Breeders’ Cup Primer

The Breeders’ Cup World Championship is the exclamation point to the racing season. It is the crescendo, the best of the best, the World Series of Thoroughbred horse racing.  Huge purses, top-class horses, and large fields promise the crowning of Champions and cashing of big Winning bets.

But just what is the Breeders’ Cup, and why is it so important?  With the 2019 edition just two weeks away, here are some FAQ’s to get the uninitiated up to speed on the sport’s biggest weekend and why it’s a yearly highlight for racing fans.

What is the Breeders’ Cup?

The Breeders’ Cup World Championship is a year-end event that features the best Thoroughbreds in every division of racing, competing in 14 different races for big bucks. BC runners often Win year-end championship honors at the Eclipse Awards.  This year, the Breeders’ Cup takes place November 1st and 2nd at Santa Anita Park.

How long has it been around?

The Breeders’ Cup organization, Breeders’ Cup Ltd., was formed in 1982, and the first Breeders’ Cup was held on November 10th, 1984 at Hollywood Park.  This year marks the 36th edition of the series.

Where did the Breeders’ Cup name come from?

The Breeders’ Cup was the brainchild of John R. Gaines, a horseman and leader in the Thoroughbred industry.  It is so named because it was and is largely funded by Thoroughbred breeders, who pay fees to register their stallions and foals so that the foals have the option to run in the Breeders’ Cup when they are of age (provided they have the talent, of course).  The fees the breeders pay go toward the event’s purses and organizational expenses.

Is it always at Santa Anita?

Nope.  The Breeders’ Cup moves around throughout the country, similar to the NFL’s Super BowlSanta Anita has hosted a record 10 times, but Belmont Park, Churchill Downs and Gulfstream Park have all hosted the Breeders’ Cup multiple times.  Keeneland  (for the second time) will be the host track in 2020.

How much money are the races worth?

Purses and awards for the 2019 event total $30 million dollars for 14 Championship races.  The Breeders’ Cup Classic alone carries a $6 million dollar purse.

Why are there so many races?

Simple answer is because there are so many types of racehorses.  Like human athletes, horses have talents or preferences that make them better suited to certain distances and surfaces, so there are races to accommodate each category.  For example, the Turf is for horses that excel at longer distances (in this case 1 1/2 miles) on the grass while the Sprint is for speedy types on the dirt at six furlongs (three-quarters of a mile).  There also are five races restricted to 2-year-olds since they generally don’t compete outside of their age group.

Why is the Classic so important?

The Breeders’ Cup Classic is the marquee race at a banner event.  The race is held over the classic American distance and surface of 1 ¼ miles on the dirt, and it generally attracts the best 3-year-old and older horses in training.  For these reasons, it carries the aforementioned $6 million purse.

The Classic also is the race that horses that were successful in Triple Crown races earlier in the year are most likely to compete in, and because of all the top talent in the race, the outcome of the Classic very often weighs heavily in Horse of the Year voting.

Why is it called a world championship?

Horses come from all over the world to compete in the Breeders’ Cup.  In 2018 alone, horses bred in France, Ireland and Great Britain came to compete as well as those from countries like Argentina, Brazil, and Japan.

How much money is bet on the Breeders’ Cup?

Last year $157.4 million was bet on Breeders’ Cup races at Churchill Downs.  The record handle is $173 million, which was wagered in 2010 when the event featured the great ZENYATTA’s final race.

After the fields for the Breeders’ Cup become final, and Post Positions are drawn, the Daily Racing Blog will offer analysis and wagering advice on some of the bigger races.  So stay tuned.



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