Breeders' Cup XXIX got lucky. Its organizers chose California, not New York or New Jersey.
Horse racing's Super Bowl returns to sunny Santa Anita in Arcadia this week with 15 races worth more than $25 million, attracting would-be champions from around the world.
Instead of coping with the aftermath of superstorm Sandy at soggy Belmont Park on Long Island or deluged Monmouth Park near Atlantic City (both possible sites in the event's rotating schedule), the Cup's 180 horses plus their human connections are enjoying balmy afternoons in the high 70s.
The Cup keeps adding more races and stretches over two days with six races Friday and nine Saturday. It culminates with the Breeders' Cup Classic on Saturday at 5 p.m. on NBC, the first time the finale will be on national prime-time TV. The other races will be live on NBCSN, starting with the new Juvenile Sprint for 2-year-olds.
Besides the weather, most prerace chatter has focused on three topics: Dirt, drugs and the Dude.
Since the Breeders' Cup was last on the West Coast in 2009, Santa Anita switched its main track from a synthetic surface back to conventional dirt pleasing those from the East Coast but not potential European contenders.
"I don't think there's any doubt that there's going to be more East Coast horses because of the dirt," said trainer Todd Pletcher, who brings 10 horses from New York and Kentucky. "And, you know, the East Coast horses had very little success on the synthetic track, so I think everyone's looking forward to it being back on the dirt."
Pletcher tested the dirt track earlier this meet with Ladies' Classic contender Love and Pride, who won Santa Anita's Zenyatta Stakes in September.
"So far, I think (the new dirt track) is terrific," Pletcher said. "It's a little bit slower than the previous Santa Anita dirt track, but it seems like it's been very safe. Our horses seem to be acclimating to it very well, and we had some success, shipping out with Love and Pride, so that always makes you feel good when the first one you run over it runs well."
In a test of new anti-drug initiatives, the Cup's five races for 2-year-olds will be run for the first time without Lasix, the anti-bleeding medication.
About 90 percent of American thoroughbreds compete with Lasix to prevent bleeding in the nose and air passages, but the Breeders' Cup would like to phase out Lasix.
Pletcher trains Juvenile favorite Shanghai Bobby and top Juvenile Fillies hopefuls Kauai Katie and Dreaming of Julia.
"It is uncharted waters," said Pletcher, who doesn't support the ban. "The juveniles that we have entered have all run on Lasix. I don't anticipate that it's going to be any problem, and I certainly hope it's not, but I suppose there's really only one way we'll know and that's to run without Lasix and see how the horses perform and (check) them afterward."
Graham Motion and other trainers kept several 2-year-olds off Lasix in anticipation of the Cup. Besides bringing one 2-year-old filly, Motion returns to the Cup with 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, who will compete in Saturday's Mile on the turf.
"I don't feel at a disadvantage (not using Lasix) because I think we're all going to be on the same playing field obviously on Breeders' Cup day," Motion said. "I don't think it's that big of a hurdle to overcome."
Meanwhile, the Horse of the Year battle hinges on Game on Dude, last year's Classic runner-up who will try to win the Cup's $5 million marquee race.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Game on Dude has home track advantage; he's 5-0 at Santa Anita.
But the Dude, who is co-owned by baseball's Joe Torre, is just one of many title contenders. This Cup features eight former or defending champions, headed by 2011 Ladies Classic winner Royal Delta. She's back to defend her title Friday.
Northern California will be represented in the Classic by Nonios, a rapidly improving 3-year-old trained by Jerry Hollendorfer. Also hoping to upset the Dude are the Bill Mott-trained trio of Santa Anita Handicap winner Ron the Greek, Flat Out and To Honor and Serve.
The Dude is the horse to beat, Mott said.
"He's always a good competitor," Mott said. "He's got a tremendous amount of speed and he's a durable, tough horse. I guess with our fellas, we just hope we can be running at him at the finish."