With the Breeder's Cup now past, a large percentage of thoroughbred fans - certainly those who are more casual in their affection for racing - have already begun to turn their attention to next year's bid for the Triple Crown.
John Archer, communications director of Churchill Downs in Louisville, where the Kentucky Derby is held each May, said a number of autumn races - including one local competition " will be crucial in determining next spring's Derby field.
"If you're talking about races to watch, the first one to look at was the Breeder's Cup Juvenile, which this year was won by Favorite Trick," Archer said. "Now, that's arguably the biggest race of the fall, but typically, the winner of that race doesn't go on to win the derby.
"Now, as far as who's going to actually win the derby, I'd suggest keeping an eye on the Remsen, a Grade II stakes being held at Aqueduct on November 30, and the Kentucky Jockey Cup, held at Churchill Downs, November 29.
"In recent years, the Remsen, in particular, has become an important race, especially when forecasting the future. Both Go For Gin and Thunder Gulch distinguished themselves there.
"What both the Remsen and the Kentucky Jockey Cup have in common is, they usually feature a field of horses that peak later in the season. Traditionally, they showcase those horses who weren't quite ready for the Breeder's Cup," Archer said.
While Silver Charm's bid for destiny in this year's Triple Crown races grabbed the public's imagination, next year's competition is already being billed as special as it will commemorate Secretariat's thrilling Triple Crown run of 25 years ago.
As in past years, Archer said he expects close to 400 horses to be nominated for next year's Kentucky Derby, a race for which - at most - there will be only 20 starters, chosen based on the amount of money the nominated horses have won in selected stakes races.
"They don't just give you anything in this sport," Archer laughed.
D. Wayne Lukas and Nick Zito, trainers with large stables at Belmont Park, are expected to once again be big nominators, registering a number of horses in January - last year Lukas nominated a total of 23 - and perhaps a few more in March, when the second, and more expensive, round of nominations is accepted.
"Lukas, Zito, and Bob Baffert are definitely the big players in the 1990s," Archer said. "Right now, Grand Slam [injured in the Breeder's Cup Juvenile, but expected to recover] is Lukas' hot horse, and Baffert has a string of stakes-winning 2-year-olds, most notably Souvenir Copy, Pleasant Trip, and Indian Charlie.
"The big story of next year's derby, however, may well be Patrick Byrne, who is stabled right here at Churchill. He trains Favorite Trick, who is the top 2-year-old in the country right now, and he's got another hot horse in Countess Diana, a filly. In Saratoga this past summer, he won five of six stakes races run specifically for 2-year-olds - and the only one he didn't win was one he wasn't entered in."
Just as impressive was Byrne's run at Churchill Downs last spring: of 17 races he entered, his horses earned 14 first place finishes and three second place.
Archer described Byrne as "a very gifted trainer" whose principal attribute is patience, "He just doesn't ever push the panic button," the man from Kentucky said.
"The thing about thoroughbred racing is, you never know where a good one's going to come from," Archer continued. "That's why the weeks leading up to the Spring classics, the derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes, are so full of anticipation and wonder.
"The 2-year-olds who have come of age over the past few years have been very, very good. They could compete with any horse that's run in the past 20 years. At the same time, horses are a lot like wine, the quality varying from year to year.
"Bearing that in mind, I have to say that I've been very impressed with the 2-year-olds I've seen thus far, though it's still a little too early to tell what kind of vintage this year will bring," Archer said.