In a year in which Justify has claimed the Triple Crown™ after defying the odds at the Belmont Stakes, it's the perfect time to look ahead to the race that makes up the fourth and final leg of "The Grand Slam of Thoroughbred Racing": the Breeders' Cup®. While the youngest of the quartet of high-profile races, the Breeders' Cup® has an illustrious history filled with close finishes and has propelled several steeds into stardom.
With the track rotating year-to-year, the race returns to Churchill Downs® for 2018! But what exactly are the origins of the Breeders' Cup®? We're here to help you learn more about the historic sprint:
A Timeline and Highlights
The Breeders' Cup® was created to bookend the calendar year for Thoroughbred racing and to attract horses from North America and Europe alike. The inception of the competition came in 1982 from John R. Gaines, a well-known owner and breeder, in an attempt to help boost's the sports image and get it in front of a national audience.
The inaugural Breeders' Cup® took place in front of 64,254 onlookers at Hollywood Park in Los Angeles on November 10, 1984. The competition for the $3 million jackpot was stacked to the brim, highlighted by the favorite, Slew o'Gold, and Preakness winner Gate Dancer. However, it was the 31-1 long shot Wild Again, jockeyed by Pat Day, that stole the show by setting the pace and sprinting past Slew o'Gold and Gate Dancer on the path to victory. The wire-to-wire finish did cause a bit of controversy -- it took over 10 minutes for the stewards to officially declare Wild Again the victor after an official inquiry.
The 1987 version of the fall sprint saw two Kentucky Derby® winners, Alysheba and Ferdinand, face off for the first time in the event. The race came down to a photo finish, as Ferdinand conquered Alysheba by a nose's length.
For the fans of a good underdog story, the greatest upset in Breeders' Cup® history took place on November 3, 1993 at Santa Anita Park. Practically unknown before the race, it was the French horse Arcangues, who had 133-1 odds, that ended up taking the top crown. The victory provided the biggest payout in Breeders' Cup® history at $269.60 for a $2 win bet.
The race has been predominantly held in the United States. The only time the Breeders' Cup® has ventured outside of the United States was in 1996, when the race was held at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, Canada.
The event went under a monumental change in 2006 when it expanded from a single-day event to a two-day event. Before it moved over to the two-day format, the Breeders' Cup® was regarded as the richest day in sports.
Maybe the most prolific running of the Breeders' Cup® occurred three years ago in 2015, when Triple Crown™ winner American Pharaoh became the first horse in history to complete the Grand Slam after winning by 6 1/2 lengths. While American Pharaoh is the only horse who's completed the Grand Slam, he's still the only Triple Crown™ winner that's even had the opportunity to; the last Triple Crown™ winner before him was Affirmed in 1978, six years before the first running of the Breeders' Cup®.
The Breeders' Cup® Trophy
While it's the youngest of the four Grand Slam races, the Breeders' Cup® Trophy boasts almost 500 years of history of its own. The trophy is a bronze reproduction of the Torrie horse that Giovanni da Bologna crafted in the 1580s. The Torrie statue is heavily inspired by the recorded works of Leonardo da Vinci. The original statue created by Giovanni da Bologna currently sits in Edinburgh, Scotland at the Museum of Fine Arts.
In association with the University of Edinburgh, the Breeders' Cup® Trophy was crafted to model Giovanni da Bologna's original creation. There are multiple versions of the trophy, with the largest version staying with the event year-to-year. Replicas of the original trophy are presented to the winners of the winners each year.
Be a Part of History at the Breeders' Cup® 2018
Breeders’ Cup Experiences is the Official Package Provider for the Breeders' Cup World Championships®, offering a variety of Official Ticket Packages with different seating options located around the track at Churchill Downs®! Our one-of-a-kind hospitality venues provide an oasis from the crowds and a level of comfort throughout the weekend regardless of the weather conditions. As November approaches, make sure you secure your Official Ticket Packages while they are still available!