Announced in April of 1982 by leading thoroughbred owner and breeder John R. Gaines, the Breeders’ Cup World Championships has developed into the most prestigious and influential event in the sport of Thoroughbred racing. Breeders’ Cup Limited has enjoyed immediate and widespread support from the industry?s breeders, owners, race tracks and millions of racing fans worldwide, making the Championships one of the pinnacle events on the international sports calendar.
Since the inaugural running at Hollywood Park 29 years ago, the Breeders’ Cup has established itself as the season-ending championship of thoroughbred racing. Through the years, the Breeders? Cup has grown from a 7-race, $10 million day, to a 15- race, $26 million extravaganza, held over two days, and encompassing almost every division of the sport. The purses for the Championship races are funded by worldwide nomination from the industry?s thoroughbred breeders. In 2011, horses were able to earn automatic starting positions into Championships races through the Breeders? Cup Challenge, a series of 68 stakes races held worldwide.
The multimillion-dollar Breeders? Cup has been a magnet for the most outstanding equine competitors in the world. American champions such as Azeri, A.P. Indy, Alysheba, Cigar, Curlin, Goldikova (IRE), Personal Ensign, Ferdinand, Sunday Silence, Zenyatta and countless others have demonstrated greatness at Breeders’ Cup. The 2011 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs was another clear example of the unparalleled excellence of the event, as the 4-year-old Blame and the undefeated and defending champion 6-year-old mare Zenyatta, battled to the wire in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, with Blame prevailing by a head. In addition, the magnificent 5-year-old Goldikova came from France and won the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile for an unprecedented third consecutive year.
That European tradition of success at the Breeders’ Cup began in the event’s very first year. In 1984, Alain de Royer-Dupre saddled the Aga Khan’s Lashkari to win the first Breeders’ Cup Turf. The late Francois Boutin brought over the great mare Miesque in 1987; she was the heroine of the Mile that year and she returned the next year to win again, making her the first multiple Breeders’ Cup race winner. French-based trainer Andre Fabre has had a talented contingent over the years with four winners, but Arcangues will be remembered as his most notable performer. In 1993, at Santa Anita, Arcangues stunned the world with his win in the Classic, paying $269.20, which still stands as the highest payoff in Breeders’ Cup history. More recently, Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien has brought his top runners from Ireland and England. Since his first appearance in 1998 has saddled three winners. Both Fabre and O’Brien are in the top 10 trainers by earnings in Breeders’ Cup races. Another standout European performer has been Ouija Board, the brilliant winner of the 2004 and 2006 runnings of the Emirates Filly & Mare Turf. In 2008, the John Gosden-trained Raven?s Pass won the Breeders? Cup Classic.
The 2010 Breeders’ Cup, held at Churchill Downs for a record seventh time, was another ground-breaking event. It marked the fourth year that the Championships were conducted over two days and the first time that the Breeders? Cup finished under the lights. The two-day handle on the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, including separate pools in other countries and exchange wagering in the UK, was $196,354,072. The two-day total, excluding exchange wagering, was $173,339,131, an increase of 13% over the $153, 271,776 wagered in 2009. The strong interest outside the U.S. was bolstered by a record number of 172 starters in the 14 Breeders’ Cup races. Wagering on the 14 Championships races rose over $21 million (16%) to $157,878,232.
In addition to the wagering totals, Breeders’ Cup and Churchill Downs sold over $11 million in tickets to the two-day event. Total attendance for the two days increased 18.5% from 96,496 in 2009 at Santa Anita Park in California to 114,353 in 2010. After an 11% increase in attendance on Friday, a total of 72,739 were on hand Saturday for the 11-race card that included eight Breeders? Cup World Championship races, a 23.6% increase from the 2009 Saturday attendance of 58,845 at Santa Anita.
The Breeders’ Cup received nine hours of domestic television coverage on ABC/ESPN and to more than 130 countries worldwide. In addition, more than $125 million in winning wagers were returned to fans at betting locations around the globe.
In 2011 Churchill Downs played host to the Breeders? Cup for the second consecutive year and for a record eighth time. The Breeders? Cup added a new race for 2011, the Breeders? Cup Juvenile Sprint for 2-year-olds at three- quarters-of a mile. The Juvenile Sprint was the first race on Friday and it was won by the Bob Baffert-trained Secret Circle. The 3-year-old Royal Delta won the Ladies? Classic, giving trainer Bill Mott his fourth victory in that race. Goldikova tried to win the Breeders? Cup Mile for the fourth consecutive year, but she could get no closer than third place as Court Vision, at nearly 65-1, defeated Turallure by a nose. The title of Horse of the Year would be decided in the Classic. The 4-year-old filly Havre de Grace, last year?s Juvenile Champion Uncle Mo, and Santa Anita Handicap winner Game on Dude were the main contenders. From the starting gate and through the stretch, Game on Dude, ridden by Chantal Sutherland, was on his way to winning the Classic when, from the far outside, the 4-year-old Drosselmeyer came grinding down the track to win by 1 ? lengths. It was sweet retribution for Drosselmeyer?s jockey, Mike Smith, who lost last year?s Classic on Zenyatta. Smith also tied Jerry Bailey for all-time Breeders? Cup victories with 15.
Every sport has a definitive year-ending event to crown its champions. In Thoroughbred racing, the Breeders? Cup World Championships is the culmination of the horse racing season worldwide and the $5 million Breeders? Cup Classic is the defining event of the international racing season. Now set for its 29th running on November 3, the Breeders? Cup Classic, run at 1 1/4 miles, draws the top international Thoroughbreds year after year. With its $5 million purse, the Classic is the richest race in all of North America. It is open to horses 3-years-old and older and is limited to 14 starters. Six of this year?s starters will gain automatic entries into the race by qualifying through Breeders? Cup Challenge series.
This year, Santa Anita Park in Los Angeles, California, will host the? Breeders’ Cup World Championships on Friday, Nov. 2 and Saturday, Nov. 3.