October is a busy month for horseracing. There are three meetings spread across the
world that offer horses the chance to prove themselves champions and their connections the
opportunity to claim some of the largest sums of prize-money available. Early October sees the
Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe contested at Longchamp, Paris. In mid-October the spot-light is on
Newmarket for the Champion Stakes before the merry-go-round shifts across the Atlantic towards the
end of the month for the Breeders' Cup. It was in 1982 that the Breeders' Cup was conceived as
showcase finale to the season.
The Breeders' Cup is somewhat unusual in its format because it does not take place at the same
racecourse each year; rather, it has a peripatetic nature over the whole of North America. The
inaugural event, in 1984, took place at Hollywood Park, California (it was also held there in 1987
and 1997); this year (2003) it was at Santa Anita, California (as it was in 1986 and 1993)
and next year it will be at Lone Star Park, Texas for the first time. In 1996, Woodbine, Toronto
hosted the meeting. Churchill Downs, Kentucky has hosted it most frequently, on five occasions
(1988, 1991, 1994, 1998 and 2000).
Other tracks have included Gulfstream Park in Florida (1989, 1992 and 1989), Belmont Park in New York
(1990, 1995 and 2001), Aqueduct in New York in 1985, Arlington Park, Illinois in 2002.
Cutting to the Chase
The Breeders' Cup comprises eight races. Between them, these races accomodate male and female
horses, turf and dirt tracks and a range of distances. There is a maximum field of 14 entries for each race. Should over-subscription necessitate it, selection is made according to a points-based system and a panel of judges.
The race worth the most, coming in at a cool $4 million, is the Classic. It is run over 1 mile
and 2 furlongs on dirt and is open to colts and fillies aged three or over.
Next is the Turf — run, unsurprisingly, on turf — over 1 mile 4 furlongs and also open to colts
and fillies aged three or more. That is worth $2 million to the winner.
The Distaff is also worth $2 million to the winner, but is for fillies and mares only, aged three plus.
It is run over 1 mile and 1 furlong on dirt.
The Mile, worth $1.5 million, is run on turf over, as its name would suggest, a mile. Again both
colts and fillies are eligible to run if they are aged three or more.
The Filly and Mare Turf offers a prize of $1 million to the winner and is run over 1 mile 2
$1 million is also on offer to the connections of the colt or filly that can run the fastest over
6 furlongs on dirt in the Sprint.
There are two juvenile races that are for two year olds only. Both are run on dirt over 1 mile
and half a furlong, but the colts' race (the Juvenile) is worth $1.5 million, compared to the
fillies' version, the Juvenile Fillies, which offers £1 million to the winner.
Trends and Patterns; Facts and Figures
As a general rule, the American-trained horses have had more success on the dirt whilst the European horses usually mount a greater challenge when racing on the turf. (Hardly surprising, given the natures of American and European racing.) However, the European raiders find travelling to the West coast more difficult than the East. It was in 2003 that they proved they could handle the journey and the acclimatization; Islington, trained in the UK, won the Filly and Mare Turf whilst High Chapparal is an Irish-trained horse.
The 2003 Breeders' Cup turned out a few other firsts in the history of the competition, too. Julie Krone became the first female jockey to win a Breeders' Cup race, riding Halfbridled to victory in the Juvenile Fillies. The Turf gave rise to the first dead-heat, too, with High Chapparal and Johar crossing the line together, just ahead of the favourite, Falbrav.
As much as the American racing industry might regard the Breeders' Cup as the seasonal finale, for the European trainers, it has only recently been something to be planned into a horse's racing programme. Until a few years ago, the Breeders' Cup was tacked-on as an after-thought. Furthermore, there is the Japan Cup to be considered. Nevertheless, it makes for a spectacular event and an entry there, let alone a winner, makes for much excitement.
- The Debutante's Papa