Some horse racing meetings are steeped in history and tradition dating back several decades and sometimes up to a century and that is part of their appeal to the public. Others, however, seem to capture the imagination of horse racing fans even though they have not been on the scene for a long period of time, at least in the grand scheme of things. The Breeders’ Cup Championships first appeared on the American horse racing calendar as early ago as 1984. Until 2006, the Breeders’ Cup Championships took place over a single day, but switched to a two-day format from 2007 to present day.
Originally, the Breeders’ Cup was created to cap off the North American horse racing calendar. It was initially met with much skepticism from prominent members of the horse racing community, yet it quickly became one of the most popular horse racing festivals in the world. Thanks to the huge purses on offer, the Breeders’ Cup Championships held the title of the richest turf festival in the world for several year before the Dubai World Cup Night entered the fray. When the Breeders’ Cup expanded to two days, the first day was dedicated to female horses with day two used for colts and geldings. In 2007, the first year of the expansion, there was a staggering $25 million worth of purses up for grabs with $20 million awarded on the second day.
Either Churchill Downs or Santa Anita Park hosted the Breeders’ Cup from 2008 through to 2014 with Keeneland hosting the 2015 edition. A year later, Santa Anita hosted the Breeders’ Cup for a record ninth time. Del Mar in California was chosen to host the 2017 Breeders’ Cup. The 13 Breeders’ Cup Championship Races only allow a maximum of 14 starters which often means each of the races are contested by some of the best and fastest horses on the planet. Horse owners from all over the world head to the Breeders’ Cup although their focus is often the Breeders’ Cup Turf and Classic races because they have $4 million and $6 million purses respectively.
Mike Smith is a legendary jockey when it comes to the Breeders’ Cup because he has ridden a record 26 winners. Smith’s closest rivals, in terms of victories, are John R. Velazquez and Jerry Bailey who are tied on 15 wins each. Garret K. Gomez has 13 wins while Pat Dray and Frankie Dettori have both being on winning mounts 12 times. Two horses have earned more than $4 million from their exploits in Breeders’ Cup races. Zenyatta leads the way with a total of $4,680,000 in winnings with Tiznow slightly trailing with $4,560,400. When it comes to winning owners, Godolphin Racing leads the way with $15,061,735 in earnings. Two other have more than eight-figures in earnings: Juddmonte Farms ($13,485,820) and Magnier ($12,195,720).
More than a dozen horses have won multiple Breeders’ Cup Championship races, although only one horse has even triumphed in the Classic twice. That honour is bestowed on Tiznow who emerged victorious in 2000 and then became a back-to-back winner in 2001.