Flightline leads the Breeders’ Cup Classic

What is the Breeders’ Cup and what does it mean for the sport of Thoroughbred Racing? The closest parallel I can think of is the creation of the Super Bowl in 1967. The mystery surrounding the event was how the American Football League (AFL) upstarts would fare against the NFL’s established franchises. Although the Green Bay Packers dominated the first two editions of the game, the win Joe Namath and in 1969 the Jets played a major role in the merger of the leagues and recognition of the quality of the AFL.

History of the Breeders’ Cup

Just as the Super Bowl united cheerleading and professional football, the Breeders’ Cup had a unifying effect for horse racing when it began in 1984. Before the Breeders’ Cup, cross-country rides were not that common. It was rarer to send horses from Europe for major American races. was the view of John Gaines, John Nerud, and a group of industry leaders to create the sport’s true World Championship event. whom Ray Paulick In a 2015 Paulick Report article, he noted: “It was an amazing achievement, not just for Gaines, but for the entire Thoroughbred industry, overcoming politics and personal agendas and doing what was right for the game. True, sacrifices were made to make the Breeders’ Cup a reality. Consider, for example, the New York Racing Association, whose races in the fall often set year-end awards. Now the vital races on both coasts will serve as Breeders’ Cup warm-ups and lose their prestige. This would extend the traditional racing season by almost a month, which meant that trainers of top-class horses would adjust their schedules to finish with the appearance of the Tables Cup. Additionally, horses from Europe or Japan will have to make significant adjustments to travel time and a short quarantine period when they first arrive in the United States.

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Few understood how the event would be received, and it was doubtful. One of the biggest questions: Will viewers be willing to watch seven horse races in four hours? I spoke with him to get some perspective on the foundation of the event John Gonzalezwho was the producer of NBC’s programs in the early years. He spoke of meetings where Gaines and Nerud would discuss why the event required 7 races and a large purse, as well as 4 hours of air time. The NBC staff at these meetings included the president of NBC Sports Arthur WatsonExecutive Producer Mike WeismanPR specialist Mike Cohenand John Gonzalez. One of the main concerns was how the time would be filled with only 14 minutes of real action on the track. But each of those seven races required back stories, paddock reports, a post parade, commentary on the horses’ presence on the track, post-race analysis and trophy presentations. While some doubted NBC’s ability to fill 4 hours, Gonzalez knew that wouldn’t be a problem when he began creating a format for the show.

He was another important player in the success of the event Marge Everett, then owned Hollywood Park, which hosted the opening ceremony in 1984. His Hollywood celebrity connections helped put the Breeders’ Cup on the map. Celebrities like it Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, Fred Astaire, Jack Klugman, John Forsythe, Linda Evans, and many others were on television. In this era, we’ve come to expect celebrity red carpets at major sporting events, but this was truly an unprecedented display of star power for sports broadcasting. Everett was also instrumental in getting the industry to collaborate with television like never before. When the foul allegations were discussed, NBC had cameras showing the stewards’ discussion. If the jockeys were on the phone at the weigh-in, explaining what was going on with the sordid claim, the NBC microphones could hear them. The coverage created an intimacy with the sport rarely seen on broadcast.

Another part of the event’s success in its early years was the involvement of riders. In those days, no coach was more important to the event D. Wayne Lucas. The Hall of Famer still holds the records for most Breeders’ Cup Wins (20) and starts (167). Back in 1987, when the event was still just 7 races (now there are 14), Lucas had an incredible 14 starts. I remember going to his barn to get conformation or “body” shots on his horses. If he told us to be there at 3:00 PM, his horses would be out of the barn at 3 with military precision. Forty-five years later, at age 87, he will likely send out the winner of the Kentucky Oaks. Secret oath to a position on the Distaff at this year’s event.

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How does the Breeders’ Cup work?

The Breeders’ Cup has a long history, but fans outside of the Triple Crown are generally unfamiliar with its structure. Here are the basics of the event:

  • 14 world championship competitions are held in two days
  • The main purpose of the event is to gather the best horses from all over the world to compete in the same venue.
  • Races are held in many different categories based on distance, race surface and age of horses.
  • Total purses for 14 races are over $30 million

I spoke with NBC Kenny Rice, and he gave me some analogies to relate the event to other marquee sports. Rice pointed out that the Triple Crown is only for 3-year-olds competing on dirt, and that many horses at that age have not reached the peak of their abilities. The Breeders’ Cup includes 14 different races covering all “divisions” or categories of racing. For example, there are 5 races for 2-year-olds, and they vary by breed of horse, distances and race surface (turf or dirt). He says the Triple Crown is like a high-level college sporting event, while the Breeders’ Cup is comparable to the NFL playoffs with all its divisions, pitting the best of each division against each other. Others have compared it to Olympic Athletics, where athletes compete to be the best in many different categories.

The idea of ​​bringing together the world’s best horses in each division is at the heart of the Breeders’ Cup concept, giving the sport a truly international showcase. There has always been consistent competition from Europe, but last year two of the races were run by horses based in Japan. One of the goals from the beginning was to increase the international feel of the event, and that certainly happened. In addition to the success of the Japanese in 2021, the coach’s 4c Ireland’s record is the highest in the history of this event held in the USA Aidan O’Brien. Also, a jockey equal to 4c The highest win total is England Frankie Dettori.

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Another common question about the event is why 14 races are necessary. The best answer I can give is justice. Among sprinters, for example, it is generally accepted that men will be slightly faster. True, in the early years of the event, large elephants Very Thin and Safely Kept It was good enough to beat the boys in the sprint. However, it makes sense that if there are separate sprint events for male and female horses during the year, there should be separate Breeders’ Cup races for male and female horses. Likewise, the 1999 Filly and Mare Turf debuted as 8c The Breeders’ Cup race created a separate category for female turf runners over the ground distance. She would be slightly off the Turf, eliminating the need for a top-class filly to face the top males over a mile and a half. Kenny Rice notes that while there was some skepticism when the new races were introduced, the changes have paid off. He cites the success of Stars of the Future Friday, with championship races limited to 2-year-olds, as a prime example.

Rice also feels that the success of the Breeders’ Cup has brought renewed attention to breeding in the sport. Celebrity owners and breeders like it Bobby Flay and Bill Parcells are notable examples. In the first edition of the event in 1984, each winner was recognized not only for their racing success, but also for their breeding influence by showing a video of the winner’s sire at his breeding farm. There is no doubt that the Breeders’ Cup has brought attention to the breeding side of the industry.

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What to watch for in the 2022 Breeders’ Cup

One of the great things about the Breeders’ Cup is that every year it’s held, it’s almost inevitable that there will be some great and unforgettable moments. The first event in 1984 was aided by a memorable three-way battle that ended in a clear long shot. Wild again He won the classic by a big margin. Joy of winning jockey Pat’s Day he is a signature image in the history of the event, holding his helmet to the sky. Having such a memorable climax to the opening ceremony did little to raise awareness of the Breeders’ Cup for casual fans. This year, many fans are waiting for another great moment of invincibility Flight line He will enter the Breeders’ Cup Classic as a heavy favorite. NBCs Randy Moss The flight line’s performance in its most recent race (the Pacific Classic) was said to be as spectacular a performance as seen on an American racetrack since then. Secretariat A 31-length victory in the Belmont Stakes.

Rice spoke with John Gaines before the first Breeders’ Cup and says Mr. Gaines knew a few things had to go right for the event to be a success. When he spoke with Mr. Gaines after the inauguration, he felt it all paid off.

I believe I’m the only person on the production side who worked on the first Breeders’ Cup and is still working on it. When it airs on November 10thc I remember stepping onto the track apron at Hollywood Park in 1984, with wonder in my eyes. None of us knew exactly how it would turn out, but when it was all over we knew it was a special event with great promise for the future. While the Breeders’ Cup has evolved significantly from its current format, I have a feeling Mr. Gaines and Mr. Nerud would have liked it. The goal of the event was to unite the industry around true World Championship racing, and it did.

If you’ve never seen the Breeders’ Cup, make some time on November 4thc and 5c. Words do not do justice to the idea of ​​one big and important race, one after the other, about 35 minutes apart. The Kentucky Derby may be considered the biggest two minutes in sports, but the Breeders’ Cup is arguably the biggest two days on the annual calendar. Have a good time watching it and pick some winners along the way as you do.

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