For the first time since 2000, the Breeders' Cup World Championships returns to Churchill Downs Nov. 4.
The historic track has held the event five times in the past, and the six-year gap between hosting duties is the longest it has faced. Some of the most memorable Breeders' Cup moments have occurred under the Twin Spires, and 2006 looks to be no different.
Before the eight-race event is staged, it is important to remember some of the moments of years past. Horses like Personal Ensign, Miesque, Flanders, Arazi, Da Hoss, and Tiznow cemented their names in horse racing lore with their victories over the track.
The first Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs was held in 1988, and the favorites did not fail to impress. Three favorites won that year, and only two did not hit the board. Personal Ensign capped off a perfect career in a thrilling photo finish with Kentucky Derby (gr. I) heroine Winning Colors in the Distaff (gr. I), and Miesque claimed her second consecutive Mile (gr. IT) victory, becoming the first horse to win back-to-back Breeders' Cup races.
In 1991, the races returned to Churchill Downs, where Arazi provided one the most electrifying races in Breeders' Cup history as he simply dominated the Juvenile (gr. I) field. Three years later, Flanders' victory by a head over Serena's Song provided a thrilling finish in the Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). The Classic (gr. I) was the center piece of the 1998 event, as one of the best fields ever for the race was assembled, and Awesome Again got the victory over Silver Charm and Skip Away. That was also the year that Da Hoss refused to lose in the Mile after making only one start between that race and his 1996 Mile victory.
The last edition of the Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs in 2000 witnessed Tiznow claim his first of two Classic wins, and he remains the only back-to-back winner of the day's marquee race. War Chant victory made him the first favorite at Churchill Downs in the Mile to win or even hit the board. That year also saw veteran sprinter Kona Gold finally get his Breeders' Cup victory.
Fans have turned out in mass to witness the Breeders' Cup when it is held at Churchill Downs. The most attended Breeders' Cup ever came at in 1998 when 80,452 people came to the races. The next three spots are held by the 2000, 1994, and 1988 editions, respectively. The 1991 running of the Breeders' Cup was the sixth most attended day, and only the 1986 Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita has had a better turn out than a Churchill Downs' hosting, coming in fifth place.
The weather gods have been fairly consistent with Louisville during the championship day of racing. Often the temperature has been in the low 50s, but in 1991, crowds had to withstand a chilly 43 degrees, and 1994 provided an unseasonably warm day of 75 degrees. Fast tracks and firm turf have been the order of the day as rain has only affected the track once, in 1988.
As the fields are assembled and the tickets are sold, one thing is for sure: a new chapter to the Breeders' Cup story is about to be written, and Churchill Downs never fails to provide a good story.