The Greatest Breeders' Cup Classics Ever Run
November 4th and 5th mark the running of the 2011 Breeders' Cup. Horses from every division will contest their preferred distance and surface to duke out year-end awards and prove, once and for all, who the year's champions really are. The crown jewel of these two days of racing is the Breeder's Cup Classic, a ten furlong (mile and a quarter) race where the best of the best strive for glory. Since it's inaugural race in 1984, the Classic has provided many exciting, heartbreaking, and triumphant moments for fans. The list below showcases the five best renditions of the Classic (in my own opinion, of course,) along with video of each race.
1998 - The Best Field Ever Assembled?
The 1998 running of the Breeders' Cup Classic featured a superb field. Skip Away, Silver Charm, Victory Gallop, Arch, and Touch Gold were just a few of the runners battling for supremacy. The 1997 Classic winner, Skip Away, made his move on the far turn and was soon caught in an intense stretch drive with Silver Charm, Swain, and Victory Gallop. At the very end, Awesome Again made a late run and caught the dueling horses for the win. One of the deepest races ever run, it is the perfect example of what the Breeders' Cup is meant to be- a meeting of the best of the best.
2009 - Zenyatta Becomes the First Mare to Win the Classic
In 2009, the immensely popular and undefeated mare Zenyatta prepared for an entirely new kind of race- one against males and a full furlong longer than she had ever raced before. Speculation was rampant. Zenyatta's fans cheered wildly at the opportunity to see the mare challenged, while skeptics cited her lack of prior competition and distance.
In the end, Zenyatta proved her naysayers wrong with an awe-inspiring late charge to sweep the Classic from champion Gio Ponti. She became the first mare to win the Classic, as well as the first to win two different Breeders Cup races, having dominated the Ladies' Classic in 2008. Zenyatta's popularity exploded, creating an overnight celebrity.
2010 - Blame Denies Zenyatta Perfection
In 2010, defending champion Zenyatta entered the gate for her final race, and a chance at a perfect 21-21-0-0 record. Unlike in 2009, the Classic was held on the dirt at Churchill Downs as opposed to the synthetic track at Santa Anita. Zenyatta got off to a slower start than usual, ostensibly because of the novelty of having dirt kicked in her face. She trailed the field sluggishly, looking out of contention from the first few strides. Then, she found something deeper and charged up the track in her patented style, only to fall a head short to the top male, Blame. While heartbreaking, most consider her performance on the dirt, against a solid field, to be her greatest race.
2001 - Tiznow Wins for America
The 2001 Breeders Cup was held only a few weeks after the September 11th, 2001 attacks on America. Tensions were high and US citizens found themselves feeling vulnerable like never before. In came Tiznow, the magnificent American stallion, who battled down the stretch with Arab-owned Sakhee to claim the Classic for a nation in dire need of a champion. The exhilaration of the crowd needs no description as Tiznow edges away for the triumph.
1989- Sunday Silence and Easy Goer
One of the greatest rivalries in American racing, Sunday Silence and Easy Goer continued their Triple Crown season competition into the Breeders' Cup Classic. The Preakness and Derby winner, Sunday Silence rated through the pack while Easy Goer, who denied him the Triple Crown by winning the Belmont, trailed the field by as much as ten lengths. At the top of the stretch, Sunday Silence seized the lead with Easy Goer charging him down in a dazzling burst of speed. He was just a few strides short, and Sunday Silence clung to victory by a neck in the most exciting Breeders' Cup Classic ever run.
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