Breeders' Cup Classic
|Grade I race|
The first turn in the 2007 Classic
|Distance||1 1⁄4 miles|
|Qualification||3-year-olds and up|
|Weight||4-year-olds and up: 126 lb (57.2 kg)
3-year-olds: Northern Hemisphere 122 lb (55 kg), Southern Hemisphere 117 lb (53 kg)
Fillies and mares allowed 3 pounds.
|Purse||US$6 million (for 2016)|
The Breeders' Cup Classic is a Grade I Weight for Age thoroughbred horse race for 3-year-olds and older run at a distance of 1 1⁄4 miles (2,000 m) on dirt. It is held annually at a different racetrack as part of the Breeders' Cup World Championships in late October or early November. All of the races to date have been held in the United States except for the 1996 edition held at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, Canada.
The Classic is considered by many to be the premier thoroughbred horse race of the year in the U.S., although the Kentucky Derby is more widely known among casual racing fans. Once the richest race in the world, in more recent years, only the Dubai World Cup and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe have had consistently higher purses. Often, the winner of the Classic goes on to win U.S. Horse of the Year honors, including the four winners of the race between 2004 and 2007 — respectively Ghostzapper, Saint Liam, Invasor, and Curlin. Due to the extremely high quality of horses in the event, the race is notoriously hard to predict. One notable example of an underdog winning the Classic is the victory of Arcangues in 1993. This was the biggest upset in Breeders' Cup history and his $269.20 payoff for a $2 wager remains a Breeders' Cup record.
The Classic is now regarded as the fourth leg of horse racing's Grand Slam — the traditional Triple Crown (Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes) plus the Breeder's Cup Classic. After American Pharoah's Triple Crown win earlier in 2015, the term became popular; the colt became the first horse to ever accomplish this feat. Sunday Silence in 1989 was the first to claim a "Small Slam" by winning three of the four legs (but not the Triple Crown).
The first running of the Breeders' Cup Classic in 1984 produced an exciting finish between 30-1 longshot Wild Again on the inside, Gate Dancer on the outside and favorite Slew o' Gold in between. The three battled down the stretch with Wild Again bearing out somewhat away from the rail and Gate Dancer "lugging in" towards the rail, squeezing out Slew O' Gold. Wild Again finished a neck in front of Gate Dancer with Slew o' Gold less than a length behind. After a 10-minute stewards' inquiry, Wild Again was left in first place but Gate Dancer was disqualified to third.
The 1987 renewal featured the face off between two Kentucky Derby winners, Alysheba and Ferdinand. Ferdinand, who won the Derby in 1986, reached the lead in mid-stretch, then struggled to hold off the late charge of Alysheba. In a photo finish, Ferdinand prevailed by a nose and would later be named Horse of the Year.
In the 1989 renewal, Sunday Silence and Easy Goer faced off for the last time in one of racing's most famous rivalries. Sunday Silence had beaten Easy Goer in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes but Easy Goer turned the tables in the Belmont. Easy Goer then then went on an impressive winning streak that included the Travers, Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup, making him the 1-2 favorite in the Classic. The two horses tracked the early leaders with Sunday Silence making his move first as they rounded the final turn. He opened up a commanding lead but Easy Goer started closing down the stretch. At the wire, Sunday Silence prevailed by a neck, earning him Horse of the Year honors.
In 2007, the Breeders' Cup developed the Breeders' Cup Challenge, a series of races in each division that allots automatic qualifying bids to winners of defined races. Each of the thirteen divisions has between two and twelve of these "Win and You're In" qualifiers.
In the Breeders' Cup Classic division, the number of runners is limited to 14, with up to eight automatic berths. Note though that one horse may win multiple challenge races, while other challenge winners will not be entered in the Breeders' Cup for a variety of reasons such as injury or travel considerations.
- The February Stakes, a Grade 1 race run in February at Tokyo Racecourse in Japan
- The Stephen Foster Handicap, a Grade 1 race run in June at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky
- The Gold Cup at Santa Anita (formerly the Hollywood Gold Cup), a Grade 1 race run in June in California
- The Haskell Invitational, a Grade 1 race run in July at Monmouth Park in New Jersey
- The Whitney Handicap, a Grade 1 race run in August at Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York
- The Pacific Classic, a Grade 1 race run in August at Del Mar Racetrack in San Diego, California;
- The Awesome Again Stakes, a Grade 1 race run in October at Santa Anita Park in California
- The Jockey Club Gold Cup, a Grade 1 race run in October at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York
- 2 - Tiznow (2000, 2001)
- not applicable. Because the Breeders' Cup Classic is run at different racetracks each year, some of which are faster than others, there is no official stakes record. Note though that American Pharoah's time of 2:00.07 set a track record at Keeneland, Ghostzapper's time of 1:59.02 set a track record at Lone Star Park and Alphabet Soup's time of 2:01.0 set a track record on Woodbine's old dirt track.
Largest winning margins:
- 6 3/4 lengths - American Pharoah (2015)
Most wins by a jockey:
Most wins by a trainer:
- 2 - Charlie Whittingham (1987, 1989)
- 2 - Jay M. Robbins (2000, 2001)
- 2 - William I. Mott (1995, 2011)
- 2 - Bob Baffert (2014, 2015)
Most wins by an owner:
- 2 - Stronach Stables (1998, 2004)
Winners of the Breeders' Cup Classic
† Indicates filly/mare
- Breeders' Cup Classic "top three finishers" and starters
- American Thoroughbred Racing top Attended Events
- Grand Slam - ESPN.com
- American Pharoah - Breeder's Cup.com
- Crist, Steven (11 November 1984). "SLEW O' GOLD BEATEN BY 31-1 SHOT IN BREEDERS' CUP". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 September 2016.
- Crist, Steven (22 November 1987). "Ferdinand Wins by a Nose". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 September 2016.
- Gantz, Tracy. "Sunday Silence's Classic". www.bloodhorse.com. Retrieved 24 September 2016.
- "Breeders' Cup Challenge". Daily Racing Form. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
- "Japan Races Added to BC Challenge Series". bloodhorse.com. Retrieved 28 June 2016.
- "Keeneland Track and Course Records" (PDF). Keeneland. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
- "Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie". www.lonestarpark.com. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
- "Woodbine Track Records - Thoroughbred". www.woodbineentertainment.com. Retrieved 25 July 2016.