the Juvenile, Mile, Dirt Mile, Turf Sprint, and Marathon.