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10 Breeders’ Cup Facts That Will Surprise You

10 Breeders’ Cup Facts That Will Surprise You

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Every year, The Breeders’ Cup World Championships is held over a span of two days in November. Packed full of excitement, the races include some of the very best Thoroughbred horses in the world.

The Breeders’ Cup is held at a different location in North America each year. Over the span of two days, there are 14 races, covering every division of Thoroughbred racing. The best of the best come from all over to compete in hopes of taking home one of the highest honors in the racing industry.

The exciting two days of racing bring in around 100,000 people annually. Though all of the horse races are highly prized, the most prestigious race at the event is the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Here are the best facts about the Breeders’ Cup.

1. The First Breeders’ Cup Took Place in 1984

The first Breeders’ Cup took place in 1984 after the Breeders’ Cup Ltd. was formed in 1982. The very first Breeders’ Cup took place at Hollywood Park and was just a one-day-long event.

It wasn’t until 2007 that it became a two-day-long event. The races include the: Juvenile Turf,

Juvenile Fillies Turf, Juvenile Turf Sprint, Dirt Mile, Filly & Mare Sprint, Turf Sprint, Sprint, Mile, Distaff, Juvenile Fillies, Filly & Mare Turf, Juvenile, Turf, and Classic.

2. It Has Only Been Held Outside the United States Once

The Breeders’ Cup has only taken place outside of America once since its inception. In 1996, it took place at the Woodbine Racetrack in Ontario, Canada.

Horse race at Saratoga Race Course
Cheryl Ann Quigley /

3. America is Home to the Most Winners

Every year, competitors travel to the Breeders’ Cup from all around the world. America is home to the most Breeders’ Cup winners, with nearly 300 winners.

After America, Ireland and Great Britain have the most winners. France, Argentina, Canada, Germany, and Japan have also all had winners as well.

4. Its Name Came From John R. Gaines

Horseman and leader in the Thoroughbred industry, John R. Gaines, came up with the name of this world-class racing event. He got the name Breeders’ Cup from the fact that it is largely funded by Thoroughbred breeders.

These breeders pay fees to register their stallions and foals in order to let the foals have the option to run in the Breeders’ Cup when they are of age. The fees that the breeders pay go toward the event’s purses and organizational expenses. The breeders receive a substantial award if a foal they nominated wins a race at the Breeders’ Cup or select races throughout the year leading up to the event.

5. Only One Horse Has Won the Breeders’ Cup Classic Twice

The final and most elite race of the Breeders’ Cup is the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The Grade 1 race is for Thoroughbreds three years and older and covers a distance of 1 1⁄4 miles on dirt.

The only horse to win this coveted race twice is Tiznow, who won in 2000 and 2001. In his career, Tiznow won eight of his 15 starts, bringing home $6,427,830 in earnings.

His other big wins include the Affirmed Handicap, Super Derby, Goodwood Breeders’ Cup Handicap, San Fernando Breeders’ Cup Stakes, and Santa Anita Handicap. Tiznow also won the American Horse of the Year in 2000 and became a member of the U.S. Racing Hall of Fame in 2009.

6. Only One Horse Has Won the Grand Slam of Thoroughbred Racing

In 2015, American Pharoah made history by becoming the first horse to win the Grand Slam of Thoroughbred racing. He did so by winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes, bringing home the title of Triple Crown champion, followed by the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Start line at the Breeders' Cup
Cheryl Ann Quigley /

Also Read: 12 Most Famous Racehorses in History

7. Santa Anita Park Has Hosted the Breeders’ Cup the Most Times

Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California has hosted the Breeders’ Cup 10 times, more than any other racetrack. Churchill Downs in Lexington, Kentucky comes in at second, hosting the event nine times. Many other major racetracks across the United States have also hosted the race including Belmont Park, Arlington Park, and Keeneland.

8. Mike Smith Has Won the Most Breeders’ Cup Races

Mike Smith is one of the most famous jockeys of our time. Smith, who has over 5,600 career wins, has brought home 26 Breeders’ Cup Classic wins, more than any other jockey.

Smith has even won the coveted Breeders’ Cup Classic four times. He also rode Justify to his 2018 Triple Crown win, becoming the oldest jockey to do so at age 52. John R. Velazquez has the second most Breeders’ Cup wins, followed by Jerry Bailey and then Frankie Dettori.

Also Read: 12 Triple Crown Winning Jockeys Who Made History

9. The Breeders’ Cup Classic is One of the Richest Races

The Breeders’ Cup Classic is one of the richest races with a purse of $6 million. The two days of racing award a total of $30 million of prize money.

10. All Horses Must Win a designated “Win and You’re In” Race in Order to Compete

Only the best of the best are able to compete in the Breeders’ Cup. In order to compete, horses must be selected to start or they must win a “Win and You’re In” race.

Though horses are often nominated as foals, only a certain number of horses can compete. All races at the event limit the number of entries to 12 or 14. The “Win and You’re In” system began in 2007 and allows “runners to bypass the field selection process and earn a guaranteed place in the starting gate.”

Every year, there are a number of “Win and You’re In” races across the United States as a part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series. Other ways to compete include a points system that is based on a horse’s performance in graded stakes during the year or by the judgment of a panel of experts.

Also Read: 15 Interesting Facts About the Kentucky Derby