By Ray Wallin
We saved the best for last.
It is the final Breeders’ Cup race to run on the second day and the one that has seen some of the greatest champions since its inception in 1984. We are talking about one of the richest races to be run in North America each year and one that has left us with some of the most memorable finishes – the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
So whether you are a casual racing fan or you make your living playing the races, sit back and enjoy what is the hardest of the Breeders’ Cup races to rank.
In 2000, all eyes were on Kentucky Derby winner and favorite Fusaichi Pegasus. However, it wouldn’t be his day to shine. Albert the Great would set the pace only to lose it by the stretch in what would set up to be one of the most dramatic finishes in BC history as Tiznow battled head to head with Europe’s best three year old, Giant’s Causeway.
In 2001, a year after his dramatic win over Giant’s Causeway, Tiznow was attempting a repeat six weeks after the horrific events of September 11. The race would start exactly the same way as in 2000, with Albert the Great getting out to the early lead. This time, Sakhee would get out in front in the stretch with Tiznow looming. Tiznow would battle and find a late surge to get his head in front just before the wire to “win it for America.”
In 1987, two Kentucky Derby winners would face off in one of the most exciting finishes in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. While Ferdinand rated closer to the lead, Alysheba would make a late run. Judge Angelucci battled hard into the stretch, but was no match for the 1986 Kentucky Derby winner, Ferdinand. Once Ferdinand was by him, he had to hold off the 1987 Derby winner to win. Alysheba would get another shot at the race in 1988 when he would defeat Seeking the Gold to get the win.
The inaugural Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1984 gave us a great finish. Wild Again would battle his way to the lead early, setting torrid fractions including a half mile in 45 and 3/5 seconds. Wild Again wouldn’t look back even though he’d find himself trying desperately to hold off Slew o’Gold and Gate Dancer.
The 2012 BC Classic was a two-horse race. Fort Larned and Mucho Macho Man ran 1-2 for the entire race. Once they hit the stretch Mucho Macho Man made his run and Fort Larned was able to hold him off to prevail by a half-length at the wire.
A year after Gate Dancer fell short to Wild Again in 1984, he was back to try his luck again. In 1985, he would find himself on the lead in the stretch only to engage with Proud Truth, who was running in last on the backstretch. The two would battle head to head for the final yards yet Proud Truth would be a head in front late.
In 2016, California Chrome would set a comfortable pace. However, once they hit the far turn Arrogate would move to the rail. A furlong out, California Chrome seemed to be handling the late charge by Arrogate, but Arrogate was not done as he surged late to win by a half-length in what would be jockey Mike Smith’s 25th Breeders’ Cup win.
#8 Run Like A Girl, Can You Keep Up?
Early on in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic, the great Zenyatta spotted the field 13 lengths. She would work her way up through the field and make a wide run down the middle of the track to remain undefeated as she ran down Gio Ponti late.
In 2010, the great Zenyatta tried to repeat her 2009 heroics by beating the boys again. She would be steadied at the start and spot the leader 16 lengths early. She would rally in an amazing stretch bid only to come up short. If the race was a couple of yards longer she may have gotten to Blame. Zenyatta’s troubles do not to detract from Blame’s battle at the top of the stretch with Lookin At Lucky to get free on the lead before needing to reach deep to hold off Zenyatta’s late run.
If you are sitting nearly 14 lengths off the lead at the half mile in last place, do you have Concern? Sure you do. Favorite Tabasco Cat had a good trip that set him up for the stretch drive as he ran down Dramatic Gold only to be met by the challenge of the last-to-first run of Concern under Jerry Bailey. As he hits the wire it is “Concern from out of the clouds.”
Should we expect another dramatic finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic this year? What do you think?
Below are links to previously published Top Finishes in Breeders’ Cup races:
BC Filly & Mare Turf: https://www.usracing.com/news/top-5-breeders-cup-filly-mare-turf-finishes
BC Juvenile Fillies: https://www.usracing.com/news/top-10-breeders-cup-juvenile-fillies-finishes
Ray Wallin is a licensed civil engineer and part-time handicapper who has had a presence on the Web since 2000 for various sports and horse racing websites and through his personal blog. Introduced to the sport over the course of a misspent teenage summer at Monmouth Park by his Uncle Dutch, a professional gambler, he quickly fell in love with racing and has been handicapping for over 25 years.
Ray’s background in engineering, along with his meticulous nature and fascination with numbers, parlay into his ability to analyze data; keep records; notice emerging trends; and find new handicapping angles and figures. While specializing in thoroughbred racing, Ray also handicaps harness racing, Quarter Horse racing, baseball, football, hockey, and has been rumored to have calculated the speed and pace ratings on two squirrels running through his backyard.
Ray likes focusing on pace and angle plays while finding the middle ground between the art and science of handicapping. When he is not crunching numbers, Ray enjoys spending time with his family, cheering on his alma mater (Rutgers University), fishing, and playing golf.
Ray’s blog, which focuses on his quest to make it to the NHC Finals while trying to improve his handicapping abilities can be found at www.jerseycapper.blogspot.com Ray can also be found on Twitter (@rayw76) and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.