Successfully predicting the weather in Central Kentucky is harder than putting together a winning Pick 6 ticket. One thing for certain is the weather in this part of the country has definitely changed to “autumn.” Patagonia fleece and down vest jackets covering up traditional button-down shirts at Keeneland is a telltale sign.
There’s no telling what forecast lies in store in Louisville for the Nov. 2-3 Breeders’ Cup, but we do have a pretty good idea of who’ll be running at Churchill Downs. Equibase past performances for the World Championships, a long-standing feature in the “Breeders’ Cup Preview” issue of BloodHorse.
After reading our European correspondent Julian Muscat’s insightful feature on trainer Karl Burke, and hearing that Cartier Horse of the Year Enable, a repeat winner of this year’s Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), is coming for a run, thoughts on how good their chances will be under the Twin Spires come to mind.
Conventional wisdom suggests horses shipping from Europe have excelled best when the Breeders’ Cup has been run on the West Coast. We know European horsemen prefer some sun and the dry climate there this time of year, and they’ve learned over the years to bring a horse that hasn’t started its winter coat and is fond of firm going. When the Breeders’ Cup is held in Louisville, it’s harder to gauge what the conditions will be.
Revisiting the results of past Breeders’ Cups at Churchill Downs, we’ve discovered a mixed bag.
Interestingly enough, the very first Breeders’ Cup race run at Churchill Downs, the Sprint (G1), 30 years ago, was won by Gulch, bred and owned by Peter Brant. A great read on Brant’s return to the Thoroughbred scene can be found on page 42. But we digress.
Back when the event was one day and just seven races in 1988—and the varnish of the Breeders’ Cup was fresh—we watched mighty Miesque break the hearts of her 11 rivals in the Mile (G1T) on a gloomy day at the Downs. She slogged a 1:38 3/5 trip over a “good” course after she had singed the turf at Hollywood Park the year before in 1:32 4/5.
Favorites for the two grass races, Warning in the Mile and Indian Skimmer in the Turf (G1T), were last and third, respectively.
Three years later, under a bright azure sky with temperatures in the low 40s, European-based runners took three of the seven heats: Sheikh Albadou surprised in the Sprint; Allen Paulson’s Arazi dazzled the racing public with his electrifying run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), and Fares Farm’s Miss Alleged rebounded off a fifth-place finish in the Budweiser International Stakes (G1T) to take the Turf at 42-1, with 57-1 Quest for Fame finishing third for Juddmonte Farms.
The third Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs, in 1994, with temps in the 70s, wasn’t nearly as fruitful. However, England’s Barathea and France’s Johann Quatz ran one-two in the Mile. The winning rider was a youthful Frankie Dettori. He’s added 11 wins since, including two wins at Churchill in 2006 on firm turf aboard Ouija Board and Red Rocks.
The European contingent was shut out in 1998 and in 2000 had one winner, the Aga Khan’s Kalanisi in the Turf.
In the “modern era” of multiple-day Breeders’ Cups, Churchill Downs hosted back-to-back in 2010-11. The first year graced us with Goldikova’s third Mile win and Dangerous Midge’s upset in the Turf, with Dettori up on a 40-degree day. The following year, with a seasonal 58-degree weekend, the Turf was won by the popular St Nicholas Abbey, and Wrote landed the Juvenile Turf (G1T) to record a solid weekend for the Coolmore contingent and trainer Aidan O’Brien.
Whatever happens in Breeders’ Cup 35 is sure to stir the soul and warm the heart.