Photo: Breeders' Cup
There's nothing like the first time. Still in high school, I remember tearing open the very first Breeders' Cup racing form like Ralphie unwrapping his Red Ryder BB gun. So many good horses in one form! Princess Rooney was the star of the day, Chief's Crown won the first, and the Classic was about as wild as they come. I remember it like it was yesterday.
A Breeders' Cup on the East Coast ... remember them? My biggest memory from this one was a pair of turf races. Cozzene was a flashy gray that I followed all along. Seeing him win the Mile was very gratifying. The English filly, Pebbles, beating the boys was unforgettable, and come to think of it, so was Tasso, out in the middle of the Big A stretch, nailing Storm Cat on the Juvenile's final jump.
The first of many editions at Santa Anita, and I was watching from home suffering on one of my worst days with a bad bout of Mononucleosis. Heroic performances from two greats made the day just a little bit better. Lady's Secret wired the Distaff easily, effectively clinching the Horse of the Year Award, while our 3yo turf star, Manila, taught the European super horse, Dancing Brave, a thing or two.
For whatever reason, the second of Hollywood Park's Breeders' Cups was one of my least memorable editions. If not for the two Kentucky Derby winners coming together in a terrific Classic, I would struggle to remember much of this day at all. I was rooting for the loser, Alysheba, that day, but years removed, I am glad that Ferdinand won this battle.
The first ever Breeders' Cup under the Twin Spires was a pip! There was a Miesque repeat, and fellow NJ-bred, Open Mind, won the Juvenile Fillies on a huge day for D. Wayne Lukas. He also shocked Easy Goer with Is It True, but could not quite get there with Winning Colors in an epic Distaff versus Personal Ensign. Alysheba winning the Classic as light bulbs and cameras provided the only light on the day's final race, was a most fitting capper.
There were plenty of fine performances in the first BC held in South Florida, but for me the entire day came down to five words ... Sunday Silence and Easy Goer. I still consider this example of racing perfection, the one Breeders' Cup race which all others should be judged. The Classic had everything, including the result that I needed.
Belmont Park's first Breeders' Cup should have been a celebration, and I should have been thrilled when Unbridled won the Classic. Instead, it was a day of sadness. Go For Wand was a beautiful, courageous, and talented filly. Her break down, while in an unbelievable battle with the older champion, Bayakoa, remains the most heartbreaking event I've seen in a lifetime of following the horses.
The first thing I remember about the '91 Breeders' Cup was the cold. We went to the Louisville-Florida St. game the night before, and my ear froze and fell off. The races the next day were not much warmer. The second thing I remember is the heat, from the explosive move made by Arazi on the far turn of the Juvenile. It is a move that I will take to my deathbed. A good mixing in of long shots made this day a very profitable one to boot.
Among the memorable events from Gulfstream's 1992 Breeders' Cup, include a brave upset by Fraise in the Turf, and watching the little Chicago filly, Meafara, come within a few yards of going all the way in the Sprint, before succumbing late to Thirty Slews. The real star of the day, though, was the majestic 3yo, A.P. Indy proving once and for all that he was America's best horse.
Who could ever forget the gigantic French long shot, Arcangues, taking the Classic with Jerry Bailey in the irons? It was also a day for stars as well, though, as Hollywood Wildcat defeated an excellent Distaff field, and Lure and Kotashaan asserted their turf superiority, one with blazing speed, and the other with an overwhelming stretch kick.
Back to Louisville in 1994, this Breeders' Cup was largely devoid of stars and unforgettable performances. The one shining star of the day was the best edition of the Juvenile Fillies ever run. Both fillies were trained by Lukas, but that took nothing away from the drama of the undefeated superstar, Flanders, who sustained an injury during the race, fighting off future star, Serena's Song by a whisker.
I must admit, I remember the complete destruction of the Distaff field by Inside Information in a sheepish way, as going in, I felt that Heavenly Prize was the stronger half of the Phipps entry. As amazing performance as that one was, it was Cigar's win in the Classic that stands out the most. Tom Durkin's call is stuff of legend ... "The Incomparable, invincible, unbeatable Cigar!"
A Breeders' Cup in Canada? Yes! Da Hoss would have more memorable things to come, but he was a horse that I followed from the beginning, so seeing his first Breeders' Cup win was a thrill. Even more memorable, from that afternoon at Woodbine, was the shocking and game victory by Alpahbet Soup over Louis Quatorze and the heavily favored champion, Cigar.
Skip Away, an American iron horse, and stakes winner in four consecutive years, had his greatest day in the sun at the final Breeders' Cup to be held at Hollywood Park. Hiis tour de force in the Classic was all kinds of dominating. I also remember trainer, Patrick Byrne, and the strong wins by his two excellent juveniles, Favorite Trick and Countess Diana. Favorite Trick remains the only 2yo since Secretariat to be named Horse of the Year.
In 1998, I remember the blazing speed of Reraise, and the pluckiness of Buck's Boy, and I remember the deep and talented field that Awesome Again defeated in the Classic. But above anything, I remember the amazing story of my old friend, Da Hoss. Away for nearly two years, and with only a nothing race at Colonial Downs under his belt, somehow Michael Dickinson had the gutsy and talented six-year-old ready to win the BC Mile again.