AND it’s that time of year again. The Breeders’ Cup World Championships return to Keeneland for the third time in its 38-year history.

The Breeders’ Cup made its long-anticipated debut in the heart of thoroughbred horse country in 2015 when American Pharaoh crowned his career with a Breeders’ Cup Classic romp.

It returned in 2020 without the star power of the Triple Crown winner but veteran sprinter Whitmore, distaff queen Monomoy Girl and European raiders Tarnawa, Order Of Australia and Audarya made their marks.

Sure, there are more tourist-friendly stops (California!) on the Breeders’ Cup tour but Keeneland offers the purist’s point of interest.

Perhaps, Aidan O’Brien said it best earlier this week.

“We love coming to Keeneland because the weather at this time of year can be very similar to ours,” O’Brien said. “Everybody in Keeneland is totally horse-minded, I suppose like we are back in Ireland. And obviously there’s a lot of Irish and English people here as well, so it’s nearly like being in Europe.”

This year, like all years, delivers star power and promises star performances.

Here’s your Saturday preview. It starts at 3:50 p.m. (your time) so go easy on the afternoon Guinness, watch the fifth at Down Royal and hustle home for a supersized card of international action.

3:50 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (Grade 1) (3yo+) 7f

A race added when the Breeders’ Cup went to two days (a lot more money, a bit more parity), the seven-furlong sprint offers Ce Ce an opportunity to defend her crown from last year.

The six-year-old mare has produced a 3-for-6 record since that win and needs to be at her best against Ballerina winner Goodnight Olive and last year’s two-year-old filly champion Echo Zulu.

The latter won all four starts last year, is 2-for-3 this year and comes in fresh off a win in the Dogwood Stakes. Japanese-bred Chain Of Love adds broth to the 13-horse bowl.

SELECTIONS: 1 Frank’s Rockette, 2 Goodnight Olive, 3 Chain Of Love.

4:29 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (Grade 1) (3yo+) (Turf) 5½f

Elbow meet elbow. Shoulder meet shoulder. Fourteen horses clash for $1 million in the five-and-a-half-furlong stakes race. And of course, if it’s a turf sprint, then Wesley Ward is involved. More than involved, Ward sends out 2/1 favourite Golden Pal, Royal Ascot winner Campanelle and Grade 2 winner Arrest Me Red.

Golden Pal seeks his third Breeders’ Cup crown after winning the Juvenile Turf Sprint in 2020 and the Turf Sprint in 2021.

Back in August at Saratoga, Ward was thinking about the clash of Campanelle and Golden Pal.

“… now she ties into Golden Pal at the Breeders’ Cup, but two different running styles. She’ll come from behind and he’ll go to the front.”

Where will they meet?

SELECTIONS: 1 Golden Pal, 2 Campanelle, 3 Casa Creed.

5:10 Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (Grade 1) (3yo+) (Dirt) 1m

A race that takes away from the Classic and the Sprint, the Dirt Mile hinges in the middle with Gunite, Laurel River and Cody’s Wish in posts four, five and six. Combined, they ride an eight-race win streak into the two-turn stakes.

SELECTIONS: 1 Cody’s Wish, 2 Laurel River, Gunite.

Now for the good stuff.

5:50 Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (Grade 1) (3yo+) (Turf) 1m1½f

In a race where three-year-old fillies from Europe have flourished, three-year-old fillies Nashwa, Above The Curve, Tuesday, Mise En Scene and Toy venture forth for the $2 million stakes. Who’s the best? Good question, surely, they’re better than their North American-based rivals.

Chad Brown defends our turf with German-bred Virginia Joy, French-bred Rougir and British-bred In Italian. The latter should control the pace from the 11 stall but has never tried to stave off the likes of two-time Group 1 winner Nashwa or Oaks winner Tuesday.

“In Italian has just progressed all year,” Brown said. “She’s gotten stronger and faster. She’s identified her preferred style is going to the front and she’s a dangerous horse. When you get a horse with a lot of speed and they can carry it, they’re hard to beat because they’re always in front of you and they just keep going. You’re at their mercy. They are rare horses to have.”

Ryan Moore opts for Tuesday and Hall of Famer John Velazquez picks up the ride aboard Above The Curve.

Aidan O’Brien tries to snap a four-race losing streak with Tuesday. He also sends out Garnet Stakes winner Toy.

“Tuesday, she’s very well, she has a nice draw. She had a very bad draw in France, on very bad ground, and probably the two things weren’t ideal for her,” O’Brien said.

“Toy was just ready to start back when she won a listed race at Naas. So, we were very happy with her, and we think she has been making very good progress since then.”

SELECTIONS: 1 Nashwa, 2 Tuesday, 3 Above The Curve

6:30 Qatar Racing Breeders’ Cup Sprint (Grade 1) (3yo+) (Dirt) 6f

Back to the dirt and back to speed.

Aloha West defends his crown. Elite Power rides a four-race win streak into his Grade 1 debut. And Jackie’s Warrior tries to right a Breeders’ Cup wrong. The son of Maclean’s Music lost the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in 2020 and lost the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in 2021.

In a 17-race scourge, those two defeats account for the only time the four-year-old has finished worse than third. Trainer Steve Asmussen knows what happened in those, two turns in the first loss and chipping his left knee in the second.

There are no excuses this time, especially, after main rival Jack Christopher didn’t enter. Of course, you don’t become the all-time winningest trainer without perspective.

“Horse racing. Did you watch this year’s Derby? Anything can happen in a horse race,” Asmussen said the day before Jackie’s Warrior won the Alfred G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga this summer. “What I worry about in horse racing is what I love about horse racing. Your reputation isn’t going to do anything for you, you have to perform.

“It’s the thing that makes horse racing the greatest sport, you’re not paid for what you’ve already done. You get paid for what you’re about to do.”

Jackie’s Warrior is about to go out a champion.

SELECTIONS: 1 Jackie’s Warrior, 2 Elite Power, 3 Aloha West.

7:10 FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile presented by Permanently Disabled Jockey Fund (Grade 1) (3yo+) (Turf) 1m

“Raced for purse money only.”

Modern Games, the protagonist in a pitiful moment of the Breeders’ Cup, returns in the Mile. Godolphin’s son of Dubawi tacked on the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) and the Woodbine Mile since his last Breeders’ Cup foray. This will be tougher than his romp in the Juvenile Turf.

Domestic Spending makes his first start since August, 2021, for Chad Brown. The six-time winning son of Kingman drew the outside post of 14. Breaking one slot inside him is Kinross. Another son of Kingman, the five-year-old British-bred rides a four-race win streak into his North American debut.

SELECTIONS: 1 Modern Games, 2 Kinross, 3 Smooth Like Straight.

7:55 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (Grade 1) (3yo+ Fillies & Mares) (Dirt) 1m1f

Back to good old-fashioned American dirt. Nobody does American dirt better than Todd Pletcher and the Hall of Famer comes in double fisted with Malathaat and Nest.

They’ve combined to win 16 races from 23 starts and have never finished worse than third. Malathaat finished third in this race last year while Nest tries to upend her older rivals.

Search Results for Chad Brown and Society for Steve Asmussen can pick up if either of Pletcher’s pair leaves off. Society will control the pace from the outside.

SELECTIONS: 1 Nest, 2 Malathaat, 3 Search Results.

8:40 Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (Grade 1) (3yo+) (Turf) 1m4f

Charlie Appleby and Godolphin enjoyed a stellar Breeders’ Cup last year, winning the Juvenile Turf with Modern Games, the Mile with Space Blues and the Turf with Yibir.

“I always say when we’re there, enjoy the moment, well done to get them there, anything on top is a bonus. Last year was an exceptional year,” Appleby said.

“The great thing is the drive put into me through His Highness, never look back, always look forward. That’s happened, we’ll go and try to better that.

“If you sit back and try to pat yourself on the back for the next 12 months, someone has overtaken you. You say, next year, we’ll have four. You know it won’t happen but if you don’t put that carrot in front of you, it will never happen.” Could the Turf be four?

Nations Pride has flourished since arriving here this summer. The three-year-old son of Teofilo closed to be second in the Belmont Derby before back to back triumphs in the Saratoga Derby Invitational and the Jockey Club Derby Invitational. He makes his first attempt against older horses.

Rebel’s Romance makes his US debut after winning four consecutive stakes in Britain and Germany.

War Like Goddess anchors the home team. A $1,200 purchase as a weanling, she takes on the boys for the second straight time. The Bill Mott trainee thumped six overmatched foes in the Turf Classic on October 8th.

She needs pace to be at her best and should receive it with the likes of Bye Bye Melvin, Stone Age and veteran Channel Maker.

As for other Europeans, $15 million earner Mishriff tries to snap a seven-race losing streak. John Gosden adds blinkers and Dettori. Aidan O’Brien offers Stone Age and Broome, 15/1 and 12/1 respectively.

SELECTIONS: 1 Mishriff, 2 War Like Goddess, 3 Nations Pride