The 2016 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships is taking place on November 5, at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, featuring eight championship horse races. Strong race contenders for the Breeders' Cup Classic include Awesome Act, Blind Luck, Dublin, First Dude, Ice Box, Sidneys Candy, Zenyatta and Lookin at Lucky. The best of luck on handicapping the 2013 Breeders' Cup Classic!
The Breeders' Cup Classic (Grade 1) is clearly the centerpiece of the Breeders' Cup races, its over 20-year history replete with memorable finishes and stunning upsets that should be kept in mind when handicapping for this $5 million thoroughbred racing event.
From the get-go, the Breeders' Cup Classic has exhibited the best that thoroughbred racing has to offer, with the thrilling stretch drama witnessed between Wild Again, Gate Dancer, and Slew o' Gold in the first Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Hollywood Park in 1984. The three horses went charging together through the final furlong, but Wild Again set the pace and came first by a neck on the inside.
The Breeders' Cup Classic has since been the stage for heartstopping epic contests, including the battle between Ferdinand and Alysheba in 1987, which went down as one of the greatest in horse racing history; the confrontation between Sunday Silence and Easy Goer in 1989; the incomparable Cigar winning with style in 1995; and of course, Tiznow with Chris McCarron besting European “Iron Horse” Albert the Great in 2000, and then Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (France; Grade 1) victor Sakhee in 2001.
In 2003, local hero and 14-1 shot Pleasantly Perfect rallied from 8th to win by 1 ½ lengths over 5-2 favorite Medaglia d'Oro in a time of 1:59 4/5.
Note that Chris McCarron owns the most Breeders' Cup Classic wins, with five. Jerry Bailey and Pat Day have also had a major influence with four wins apiece, making these three the active jockeys dominating the Breeders' Cup Classic races in the last many years. Additionally, jockeys Castellano Javier, Jose Santos, and Mike Smith have also won.
The 2003 win is memorable because it gave Richard Mandella his fourth Breeders' Cup win of the day, a record for a trainer in a single Breeders' Cup, while jockey Alex Solis got his second win on the card. Mandella had won two Breeders' Cup races on one card once before, in 1993, when it was last held at the Santa Anita Park prior to 2003.
Black Tie Affair (Ireland) is the only official wire-to-wire winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic, in 1991, although Tiznow, Cat Thief, Skip Away, Cigar, and Skywalker in 1986 all parlayed front-running trips to victory. But what has had the most success in the Breeders' Cup Classic seems to be the late runners. Volponi sat near midpack before offering his challenge in 2002 while Ferdinand, Alysheba, A.P. Indy and Awesome Again all closed from off the pace. Four Breeder's Cup Classic winners - Proud Truth, Unbridled, Arcangues, and Concern - launched their winning rallies from the clouds. The average beaten lengths after a half-mile are about five lengths.
Skip Away is the only Breeders' Cup Classic winner from the rail, and a total of only four horses have won from inside (1-3) posts. Unbridled won from post 14 at Belmont, and three horses have started from the 12 gate. Alphabet Soup was in post 11, and two winners have come from post 10.
With the exception of a few longshots, the 1 1/4-mile Breeders' Cup Classic brought together the best North American-based horses without much European involvement during the 1980s. Today, however, the race is attracting some of the best foreign horses that can certainly be used in the exotics.
Ibn Bey (England) became the first foreign contingent to make an impact upon the Breeders' Cup Classic with a runner-up finish at 38-1 in 1990. French-based Arcangues followed and shocked the world when he captured the 1993 running at 133-1, surprising even his rider, Jerry Bailey. Arcangues may be the only winner of the sort but Sakhee, Giant's Causeway, Chester House, Swain (Ireland), Jolypha, and pioneer Ibn Bey all travelled across the ocean, switched from turf to dirt, and still placed in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
With the American horses, there is no significant geographical influence for handicapping. Horses based in California and the East Coast have accounted for seven wins apiece, while Cat Thief, Black Tie Affair, and Unbridled were all stabled in the Midwest.
Arcangues' $269.20 mutuel is the biggest win price in the history of the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships. In fact, the Breeders' Cup Classic owns a storied history of longshot winners. Wild Again paid $64.60 when he won the first Breeders' Cup Classic in 1984. Skywalker was a healthy 10-1 in 1986; Alphabet Soup in 1996 and Cat Thief in 1999 were each nearly 20-1; Tiznow paid $20.40 for his first Breeders' Cup Classic victory in 2000; and Volponi (Cryptoclearance) returned $89 in 2002.
Post-time favorites have won only five times, and 11 Breeders' Cup Classic winners have returned more than $10. Cigar is the only odds-on Breeders' Cup Classic victor.
In addition, winning the final prep before the big day has not been a requisite for success in the Breeders' Cup Classic, with eight horses proving best off a defeat. Arcangues and Cat Thief both exited extremely disappointing performances that made horse bettors look elsewhere, and Wild Again actually finished third in a Bay Meadows turf allowance before springing the upset at Hollywood Park.
Finally, no horse returning from a 50-day-or-more layoff has ever won the Breeders' Cup Classic. Most have had a race within a month. Black Tie Affair at 49 days, Cat Thief at 42, and Sunday Silence at 41 had the most time off before proving best. The average for Breeders' Cup Classic winners is 26 days off since the last start. Three-year-olds have also more than held their own, winning seven previous runnings.
At the 2004 Breeders' Cup Classic, Ghostzapper emerged victorious at 2.50 odds with jockey Javier Castellano. Roses in May came in second at 8.70 odds with jockey John Velasquez, and Pleasantly Perfect placed third at 2.50 odds with jockey Jerry Bailey.