Top Breeders' Cup Moments 2004-2012
Although the Breeders' Cup from 2004 to 2012 has not seen the number of superstars it did over the first two decades, it nonetheless did provide a number of memorable moments, many of them by the female set.
Topping the list had to be Zenyatta's emotionally stirring victory in the 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic, gr. I), in which she mowed down a classy field of males to extend her winning streak to 14 without a defeat. She also became the first female to win the Classic and the first horse to win two different Breeders' Cup races.
The scene on the racetrack following the race was unlike anything witnessed before in the Breeders' Cup, as the fans at Santa Anita Park, many of them holding Zenyatta signs and posters, gave the 5-year-old mare a sustained ovation that rocked the grandstand. There are few who were in attendance who would not admit to getting goosebumps and perhaps shedding a tear.
Although the race was run on a synthetic surface, Zenyatta still defeated the grade/group I winners of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, Belmont Stakes, Travers Stakes, twice), Santa Anita Handicap, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Pacific Classic, Arlington Million, Champion Stakes, Sussex Stakes, Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, Santa Anita Derby, and Man O' War Stakes.
1) 2009 Classic, Zenyatta — This was the epic Breeders' Cup race of the decade, the one that transcended the sport and brought Zenyatta into public consciousness, escalating to a fevered pitch the following year after she was un-retired by owners Jerry and Ann Moss.
2) 2010 Classic, Blame — This year's Classic had a totally different feel to it than the previous year. Even though Zenyatta tasted defeat for the first time in 20 career starts, her spectacular run from far back after appearing to be outdistanced will be remembered for a long time and in some ways enhanced her reputation. What was lost in defeat was the gutsy victory by Blame, who never will receive the acclaim he deserves.
3) 2010 Mile, Goldikova — While the reign of Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra was being played out, a third filly joined in the female frenzy, and that was the French filly Goldikova, who was gathering her own fan base both in Europe and America. What she accomplished in 2010 was unprecedented, winning her third consecutive Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT). She actually would return for a fourth try in 2011, but could do no better than finish third.
4) 2007 Ladies Classic, Ginger Punch — Just as the sun was finally coming out following two days of torrential rain, putting a damper on Monmouth Park's debut as Breeders' Cup host, we witnessed the gutsy and emotional victory by Ginger Punch, who battled back in the final yards to snatch victory away from Hystericalady. Absent was Ginger Punch's trainer, Bobby Frankel, who remained home in California to be with his beloved Australian Shepherd, Happy, who was near death. Saddling the filly was Frankel's assistant Chad Brown, who would eventually go out on his own and become one of the top trainers in the country. Following Happy's death, Frankel named his next two Australian Shepherds Ginger and Punch.
5) 2009 Turf, Conduit — This running of the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) was not just about the English-trained Conduit's second straight victory in the race. In fact, in many ways it was more about the effort of the runner-up Presious Passion, who turned in arguably the greatest losing effort in Breeders' Cup history. Busting to the lead, as usual, in the 1 1/2-mile race, the 6-year-old opened a 10-length lead while blazing his half in an unheard of :45 flat and three-quarters in a suicidal 1:09 1/5. Following a mile in 1:34 2/5 and 1 1/4 miles in 1:59 3/5, Presious Passion amazingly was still on the lead. Then the classy Conduit rolled up alongside, and to everyone's shock, Presious Passion would not quit and battled back to be beaten a half-length in an absolutely astounding effort.
6) 2011 Turf, St. Nicholas Abbey — There are few thrills that can match winning a Breeders' Cup race. There are even fewer thrills that can match coming all the way from Europe and landing one of the major races. Well, Aidan O'Brien surpassed both those thrills, not only winning the Turf with St. Nicholas Abbey, but watching his 18-year-old son Joseph, who had virtually grown up in front of our eyes coming to the Breeders' Cup each year, ride the horse to victory with a near-flawless performance in the saddle. The look of pride on O'Brien's face said it all. By winning the Turf, Joseph became the youngest jockey ever to win a Breeders' cup race.
7) 2008 Sprint, Midnight Lute — How can a horse with only one 10th-place finish in 11 months beat the best sprinters in North America in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I)? Better still, how can he come off that long a layoff, with what amounted to no races in between, and run six furlongs in a mind-blowing 1:07 flat, winning by nearly two lengths? Reade Baker, trainer of runner-up Fatal Bullet, summed it up best when he said to no one in particular after the race, "How can a horse run six furlongs in 1:07 2/5 and get beat?" This was one of Bob Baffert's greatest training jobs. Midnight Lute not only won the Sprint, he won it for the second consecutive year.
8) 2006 Classic, Invasor — Talk about great training feats, how about Kiaran McLaughlin getting the former Uruguayan Triple Crown winner Invasor to upset the budding superstar Bernardini in the Classic coming off a three-month layoff and missing the Jockey Club Gold Cup due to a virus? The victory nailed down Horse of the Year honors for Invasor, an Argentine-bred, who would retire the following spring having captured six consecutive grade I stakes, including the Dubai World Cup for Shadwell Stable. The one everlasting image was the bedlam in the winner's circle following the Classic with Uruguayans, Argentinians, Arabs, and Americans all celebrating the victory.
9) 2012 Marathon, Calidiscopio — Speaking of Argentina, one of the great highlights of the 2012 Cup was the powerhouse victory by the Argentine invader Calidiscopio, which ignited another frenzied celebration by South Americans. What made this victory so important was that opened the Breeders' Cup to South American-owned and bred horses and gave people reason to get excited over the Marathon, putting the race on the map and enabling stayers to have their big moment in the spotlight.
10) 2006 Filly & Mare Turf, Ouija Board — In the decade of the fillies, both in America and abroad, Ouija Board was one of the most popular, winning two Filly & Mare Turfs in non-consecutive years and finishing second in between, while ridden by three different jockeys. One of the indelible sights was watching her owner, Lord Derby, standing on the track after her '06 victory, taking photos of his filly with his cell phone camera as she returned to the winner's circle.