Breeders' Cup Memories

I have written a lot lately about the importance of wagering to the overall economic health of Horseracing.  Contrary to what some might think, though, I am equally passionate about the many opportunities to sell horse racing as the exciting sporting competition that it is.  And no racing competition is more exciting than the Breeders' Cup World Championships.  

In fact, the Breeders' Cup is a great time, to sell racing as great sports competition with the added bonus of being able to legally back your sporting opinions with a wager.  And, boy, do we have opportunities to back those opinions this year.  The betting menu is bigger than ever not only because there are  now 14 races, each with large, competitive fields but because of new betting opportunities like  the Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge and the Breeders Cup Pick 'Em Challenge.  This year, there is even exchange betting for international fans.  But I am back to talking about betting when the Breeders' Cup event is so much more.

American champions such as Azeri, A.P. Indy, Cigar, Ferdinand, Sunday Silence, and so many others have proven their greatness at Breeders' Cup.  European-based horses have also come and conquered on American soil.  This year is no different with top competitors meeting at Santa Anita for a second straight year to decide who are the best horses in the world.  Can Zenyatta win the 2009 BC Classic and put herself and her connections in serious contention for Horse of the Year honors against BC no-show Rachel Alexandra?  Tune in on Saturday and find out.

Growing up in a small town in Kentucky, I sometimes thought that horseracing was the Kentucky Derby and nothing else. It was not until my first Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs in 1988 that I realized that a larger industry existed.  Many of those in attendance that day -- perhaps the best Breeders' Cup day of all time -- still believe it was the event of a lifetime.  Personal Ensign's heart-stopping victory over Derby winner Winning Colors in the Distaff was unforgettable. And the photo of Alysheba winning the Classic in the dark on that fateful day at Churchill Downs is one of my favorite images of this celebrated sport of ours.  

There have been so many other Breeders' Cup memories of great matchups over the years at many of racing's great venues.  Yes, the betting has been great, though often maddeningly difficult.  And horse players have definitely supported the event like almost no other in North America. But for my money, it's the memories of great horses and riders that stand out the most.

We can debate which of the 25 previous Breeders' Cup events is the best ever but there is one thing I know for sure.  It was the exhilaration of the athletic competition at the 1988 Breeders' Cup that began my lifelong love of horseracing.   Given a choice between cashing a $200 exacta or seeing Winning Colors and Personal Ensign compete with all their heart, I'll take  the memory every time.  But that's just me.  

How about you.  What is your favorite BC memory?  Was it a race or a winning ticket? Or was it both?

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