Louisville Magazine

Breeders Cup 2018

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Page 27 of 35

26 BREEDERS' CUP #BC18 did not skip the possibility of interna- tional participation. ough racing was only then beginning to take to the air, the Breeders' Cup founders thought such a time could be coming. ey were breeders, too, and some of the most prominent customers for U.S. bred yearlings were based overseas. Originally, two Breeders' Cup races were slated for the turf — the grass courses laid out inside many American dirt courses — and it was hoped that might be attractive to European stables, where almost all racing is conducted on the grass. It was. In the very first Breeders' Cup, at Hollywood Park in 1984, French riding star Ives Saint-Martin rode British-bred Lashkari, owned by H. H. Aga Kahn, to victory in the 1 1/2 miles Breeder's Cup Turf. e next season it was Pat Eddery and Pebbles, the British mare. Pebbles was a big hit with American fans, who liked the story that she drank a pint of Guinness every day. Saint-Martin then struck again with an Irish-bred horse named Last Tycoon, and the French champion Miesque took the Breeders' Cup Mile two years in a row under Freddie Head. But the rider everyone in America was waiting to see was Lester Piggott, the many-time champion rider in England, who came to Belmont Park in 1990 to ride Royal Academy — and put on quite a show. At the top of the stretch some fans might have been wondering what all the fuss was about. Piggott had Royal Academy, the betting favorite, dead last turning for home. But then he came flying! Way out in the middle of the track — way out there! — Piggott and Royal Academy blew by the field — with the jockey standing tall in the stirrups, as American fans had seen in photographs. Piggott held his whip pointing up in the air, occasionally reaching down to tap the saddle pad of Royal Anthem as the horse stretched out in stride. e horse was flying. And just up at the wire. Last to first in one swift strike. Lester Piggott! WIN AND YOU'RE IN In those early years the European participation was relatively small and pretty much limited to the two turf events. But for this year's 35th edition of the Breeders' Cup, planes flying from overseas will carry plenty of horses raring to run. Between 30 and 40 are expected to fly in from as many as eight countries. Seven of the 14 Breeders' Cup events are run on grass, but several of the overseas invaders will be running in dirt races. Today, there is so much horse-world interest in the Breeders' Cup, and the competition so deep, that the Breeders' Cup now designates 85 "win-and-you're- in" races in 12 countries as qualifiers for the championships. Most of the qualifiers are slated in the U.S, but 33 are staged overseas — including in Britain, Ireland, France, Japan, Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Chile. Win-and-You're-In winners are not only assured a spot in the starting gate, but all starting fees are paid, plus transportation expenses. at might not mean so much for a horse stabled at Keeneland to van 70 miles to Churchill Downs, but its pretty good from Cali- fornia. And very good from Japan. DON'T FORGET LORD DERBY One of the things the Breeders' Cup does best is pageantry. You see it at the host track, festooned with banners and pennants and special flower arrange- ments in the paddock and winner's circle. In the mornings on the backside one hears the chatter in many languag- es, with many of the horses sporting the European-style manes and tails clipped straight across — like brunette bangs. Pretty cool. en the handicapping, where fans search for inside knowledge — which often comes too late. Or is missed in the deluge of type and hype about Ameri- can horses. Such as when Ouija Board won her first of two Breeder' Cups. "Hey, I'd heard the name of the horse, but how do you know who these people are?," complained one horse- player. "Who are the sharp owners and trainers?" "Well maybe in the course of your handicapping you could have noted the name of this horse's owner — Lord Derby," taunted his pal. "Surely you might expect the Earl of Derby to stand a fighting chance in a horse race." ere are clues with the trainers, too. Andre Fabre, John Gosden, Aidan O'Brien, Sir Michael Stoute — all have won multiple Breeders' Cup races – and seem to keep winning. So, do those kinds of tidbits help pick winners? Maybe. Flaxman Holdings has won the Breeders' Cup Mile six times. It's not as revealing a name as, say, H.R.H Princess Haya of Jordan, or Lady Serena Roth- schild. Until one learns that Flaxman Holdings is the horse kingdom of the heirs of the late Greek Shipping magnet Stavros Niarchos. Or, one can just keep an eye on silks, watching out for Coolmore's purple, Sheikh Mohammed's blue, and the pink and green colors of Prince Khalid's Juddmonte Farm, seen in the post parades of big races everywhere. All that goes into the pageantry, and suddenly it's knights and horses, and princesses and commoners — all arrived for the tournament at King Arthur's Camelot Downs. I mean Churchill Downs. Karakontie, owned by Flaxman Holdings, winner of the 2014 Breeders' Cup Mile. Breeders' Cup Photo ©

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