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Spiraling To The Breeders' Cup: Part 2

Jeremy Plonk, Special to NTRA.com       







Welcome to the second installment of an exclusive, six-part series in which NTRA.com will take you inside the numbers and major races leading up to the Nov. 4 main event beneath the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs. Check back on the designated Tuesdays outlined below:

Part I: August 22
1988 BC Rewind: The Juveniles
In Focus: Jockeys & Trainers
Part II: September 5
1991 BC Rewind: Mile
In Focus: The Europeans
Part III: September 19
1994 BC Rewind: Distaff
In Focus: Home-field Advantage
Part IV: October 3
1998 BC Rewind: Sprint
In Focus: Best Historical Preps
Part V: October 17
2000 BC Rewind: Turf
In Focus: Pace Scenarios
Part VI: October 31
2006 BC Preview: The Preps
In Focus: Wagering In Focus
 



Breeders' Cup VIII showcased the international flavor of the event like perhaps no Championship Day before or since. The opening race saw Sheikh Albadou become the first European-based horse ever to win a Breeders' Cup race on dirt when he captured the Sprint. It was a sign of things to come.

Canadian superstar Dance Smartly dominated the Distaff and became her nation's first Breeders' Cup champion. Then, two races later in the Juvenile, Arazi turned in what many still consider to be the single-most spectacular performance in Breeders' Cup history. The French colt circled the field on the turn with a breathtaking move, blew past eventual multi-millionaire Bertrando and powered home by five easy lengths. Some 15 years later, you often will hear racetrackers describe a sweeping move on the far turn by saying something such as, “He just pulled an Arazi.”

The French-raiding party wasted no time in celebration as the filly Miss Alleged came back in the very next race to stun the Turf field at 42-to-1 odds. And while Midwestern-based Black Tie Affair wore the red, white and blue for America, the Irish-bred became the first (and remains the only) foreign-bred to capture the Classic in the finale to the 1991 card.

For as formful as the first Breeders' Cup was at Churchill in 1988, the '91 renewal was as wacky. Two 26-to-1 winners (Sheikh Albadou and Opening Verse) were dwarfed by the $86.20 Turf payout on Miss Alleged. Of the 21 horses to finish 1-2-3 on the program, more than half (11 of them) were sent away at 15-to-1 or more odds and eight of those were 25-to-1 or more.

And while the Belmont preps were key to success at Churchill in 1988, they were abysmal in ‘91. Horses exiting final preps at Belmont went just 27: 0-1-2 on Championship Day 1991 – including losing favorites in four races (Housebuster-S, Preach-JF, In Excess-M and Festin-C).

MILE ALL-TIME AT CHURCHILL DOWNS

Mile – Year: Winner ($2 win payoff)
1988: Miesque ($6.00)
1991: Opening Verse ($55.40)
1994: Barathea ($22.80)
1998: Da Hoss ($25.20)
2000: War Chant ($9.00)

Of the five Mile winners at Churchill Downs, three were based in the United States and two in France. Speed-figure proponents note that it has taken a huge Beyer Speed Figure to win this race – averaging 111.6 at Churchill Downs. In fact, every winning Beyer in Louisville has been over 108. As for the pace scenarios, the five CD Miles have been won by horses who ranged from stalking a few lengths off the lead to come-from-the-clouds closers like War Chant, who was last for much of his run in 2000 before storming home. Opening Verse was the only winner within two lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile.

Favored Mile runners have struggled mightily at Churchill. Four of five post-time chalks finished eighth or worse under the Twin Spires. The only favorite to perform admirably was lukewarm 7-to-2 choice War Chant, winner of the 2000 event.


No one can question the European dominance seen at Churchill Downs in 1991. But has that held true over all five Breeders' Cup renewals in Louisville? We'll crunch all the numbers for you below.

For the sake of analysis, we'll look at the European runners coming directly overseas to race (those whose last start was in Europe). Do note, however, that the rare occurrence of a European coming stateside for a final prep race before the Breeders' Cup has been successfully accomplished twice at Churchill Downs. Tikannen prepped in the Turf Classic at Belmont before winning the 1994 Turf and Miss Alleged raced in Laurel's D.C. International before stunning the 1991 Turf field.

Let's look first at the overall European numbers, and then get into country-specific analysis.

Horses who last started in Europe before racing in a Churchill Breeders' Cup race:
Race Starts Win Place Show 4th 5th 6th 7th
Total 77 5 3 6 7 6 4 46
Eng 34 2 3 1 2 1 1 24
Fra 36 3 0 3 4 5 2 19
Ire 4 0 0 1 1 0 1 1
Ita 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
Ger 2 0 0 1 0 0 0 1


Horses who last raced in England (by BC races):
Race Starts Win Place Show 4th 5th 6th 7th
Total 34 2 3 1 2 1 1 24
Mile 13 1 0 0 0 0 1 11
Turf 10 1 1 1 1 1 0 5
Classic 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 3
Distaff 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
Juvenile 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 2
J. Fillies 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
Sprint 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2


Horses who last raced in France (by BC races):
Race Starts Win Place Show 4th 5th 6th 7th
Total 36 3 0 3 4 5 2 19
Mile 10 1 0 1 1 2 0 5
Turf 14 0 0 1 2 2 2 7
Classic 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
Distaff 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
Juvenile 3 1 0 1 0 0 0 1
J. Fillies 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
Sprint 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 1


Horses who last raced in Ireland (by BC races):
Race Starts Win Place Show 4th 5th 6th 7th
Total 4 0 0 1 1 0 1 1
Mile 2 0 0 1 0 0 0 1
Juvenile 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
J. Fillies 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0


Horses who last raced in Italy (by BC races):
Race Starts Win Place Show 4th 5th 6th 7th
Total 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
Mile 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1


Horses who last raced in Germany (by BC races):
Race Starts Win Place Show 4th 5th 6th 7th
Total 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 1
Turf 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
FM Turf 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0


Check back Tuesday, Sept. 19 for Part III of Spiraling to the Breeders' Cup World Championships, featuring the 1994 Breeders' Cup Rewind; a look at the history of the Distaff at Churchill Downs; and In Focus with an analysis of the Home-Field Advantage.

Jeremy Plonk is the editor of The HorsePlayer Magazine and HorsePlayerdaily.com, as well as a contributing blogger and columnist for NTRA.com and ESPN.com.






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