The Breeders’ Cup Classic is the centerpiece of the two day event known as the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. Over $25 million in purses is offered over the two day period, with the Classic comprising $5 million of that amount.
As the name implies, the race is run at the “Classic” distance of 1 ¼ miles, and through its first twenty seven editions, we have witnessed some of the most compelling races in horse racing history.
The first running was in held at Hollywood Park in 1984, and featured a thrilling finish in which Gate Dancer, Slew o’ Gold, and Wild Again battled down the wire, with Wild Again just inching out the other two.
Or, how about the 1987 edition, which featured the 1986 and 1987 Kentucky Derby winners, Ferdinand and Alysheba hitting the wire together. This was the first time two Derby winners had faced each other since Spectacular Bid faced Affirmed in the 1979 Jockey Club Gold Cup. Ferdinand struck the lead in deep stretch, but Alysheba kept coming at him and just ran out of ground, ultimately losing by a nose in a photo finish.
Alysheba would come back and get his Breeders’ Cup Classic the following year, and had to work just as hard as the previous year. The Breeders’ Cup was held at Churchill Downs and it was a dark, damp day, and the track was muddy. He held off a determined Seeking the Gold, who was known for being an outstanding sire of mud runners, ultimately holding off the challenge and prevailing by a half-a-length.
Sunday Silence and Easy Goer provided the racing world with one of the more compelling rivalries, and it culminated in another great matchup in the 1989 Breeders’ Cup Classic, in what would be their final meeting. Sunday Silence got first run on Easy Goer who was probably just a bit too far back early, and as they turned into the stretch, Sunday Silence had a good two lengths on his rival, but Easy Goer kept coming at him. At the sixteenth pole and time running out, Easy Goer was still three lengths behind, but he made one final acceleration and gained two and a half lengths on Sunday Silence. In the end, however, Sunday Silence held on as Easy Goer just ran out of ground at the end and won by half a length.
Unbridled won the Classic in 1990 and for the fourth year in a row, the race was won by a Kentucky Derby winner. Since 1990, no Kentucky Derby winner has won the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The Derby winner is always a fan favorite, but Unbridled was not the betting favorite, possibly because he had lost in four graded stakes following his Derby win earlier that year. As a result, he went off at 6-1 odds, but he delivered and responded like a champion, taking the Classic at Belmont Park that year by a length.