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Breeders’ Cup Betting Guide

Breeders’ Cup at Churchill DownsNone of the Breeders’ Cup races can compete with the cache of the Kentucky Derby, the history of the Royal Ascot, or the buildup and anticipation for the Belmont Stakes when a horse is one leg away from completing the Triple Crown.

But collectively, the Breeders’ Cup is the biggest event in Thoroughbred racing, and it’s not even close. Over the course of the competition, $30 million in prize money will be paid up for grabs, making it the “richest two days in sports.”

If you’re a casual fan of horse racing, the magnitude of the Breeders’ Cup can make it quite intimidating. Fortunately, we’re here to explain it all for you in this Breeders’ Cup betting guide, which will cover everything you need to know to bet on horse racing’s Tournament of Champions.

When Is the Breeders’ Cup?

As the year-end world championships for Thoroughbred racing, the Breeders’ Cup is always held in the fall. Dates vary by the year, but the two-day competition is typically held on the final Friday and Saturday of October or the first Friday and Saturday of November.

The 2018 Breeders’ Cup is scheduled for November 2-3 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Each day will feature seven different races, beginning mid-afternoon local time and continuing well into the evening.

Best Sites for the Breeders’ Cup

TVG (short for the Television Games Network) is the official betting site of the Breeders’ Cup, thanks to its longstanding partnership with the event. But it’s hardly the only place to bet on the action, and it’s also not the best if you enjoy betting on other sports as well.

Many legitimate and reputable betting sites also offer betting on the Breeders’ Cup. And while TVG specializes in horse betting, sites like BetOnline, Bovada, and 5Dimes feature a wide range of wagering options for other popular sports that are in season in November, such as NFL and college football, the NBA, and the NHL.

Big events like the Breeders’ Cup are also when online bookmakers like to try to attract new business by offering special promotions and bonuses. As long as the sites you are joining are safe and trustworthy, it’s never a bad idea to sign up and deposit at several sportsbooks in order to cash in on these great offers.

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Breeders’ Cup Events, Records, and Champions

With so many different events at the Breeders’ Cup, it’s important to know what the differences are between them. Whether it’s the surface the horses are running on, the age group and gender that are eligible, the distance of the race or other criteria, all of these events vary in some way.

Here’s a look at all 14 races that are on the card for this year’s Breeders’ Cup, along with a brief description of them and a list of record-holders and past champions.

1. Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf

The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf is a one-mile race on grass for two-year-old male Thoroughbreds. Up to 14 horses are permitted in the field, which has featured a full 14 entrants in six of the past seven years. Automatic entry to the Juvenile Turf is granted to winners of five different qualifying races in Ireland, England, France, Lexington (Kentucky), and Toronto.

The Juvenile Turf has been a Grade 1 race since 2011. It was first held in New Jersey in 2007.

Fastest Time: Outstrip, 2013 (1:33.20)
Winningest Jockey: Ryan Moore, four (2011, 2012, 2015, 2017)
Winningest Trainer: Aidan O’Brien, four (2011, 2012, 2015, 2017)

Former Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Champions

Winning the Juvenile Turf is often the first big feather in the cap of any two-year-old Thoroughbred, and hopefully a sign of a promising career ahead. 2016 champion Oscar Performance is one example, going on to win the Grade 1 Belmont Derby and Secretariat Stakes the following year as a three-year-old.

  • 2017: Mendelssohn
  • 2016: Oscar Performance
  • 2015: Hit It A Bomb
  • 2014: Hootenanny
  • 2013: Outstrip
  • 2012: George Vancouver
  • 2011: Wrote
  • 2010: Pluck
  • 2009: Pounced
  • 2008: Donativum
  • 2007: Nownownow

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2. Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf

As you might have guessed, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf is similar to the Juvenile Turf, but for ladies only. It’s also a one-mile race on grass, and the field is maxed at 14 entrants, five of whom can earn automatic entry by winning a qualifier in Ireland, England, France, Lexington (Kentucky), or Toronto.

First contested in 2008, the Juvenile Fillies Turf was updated to Grade 1 status in 2012.

Fastest Time: Lady Eli, 2014 (1:33.41)
Winningest Jockey: Javier Castellano, two (2016, 2017)
Winningest Trainer: Chad Brown, four (2008, 2014, 2016, 2017)

Former Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf Champions

The last two Juvenile Fillies Turf winners have featured the same trainer-jockey tandem, as Javier Castellano rode Chad Brown-trained horses to victory in 2016 (New Money Honey) and 2017 (Rushing Fall). Success in the event is nothing new to Brown, who has been the winning trainer in three of the last four Fillies Turf races and four in the event’s 10-year history.

  • 2017: Rushing Fall
  • 2016: New Money Honey
  • 2015: Catch A Glimpse
  • 2014: Lady Eli
  • 2013: Chriselliam
  • 2012: Flotilla
  • 2011: Stephanie’s Kitten
  • 2010: More Than Real
  • 2009: Tapitsfly
  • 2008: Maram

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3. Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile

The Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile is a one-mile race typically run on a dirt track, although it is occasionally contested on a synthetic surface. Thoroughbreds age three and up are eligible to compete in the weight-for-age event.

Although the field is capped at 12 entrants, the Dirt Mile has featured 10 horses or less in five of the last seven runnings and seven of 11 overall. Automatic berths in the race go to champions of the Metropolitan Handicap in New York and the Pat O’Brien Stakes in California.

Fastest Time: Albertus Maximus, 2008 (1:33.41)
Winningest Jockey: Rafael Bejarano, two (2013, 2014)
Winningest Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer, two (2010, 2017)

Former Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile Champions

Goldencents is the lone two-time champion of the Dirt Mile, capturing the title in 2013 and then again the following year. The one-mile distance seemed to agree with Goldencents, who finished unplaced in the longer Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes before winning his first Dirt Mile.

  • 2017: Battle Of Midway
  • 2016: Tamarkuz
  • 2015: Liam’s Map
  • 2014: Goldencents
  • 2013: Goldencents
  • 2012: Tapizar
  • 2011: Caleb’s Posse
  • 2010: Dakota Phone
  • 2009: Furthest Land
  • 2008: Albertus Maximus
  • 2007: Corinthian

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4. Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint

The Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint is the ladies’ version of the Dirt Mile, featuring a shorter distance (seven-eighths of a mile) for fillies and mares aged three and older. Up to 14 horses participate in the weight-for-age race on a dirt or synthetic track, and the field has been at capacity in two of the last three years (13 competed in 2016).

Horses can automatically qualify for the Filly & Mare Sprint by winning the Princess Rooney Handicap in Florida, the Ballerina Stakes in New York, or the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes in Kentucky.

Fastest Time: Maryfield, 2008 (1:19.90)
Winningest Jockey: Rajiv Maragh, two (2012, 2013) and Mike E. Smith, two (2014, 2016)
Winningest Trainer: William Bradley, two (2012, 2013)

Former Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint Champions

Groupie Doll won the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint in both 2012 and 2013, highlighting a stellar two-year run by the classy sprinter. Groupie Doll also won the Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes in each of those years and received the American Champion Female Sprint Horse award in back-to-back seasons.

  • 2017: Bar of Gold
  • 2016: Finest City
  • 2015: Wavell Avenue
  • 2014: Judy the Beauty
  • 2013: Groupie Doll
  • 2012: Groupie Doll
  • 2011: Musical Romance
  • 2010: Dubai Majesty
  • 2009: Informed Decision
  • 2008: Ventura
  • 2007: Maryfield

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5. Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint

The Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint is a weight-for-age race on grass for Thoroughbreds aged three and up. The distance of the event was originally designed to be 6 ½ furlongs (approximately four-fifths of a mile) but is often contested at 5 furlongs (five-eighths of a mile) since most venues can’t accommodate that specific distance.

Classified as a Grade 1 race since 2012, the Turf Sprint allows up to 14 runners and has been at maximum capacity in eight of its 10 all-time runnings. Automatic entry is granted to winners of the five different qualifying races, which are being held in England, Ireland, Japan, and New York in 2018.

Fastest Time: Regally Ready, 2011 (0:56.48)
Winningest Jockey: Mike Smith, two (2012, 2013) and Joel Rosario, two (2014, 2017)
Winningest Trainer: Mike Puype, two (2012, 2013)

Former Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint Champions

Ironically, a female is the only two-time winner of the Turf Sprint, as Mizdirection crossed the line first in both 2012 and 2013. Her 2012 victory was particularly surprising as she had not raced in more than five months prior to the event, then came from behind down the stretch to win as a 7:1 dark horse. Mizdirection paid less than 3:1 to win the following year, when she was the pre-race favorite.

  • 2017: Stormy Liberal
  • 2016: Obviously
  • 2015: Mongolian Saturday
  • 2014: Bobby’s Kitten
  • 2013: Mizdirection
  • 2012: Mizdirection
  • 2011: Regally Ready
  • 2010: Chamberlain Bridge
  • 2009: California Flag
  • 2008: Desert Code

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6. Breeders’ Cup Sprint

The Breeders’ Cup Sprint is tied with the Turf Sprint for the shortest race in the Breeders’ Cup series. Also a weight-for-age event for Thoroughbreds aged three and up, the only difference between the Sprint and Turf Sprint is that the Sprint is raced on dirt.

Six of the maximum 14 berths in the race are handed out to winners of various qualifiers throughout North America, such as the Belmont Sprint Championship Stakes in New York’s Belmont Park or the Santa Anita Sprint Championship in California. The Breeders’ Cup Sprint has held Grade 1 status every year since its 1984 inception.

Fastest Time: Midnight Lute, 2008 (1:07.08)
Winningest Jockey: Corey Nakatani, four (1996, 1997, 1998, 2006)
Winningest Trainer: Bob Baffert, five (1992, 2007, 2008, 2013, 2016)

Former Breeders’ Cup Sprint Champions

Midnight Lute (2007-08) is the only repeat champion in the history of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, with his two titles the highlights of an abbreviated career. His record time in the 2008 Sprint was just his second race of the season, following an injury that sidelined him most of the campaign. Three days after he won the 2008 Sprint at Santa Anita Park, he was retired to stud.

The short distance of the race has favored younger horses, as four-year-olds have won 14 titles, while three-year-olds have accounted for nine more. Only two horses aged seven or older have raced to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

  • 2017: Roy H
  • 2016: Drefong
  • 2015: Runhappy
  • 2014: Work All Week
  • 2013: Secret Circle
  • 2012: Trinniberg
  • 2011: Amazombie
  • 2010: Big Drama
  • 2009: Dancing in Silks
  • 2008: Midnight Lute
  • 2007: Midnight Lute
  • 2006: Thor’s Echo
  • 2005: Silver Train
  • 2004: Speightstown
  • 2003: Cajun Beat
  • 2002: Orientate
  • 2001: Squirtle Squirt
  • 2000: Kona Gold
  • 1999: Artax
  • 1998: Reraise
  • 1997: Elmhurst
  • 1996: Lit de Justice
  • 1995: Desert Stormer
  • 1994: Cherokee Run
  • 1993: Cardmania
  • 1992: Thirty Slews
  • 1991: Sheikh Albadou
  • 1990: Safely Kept
  • 1989: Dancing Spree
  • 1988: Gulch
  • 1987: Very Subtle
  • 1986: Smile
  • 1985: Precisionist
  • 1984: Eillo

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7. Breeders’ Cup Mile

Open to Thoroughbreds aged three and up, the Breeders’ Cup Mile is a one-mile weight-for-age race contested on a grass surface. It has carried Grade 1 classification since first being run in 1984.

Up to 10 horses in the maximum 14-horse field are determined by champions of various qualifiers that are located throughout the world. In 2018, qualifiers for the Breeders’ Cup Mile were slated to be held in such remote locations as South Africa, Australia, Chile, Japan, and England.

Fastest Time: Tourist, 2016 (1:31.71)
Winningest Jockey: Olivier Peslier, three (2008, 2009, 2010), John R. Velazquez, three (1998, 2012, 2017)
Winningest Trainer: Freddy Head, three (2008, 2009, 2010)

Former Breeders’ Cup Mile Champions

Fillies and mares have accounted for two of the five multi-time champions of the Breeders’ Cup Mile, and six different females have won the title in all.

Goldikova leads the way in that department, winning an unprecedented and since-unmatched three straight crowns from 2008-10. Miesque is the other female two-time champion, while Wise Dan, Lure, and Da Hoss also won the event twice (Da Hoss’ victories came one year apart).

  • 2017: World Approval
  • 2016: Tourist
  • 2015: Tepin
  • 2014: Karakontie
  • 2013: Wise Dan
  • 2012: Wise Dan
  • 2011: Court Vision
  • 2010: Goldikova
  • 2009: Goldikova
  • 2008: Goldikova
  • 2007: Kip Deville
  • 2006: Miesque’s Approval
  • 2005: Artie Schiller
  • 2004: Singletary
  • 2003: Six Perfections
  • 2002: Domedriver
  • 2001: Val Royal
  • 2000: War Chant
  • 1999: Silic
  • 1998: Da Hoss
  • 1997: Spinning World
  • 1996: Da Hoss
  • 1995: Ridgewood Pearl
  • 1994: Barathea
  • 1993: Lure
  • 1992: Lure
  • 1991: Opening Verse
  • 1990: Royal Academy
  • 1989: Steinlen
  • 1988: Miesque
  • 1987: Miesque
  • 1986: Last Tycoon
  • 1985: Cozzene
  • 1984: Royal Heroine

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8. Breeders’ Cup Distaff

Formerly known as the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic, the Distaff is the top Grade 1 race in North America for fillies and mares and the second-ranked race in the world. The weight-for-age event for Thoroughbred females aged three and up has been contested on dirt tracks at a distance of 1 ⅛ miles since 1988, following four years in which the distance was 1 ¼ miles.

Up to 14 horses are permitted in the field, with automatic entry going to winners from seven qualifiers. The Distaff has been a Grade 1 race since its inception in 1984.

Fastest Time: Inside Information, 1995 (1:46.15)
Winningest Jockey: Mike Smith, five (1995, 1997, 2002, 2008, 2012)
Winningest Trainer: William I. Mott, five (1997, 1998, 2010, 2011, 2012)

Former Breeders’ Cup Distaff Champions

Though two other horses have won two Distaff titles as well, Beholder might be the greatest champion in the history of the race. That’s because her titles came three years apart (2013, 2016), separated by two injury-plagued seasons that kept her out of contention. Her 2016 victory came as a six-year-old, when she edged out Songbird by a nose in a dramatic sprint to the finish.

Bayakoa and Royal Delta are also two-time winners of the race. Like Beholder, Bayakoa’s second title came as a six-year-old, which is a rare feat in the Distaff. All but seven of the champions in the race’s history have been either three or four years of age.

  • 2017: Forever Unbridled
  • 2016: Beholder
  • 2015: Stopchargingmaria
  • 2014: Untapable
  • 2013: Beholder
  • 2012: Royal Delta
  • 2011: Royal Delta
  • 2010: Unrivaled Belle
  • 2009: Life Is Sweet
  • 2008: Zenyatta
  • 2007: Ginger Punch
  • 2006: Round Pond
  • 2005: Pleasant Home
  • 2004: Ashado
  • 2003: Adoration
  • 2002: Azeri
  • 2001: Unbridled Elaine
  • 2000: Spain
  • 1999: Beautiful Pleasure
  • 1998: Escena
  • 1997: Ajina
  • 1996: Jewel Princess
  • 1995: Inside Information
  • 1994: One Dreamer
  • 1993: Hollywood Wildcat
  • 1992: Paseana
  • 1991: Dance Smartly
  • 1990: Bayakoa
  • 1989: Bayakoa
  • 1988: Personal Ensign
  • 1987: Sacahuista
  • 1986: Lady’s Secret
  • 1985: Life’s Magic
  • 1984: Princess Rooney

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9. Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies

Young female horses get their chance to shine in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, a dirt race for two-year-old fillies that is typically run at a distance of 1 1/16 miles. Qualifiers for the event are typically contested in the United States, with the 2018 qualifiers taking place in New York, Kentucky, and California.

Fastest Time: Songbird, 2015 (1:42.73)
Winningest Jockey: Mike Smith, three (2008, 2015, 2017)
Winningest Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas, six (1985, 1988, 1994, 1999, 2005, 2014)

Former Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Champions

Though there is technically no record for the fastest time in the Juvenile Fillies because of how the race has varied distances at different tracks over the years, Songbird’s 2015 performance was a sign of great things to come. Her 1:42.73 clocking was faster than the three previous fastest time in the race, even though those three times were all posted in a shorter distance, and she went on to win nine Grade 1 races throughout her injury-shortened career.

  • 2017: Caledonia Road
  • 2016: Champagne Room
  • 2015: Songbird
  • 2014: Take Charge Brandi
  • 2013: Ria Antonia
  • 2012: Beholder
  • 2011: My Miss Aurelia
  • 2010: Awesome Feather
  • 2009: She Be Wild
  • 2008: Stardom Bound
  • 2007: Indian Blessing
  • 2006: Dreaming of Anna
  • 2005: Folklore
  • 2004: Sweet Catomine
  • 2003: Halfbridled
  • 2002: Storm Flag Flying
  • 2001: Tempera
  • 2000: Caressing
  • 1999: Cash Run
  • 1998: Silverbulletday
  • 1997: Countess Diana
  • 1996: Storm Song
  • 1995: My Flag
  • 1994: Flanders
  • 1993: Phone Chatter
  • 1992: Eliza
  • 1991: Pleasant Stage
  • 1990: Meadow Star
  • 1989: Go For Wand
  • 1988: Open Mind
  • 1987: Epitome
  • 1986: Brave Raj
  • 1985: Twilight Ridge
  • 1984: Outstandingly

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10. Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf

The Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf is a weight-for-age grass surface race open to female Thoroughbreds aged three and up. More than half of the Filly & Mare Turf races in history have been at a distance of 1 ¼ miles, but varying turf course configurations at different tracks has also caused the race to be run at 1 ⅜ miles, 1 3/16 miles, and 1 ⅛ miles in the past.

Up to 11 of the maximum 14 berths in the race are determined by qualifying events throughout the world. First inaugurated in 1999, the Filly & Mare Turf has been classified a Grade 1 race throughout its entire existence.

Fastest Times: Stephanie’s Kitten, 2015 (1:56.22)
* Wuheida’s 2017 time of 1:47.91 was posted on a 1 ⅛ mile course, the shortest distance in event history*
Winningest Jockey: Jerry Bailey (1999, 2000), Kieren Fallon (2003, 2004), John Velazquez (2002, 2011), Javier Castellano (2012, 2014), and Frankie Dettori (2006, 2016) with two apiece
Winningest Trainer: Chad Brown (2012, 2014, 2015) and Michael Stoute (2003, 2013, 2016) with three apiece

Former Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf Champions

Ouija Board is the lone two-time winner of the Filly & Mare, capturing the race in 2004 as a three-year-old and then winning it again in 2006 at the age of five. Even though she narrowly missed the three-peat by finishing second in 2005, Ouija Board holds the distinction of being one of two horses to win Breeders’ Cup races in non-consecutive years, joining Breeders’ Cup Mile 1996 and 1998 champion Da Hoss. The British Thoroughbred also won the Epsom Oaks and Prince of Wales’s Stakes during her career.

  • 2017: Wuheida
  • 2016: Queen’s Trust
  • 2015: Stephanie’s Kitten
  • 2014: Dayatthespa
  • 2013: Dank
  • 2012: Zagora
  • 2011: Perfect Shirl
  • 2010: Shared Account
  • 2009: Midday
  • 2008: Forever Together
  • 2007: Lahudood
  • 2006: Ouija Board
  • 2005: Intercontinental
  • 2004: Ouija Board
  • 2003: Islington
  • 2002: Starine
  • 2001: Banks Hill
  • 2000: Perfect Sting
  • 1999: Soaring Softly

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11. Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is the richest race for two-year-olds in North America. Typically contested at 1 ⅙ miles, the dirt surface race’s purse of $2 million US attracts the most promising young colts and geldings from across the continent and helps identify the early favorites for the following year’s Kentucky Derby.

Due to the young age of the competitors, only four spots in the 14-horse field are awarded to champions of qualifying events. Often times, the Juvenile is the first time that the top two-year-olds from leagues across North America line up in the same race.

Fastest Time: Success Express, 1987 (1:35.20)
Winningest Jockey: Laffit Pincay, Jr. (1985, 1986, 1988) and Jerry Bailey (1996, 1998, 2000) with two apiece
Winningest Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas, five (1986, 1987, 1988, 1994, 1996)

Former Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Champions

Three Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winners have gone on to win at least one Triple Crown event.

1994 Juvenile champion Timber Country was the first, claiming the Preakness Stakes the following spring. Street Sense (2006) and Nyquist (2015) are the only Juvenile winners to go on to win the Kentucky Derby the next season.

  • 2017: Good Magic
  • 2016: Classic Empire
  • 2015: Nyquist
  • 2014: Texas Red
  • 2013: New Year’s Day
  • 2012: Shanghai Bobby
  • 2011: Hansen
  • 2010: Uncle Mo
  • 2009: Vale of York
  • 2008: Midshipman
  • 2007: War Pass
  • 2006: Street Sense
  • 2005: Stevie Wonderboy
  • 2004: Wilko
  • 2003: Action This Day
  • 2002: Vindication
  • 2001: Johannesburg
  • 2000: Macho Uno
  • 1999: Anees
  • 1998: Answer Lively
  • 1997: Favorite Trick
  • 1996: Boston Harbor
  • 1995: Unbridled’s Song
  • 1994: Timber Country
  • 1993: Brocco
  • 1992: Gilded Time
  • 1991: Arazi
  • 1990: Fly So Free
  • 1989: Rhythm
  • 1988: Is It True
  • 1987: Success Express
  • 1986: Capote
  • 1985: Tasso
  • 1984: Chief’s Crown

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12. Breeders’ Cup Turf

The Breeders’ Cup Turf features the second-largest purse of all races in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, putting $4 million up for grabs. The event is a 1 ½ mile race on a grass track for horses aged three and up, and its origin dates back to 1952 when it was known as the Washington, D.C. International Stakes.

The field is maxed at 14 entrants, up to 11 of whom are granted automatic entry by winning qualifiers throughout the world. Royal Ascot events such as the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes are among the races used as qualifiers for the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Fastest Time: Little Mike, 2012 (2:22.83)
Winningest Jockey: Frankie Dettori (1999, 2001, 2006, 2010) and Ryan Moore (2008, 2009, 2013, 2015) with three apiece
Winningest Trainer: Aidan O’Brien, six (2002, 2003, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016)

Former Breeders’ Cup Turf Champions

High Chaparral (2002-03) and Conduit (2008-09) are two-time winners of the Breeders’ Cup Turf, each prevailing as three-year-olds and then again at the age of four. However, five-year-old horses have held their own in this event as well, winning more titles (10) than three-year-olds (9) since the race became known as the Breeders’ Cup Turf in 1984.

  • 2017: Talismanic
  • 2016: Highland Reel
  • 2015: Found
  • 2014: Main Sequence
  • 2013: Magician
  • 2012: Little Mike
  • 2011: St Nicholas Abbey
  • 2010: Dangerous Midge
  • 2009: Conduit
  • 2008: Conduit
  • 2007: English Channel
  • 2006: Red Rocks
  • 2005: Shirocco
  • 2004: Better Talk Now
  • 2003: High Chaparral and Johar (co-champions)
  • 2002: High Chaparral
  • 2001: Fantastic Light
  • 2000: Kalanisi
  • 1999: Daylami
  • 1998: Buck’s Boy
  • 1997: Chief Bearhart
  • 1996: Pilsudski
  • 1995: Northern Spur
  • 1994: Tikkanen
  • 1993: Kotashaan
  • 1992: Fraise
  • 1991: Miss Alleged
  • 1990: In the Wings
  • 1989: Prized
  • 1988: Great Communicator
  • 1987: Theatrical
  • 1986: Manila
  • 1985: Pebbles
  • 1984: Lashkari

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13. Breeders’ Cup Classic

The Breeders’ Cup Classic is the signature event of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. Featuring a total prize purse of $6 million US, the weight-for-age 1 ¼ mile dirt race for horses aged three and up is seen as a peer to North American Triple Crown events like the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. In fact, many even consider the Breeders’ Cup Classic to be the final leg of the Grand Slam of Thoroughbred Racing in North America.

Seven of the event’s 14 spots are awarded to winners of qualifying events, most of which are held at major United States tracks such as Churchill Downs, Monmouth Park, Belmont Park, and Del Mar Racetrack.

Fastest Time: Ghostzapper, 2004 (1:59.02)
Winningest Jockey: Chris McCarron (1988, 1989, 1996, 2000, 2001) and Jerry Bailey (1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 2005) with five apiece
Winningest Trainer: Bob Baffert, three (2014, 2015, 2016)

Former Breeders’ Cup Classic Champions

Many legendary horses have run to victory in the history of the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Tiznow (2000-01) is the only two-time winner of the race, Zenyatta (2009) is the lone filly to win the Classic, and Cigar (1995) posted a then-record time on a muddy track to claim his eighth straight Grade 1 race.

1987 was also an epic battle between a pair of former Kentucky Derby winners, as Ferdinand beat out Alysheba in a photo finish. Alysheba returned the following year to claim the Classic.

But the greatest Breeders’ Cup Classic champion of all has to be the incomparable American Pharoah. A few months after becoming the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, American Pharoah completed the Grand Slam of Thoroughbred Racing with a dominant 6.5-length victory in the Classic, setting a record time at Keeneland Racecourse in the process.

  • 2017: Gun Runner
  • 2016: Arrogate
  • 2015: American Pharoah
  • 2014: Bayern
  • 2013: Mucho Macho Man
  • 2012: Fort Larned
  • 2011: Drosselmeyer
  • 2010: Blame
  • 2009: Zenyatta
  • 2008: Raven’s Pass
  • 2007: Curlin
  • 2006: Invasor
  • 2005: Saint Liam
  • 2004: Ghostzapper
  • 2003: Pleasantly Perfect
  • 2002: Volponi
  • 2001: Tiznow
  • 2000: Tiznow
  • 1999: Cat Thief
  • 1998: Awesome Again
  • 1997: Skip Away
  • 1996: Alphabet Soup
  • 1995: Cigar
  • 1994: Concern
  • 1993: Arcangues
  • 1992: A.P. Indy
  • 1991: Black Tie Affair
  • 1990: Unbridled
  • 1989: Sunday Silence
  • 1988: Alysheba
  • 1987: Ferdinand
  • 1986: Skywalker
  • 1985: Proud Truth
  • 1984: Wild Again

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14. Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint

In response to the increasing popularity of turf racing in North America, the Breeders’ Cup has promoted its Juvenile Turf Sprint (previously an undercard event) to top-level status, beginning with the 2018 world championships.

The race for two-year-olds will be just over five-eighths of a mile, with a $1 million purse for its inaugural holding. With the addition of the Juvenile Turf Sprint, there will now be five races exclusively for two-year-olds at the Breeders’ Cup, three of which are on grass.

“The upgrade of the Juvenile Turf Sprint… will fill a need for international turf sprint sires,” a Breeders’ Cup official said in a press release announcing the addition of the Juvenile Turf Sprint to the program. “We feel that Juvenile Turf Sprint will also be a popular draw among horsemen from North America and overseas stables.” [ Back to Top ↑ ]

Track Info

Although the Breeders’ Cup has been held at the same venue in consecutive years several times in its history, the event is generally held at a different track every fall. All but one of the Breeders’ Cups have been held in the United States, the one exception being 1996 when the competition was held at Toronto’s Woodbine Racetrack.

The 2018 Breeders’ Cup will be held at historic Churchill Downs in Louisville, marking the ninth time that the Kentucky course will be home to the event. That will tie Churchill with California’s Santa Anita Park for the most Breeders’ Cups hosted in history.

Here’s a list of other venues that have been the site of Breeders’ Cups in the past:

Breeders’ Cup Records

Because Breeders’ Cup races all vary in distance, surface, age of competitors, and format, there is no official record when it comes to the fastest time posted at the competition.

There are, however, numerous other records that can be applied across the entire event. In this section, we’ve spelled out some of the most notable accomplishments in Breeders’ Cup history, regardless of the criteria of the races.

Winningest Horses

Goldikova is the only horse in Breeders’ Cup history to win the same race three times, claiming the Mile in consecutive years from 2008-10. Based in France, Goldikova never raced in one of North America’s Triple Crown events, so US and Canadian racing fans have the Breeders’ Cup to thank for giving them a chance to see the great mare in action.

Beholder is also a three-time Breeders’ Cup champion, but her victories were split over two events (the Juvenile Fillies in 2012 and the Distaff in 2013 and 2016). Zenyatta (2008 Distaff, 2009 Classic), Secret Circle (2011 Juvenile Sprint, 2013 Sprint), and Stephanie’s Kitten (2011 Juvenile Fillies Turf, 2015 Filly & Mare Turf) are the other horses to win two different Breeders’ Cup races.

Besides Goldikova and Beholder, fifteen horses have won the same race more than once. The most repeat winners have come in the Mile (five, including four doing it in consecutive years), the Distaff (three), and the Turf (two).

Biggest Winning Margin

The largest winning margin in Breeders’ Cup history came in 1995, when Inside Information won the Distaff by 13.5 lengths on a muddy track at Belmont Park. That performance highlighted a brilliant campaign by Inside Information, whose only blemish on an otherwise-undefeated season was a second-place finish at the Ballerina (when she stumbled badly at the start of the race).

Just one other race in Breeders’ Cup history has seen the victor come home with a double-digit advantage in lengths, and it was a much bigger surprise. Street Sense paid more than 32:1 to win the 2006 Juvenile but ended up prevailing by 10 lengths over pre-race 3:1 favorite Circular Quay. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been such a surprise after all to see Street Sense dominate the field, as he went on to win the Kentucky Derby six months later on the very same Churchill Downs track.

Biggest Field

Breeders’ Cups have consistently drawn at least 150 participating horses on an annual basis since expanding their race offerings to double digits in 2007. The most horses to ever participate in a Breeders’ Cup competition was in 2011, when a record 15 races featured 173 different horses.

The highest average of horses per race in the Breeders’ Cup came back in 2006, when 104 horses lined up in one of eight races on the card (an average of 13 horses per event). The following year, the Breeders’ Cup was expanded to 11 races, and organizers added three more races to the program in 2008.

Smallest Field

It’s not surprising that the smallest field in Breeders’ Cup history came in the event’s inaugural holding in 1984, when 68 horses participated in a seven-race competition.

Although the field grew by two horses per race the following year, there were still three occasions over the next 15 years (1986, 1988, and 1997) when the Breeders’ Cup averaged less than 11 horses per race.

Winner with the Highest Odds

Favorites have always performed quite well at the Breeders’ Cup, winning 31% (99 of 318) of the races in the event’s all-time history. Meanwhile, only one of 39 horses ever paying 100:1 or higher has finished in the money.

That one, however, was a doozy. Arcangues shocked the horse racing world in 1993 when he not only finished in the top three of the Classic, but he actually won the race outright as a 133:1 longshot. It was the first time the French horse had ever run on a dirt track, one reason why bettors were quick to fade his chances. But it was also the last hurrah for the Thoroughbred, who won just one more race (the John Henry Handicap in 1994) before retiring in 1995.

Other surprising winners over the years include Bar of Gold in the 2017 Filly & Mare Sprint ($66.70 on a $1 bet), Take Charge Brandi in the 2014 Juvenile Fillies ($61.70), Court Vision in the 2011 Mile ($64.80), and Spain in the 2000 Distaff ($55.90).

Most Successful Trainers

D. Wayne Lukas has trained the most winners in Breeders’ Cup history, sending 20 horses to the winner’s circle. Twelve of those 20 horses have been juveniles, including six fillies, and Lukas has twice won events in three consecutive years (Juvenile from 1986-88, Distaff from 1985-87). The Wisconsin native, who also holds the record for most Triple Crown race wins (14), is still active as a trainer, but his last Breeders’ Cup victory came back in 2014.

Bob Baffert is quickly closing ground on Lukas’ lead for all-time Breeders’ Cup victories by a trainer, having won 14. Baffert, also a 14-time winner of a Triple Crown race, has won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Juvenile, and Classic at least three times each. His last Breeders’ Cup titles came in 2016, when he won both the Sprint and the Classic.

Most Successful Jockeys

Mike Smith is clearly the most successful jockey to ever ride in the Breeders’ Cup. His 26 victories are nearly double the amount of any other jockey and are a big reason the New Mexico native ranks second among all jockeys in the world when it comes to lifetime earnings.

Smith’s greatest success has come in the Distaff (five victories) and Classic (four), but he’s also won multiple titles in the Mile, Sprint, Juvenile, Juvenile Fillies, Turf Sprint, and Filly & Mare Sprint.

John R. Velazquez and retired jockey Jerry Bailey rank second on the all-time list for Breeders’ Cup victories, each collecting 15. Rosie Napravnik is the lone female jockey to win more than one race.

History of the Breeders’ Cup

The notion of the Breeders’ Cup was first brought up at an awards luncheon for the Kentucky Derby Festival in 1982, when John R. Gaines and other top breeders from Kentucky noted the lack of a year-end championship for Thoroughbred horse racing in North America. Although many in the racing community were pessimistic at first, support from trainers and other notables in the industry gave the idea some early traction, as did interest from overseas.

Two years later, the first Breeders’ Cup world championships were held at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, California. A seven-race card was highlighted by a dramatic finish in the $3 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, when 31:1 dark horse Wild Again edged out favorite Slew o’Gold and Preakness Stakes winner Gate Dancer by a head. That was enough to hook the nearly 70,000 people in attendance, not to mention the massive audience that tuned in to watch the live four-hour national broadcast on NBC.

The Breeders’ Cup was a one-day event until 2007, when the expansion of the program to 11 races required the competition to be held over two days. The following year, organizers added three more races to the Breeders’ Cup schedule, and the majority of events were now contested on artificial surfaces instead of dirt.

The popularity of the Breeders’ Cup took off from there, especially after the event signed simulcasting and licensing agreements with online betting supplier Betfair. Betfair handled wagering for the 2009 competition and also provided online streaming across the world, meaning that the Breeders’ Cup was suddenly being broadcast in more than 140 countries. By 2017, total betting handle on the Breeders’ Cup (on-track and simulcast wagering combined) had exceeded $160 million US.

Summary

It’s always bittersweet to see the end of the horse racing season, but at least the Breeders’ Cup allows it to go out with a huge bang. Seeing the year’s best horses line up on the same track gives us one more chance to see these great champions in action before they take a much-deserved break over the winter, and it’s also an opportunity to give our horse-betting itch one final big scratch.

Whether you’re a fan of the young horses, the longer distance, or the fillies, the Breeders’ Cup has it all, with tons of prize money and bragging rights on the line to boot! Make sure to take advantage of one of the great promotion offers that betting sites give out for the Breeders’ Cup, then sit back and enjoy two great days of thrilling horse racing action.