Top 5 Breeders’ Cup® Wins of All-Time

By Darragh Farrelly

July 13, 2016

The Breeders’ Cup World Championships’ showcase the highest level of international thoroughbred racing the world over. Since its inception in 1982, we have witnessed some truly spectacular racing to heart-wrenching near misses. Here, we examine the five greatest victories in Breeders’ Cup® history. 

  1. Royal Academy, 1990 Breeders’ Cup Mile. This was not a victory that will be remembered for the fashion in which it was won, Royal Academy beat Itsallgreektome by a short head. Instead, this was a story where wild dreams came to fruition. Lester Piggott, a British sporting icon is and will be locked away in the history books forever more. Having ridden his first winner as a cherubic 12-year-old in 1948, the 11-time champion jockey returned to the saddle after a five-year hiatus. Fresh out of prison after tax evasion charges, Piggott teamed up with Vincent O’Brien, the wily Irish trainer, who himself was seeking his first ever Breeders’ Cup victory. The veteran pilot, now 54, steered Royal Academy to a sweeping run on the outside in one of the most exquisite rides of his storied career to win by a neck.


  1. Personal Ensign, 1988 Breeders’ Cup Distaff. In what many regard as one of the greatest Breeders’ Cup races of all-time, Personal Ensign capped off a quite remarkable career by defeating that year’s Kentucky Derby® winner Winning Colors to finish of her life as a racehorse undefeated. Running on a muddy track, the Derby winner entered the home stretch with what appeared to be an insurmountable lead. However, entering the quite literal last furlong of her racing career, the Claude McGaughey-trained mare dug deep, and in one last burst caught Winning Colors to win by a nose. With the victory, she joined an elite list by finishing her career undefeated, an impressive 13-0.


  1. Goldikova, 2010 Breeders’ Cup Mile. Simply put, the Queen of the Breeders’ Cup, and in mine and many other people’s eyes, the greatest Breeders’ Cup horse of all-time. On November 7 2010, the French mare created history by becoming the first horse to win three Breeders’ Cup races. Following on from her victories in 2008 and 2009, Goldikova had to contend with a bad draw from the outside to start the race. Switched by jockey Olivier Peslier to the middle, she travelled beautifully throughout, and stalked her rivals as they headed for the home straight. Oozing class, her turn of foot proved too hot to handle for her closest suitors as she hit the front a furlong out, sprinting home to a rapturous crowd by a length and a half. Goldikova would return a year later for one more bite at the cherry. Sadly, it was a bridge too far as she was beaten into third in the same race and was retired soon after.



  1. Arazi, 1991 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Disbelief. You literally had to see this to believe it. Entering the race on the back of six consecutive wins, the Churchill Downs® crowd was expectant. Facing the best two-year olds in the world, Arzai attempted to become the first European ever to win a BC race on dirt. His task was not helped by being drawn in the last post position. Having reached the back straight a solid dozen lengths behind the leaders, Azari put the after burners on and shocked the world. Taking off like a jet, jockey Pat Valenzuela breezed past the field at an electrifying pace. NBC Sports commentator famously proclaimed to the world, “here indeed is a superstar!” In the end, Azari cantered over the line to claim victory by a truly astounding 10-lenghts, the biggest winning margin in the history of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. In a special series commissioned by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association in 2006 titled Spiraling To The Breeders’ Cup, it quotes, "Arazi turned in what many still consider to be the single-most spectacular performance in Breeders' Cup history."


  1. American Pharoah, Breeders’ Cup Classic, 2015. The horse of a lifetime, perfection in equine form. The list of superlatives to describe this horse could continue on for quite some time. American Pharoah entered the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic with the weight of a nation on his broad shoulders. Coming off the back of a Triple Crown™ win following victories in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, becoming racing’s 12th Triple Crown™ winner, Bob Baffert’s horse aimed to become the first Grand Slam champion in racing history. America waited and expecte. He duly delivered. Producing a performance for the ages, he broke early and the race was over before it really began. Continued widening of his leading margin as the race progressed, American Pharoah prevailed by 6 ½ lengths to bring the house down, breaking the track record and claiming the first Grand Slam victory in horse racing history. Truly remarkable.



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