The 39th annual Breeders’ Cup World Championships begin next Friday at Keeneland Race Course.
So to keep your interest peaked, here are 7 interesting facts about the Breeders’ Cup, which originated way back in the early 1980s.
1. John Gaines is considered the father of the Breeders’ Cup. Gaines (1928-2005), who owned Gainesway Farm in Lexington, is credited with developing the idea of a World Championship Series for Thoroughbreds. Gaines saw this as a way to both promote the sport of Thoroughbred racing with a marquee fall event to accompany the Triple Crown in spring/summer, and to strengthen the bond between the day-to-day racing industry and the breeders that produce horses to compete in those races.
The first Breeders’ Cup was held November 10th, 1984, at Hollywood Park in California in front of 64,254 fans and a national television audience viewing it on NBC.
2. Moving to a two-day event has helped boost both the betting handle at the Breeders’ Cup and its appeal to fans. In 2007, Breeders’ Cup officials expanded to a Friday-Saturday event, held for the first (and so far only) time at Monmouth Park in New Jersey.
The race schedule over the two-day period has been tweaked several times since then, and currently the World Championships are divided into a Future Stars Friday featuring five races for 2-year-olds and a Super Saturday with the remaining nine Breeders’ Cup races geared for horses age 3 and older.
Last year’s BC at Del Mar set a record for overall handle, with $183,260,128 dollars wagered on the 14 championship races.
3. California leads the list of states that have hosted the Breeders’ Cup with 15 total events. Hollywood Park in Inglewood, (which closed in 2013), hosted the BC three times. Santa Anita Park in Arcadia is the all-time leading host venue with 10 events. And Del Mar, roughly 30 minutes north of San Diego, held its first Breeders’ Cup in 2017 and its second last year.
Kentucky ranks second on the list, having hosted the Breeders’ Cup 11 times (Churchill Downs nine, Keeneland two) with the 12th just around the corner.
4. Ireland has produced the most Breeders’ Cup winners aside from the U.S. The land of shamrocks, and Guinness has bred 388 horses that have competed in the Breeders’ Cup through the years, and 38 of them have Won. Great Britain is next, having served as the birthplace for 24 Winners, followed by France with eight. Horses bred in America have Won 289 Breeders’ Cup races through 2021.
5. Richard Mandella and Brad Cox hold the record for most Wins by a trainer at a single Breeders’ Cup with four. There’s a major difference, though; Cox, a rising star in the sport who was honored as Outstanding Trainer in both 2020 and 2021 by Eclipse Award voters, Won his four during the two-day World Championships at Keeneland in 2020, with two horses Winning on Friday and two more the following Saturday.
Hall of Famer Mandella Won four races at the 2003 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita when it was a single-day event consisting of eight total races.
6. Six Kentucky Derby Winners went on to Win the Breeders’ Cup Classic, four of them Winning both races in the same year. FERDINAND (1986) and ALYSHEBA (1987) each Won the Derby in their respective years and each of them Won the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the subsequent years.
In 1989 and 1990, two more legends, SUNDAY SILENCE and UNBRIDLED, backed up their KD Wins earlier in the year with Victories in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
There was a long gap after 1990, but the wait was worth it as AMERICAN PHAROAH became the first 3-year-old to sweep the Triple Crown and then Win the Breeders’ Cup Classic later in the year when he romped by 6 ½ lengths at Keeneland in 2015.
And two years ago, AUTHENTIC Won a pandemic-postponed Kentucky Derby in September and then took the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland two months later.
7. There have been eight Breeders’ Cup Winners that paid more than $100 on a $2 Win bet. The first came in the inaugural World Championships, when LAKSHARI upset the Turf to the tune of a $108.80 payout.
The most recent came just last year, when MARCHE LORRAINE rewarded longshot players and her Japanese connections by holding on in the Distaff and paying $101.80.
The biggest price (one that may never be surpassed) came in the Breeders’ Cup the Classic, back in 1993 when little-known ARCANGUES shipped in from France, moved from turf to dirt, and shocked the racing world with a two-length Victory that paid $269.20 for a $2 investment.