Expanding the Purple Reign: The Breeders’ Cup 2018 Preview
Previewing one of the greatest spectacles in horse racing, the 2018 Breeders’ Cup.
Updated: Oct. 18, 2018 • 10:35 AM ET
The Breeders' Cup is one of horse racing's greatest events.
The first weekend of November is awash in a sea of purple, and hopefully, green. Unlike major sports, the horse racing season never really ends. This is particularly the case since there are always jockeys willing to wear five pairs of long johns at Aqueduct in the dead of winter, or due to trainers who arrange to fly their charges on first class (hot towels supplied) down to Gulfstream Park in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
But, if the season has an unofficial end, it has to be the Breeders’ Cup (purple has become its signature color). Before the Eclipse Awards are handed out, even horses that have run on the Derby trail must consider the first weekend in November as a part of their viable claim to history — and more importantly, the breeding shed.
Since 1984, American horse racing and imports from other countries have gathered on what has become a Friday and Saturday set of events with some of the world’s richest races. It’s a betting extravaganza; bringing wads of cash is not necessary, but it’s appreciated because the pools will be bulging.
Good prices, plus a range of options makes for fun and great ticket cashing opportunities. It’s like the All-Star games in the NBA and Major League Baseball, except for the fact that the Breeders’ Cup actually matters (and yes, that’s a direct shot at you, Rob Manfred).
This year, the weekend festivities will be held at venerable Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. Bucking the recent trend to have the races in the warmer climate of California, the Breeders’ Cup Committee has opted to bring the racing back East in the hopes of spreading the wealth.
I’m content with this plan, since Keeneland in Lexington, Ky. proved while hosting their first Breeders’ Cup in 2015 that they could put on a show, despite limited seating with its existing grandstand. It was that year that American Pharaoh capped his Triple Crown season with a win in the Classic, the capstone to the weekend and the richest race on the two-day card.
It would be nice, though, to see the Breeders’ Cup expand its venues to other tracks. This is certainly a difficult proposition, because of the climate and crowd capacity issues. Fans don’t particularly want to attend races in a snow or rain storm, or for that matter sub-zero temps; and sloppy dirt coupled with soft turf never seems to suit American runners or the betting public.
Still, the Breeders’ Cup should consider other tracks. They’ve tried Monmouth in New Jersey and Lone Star in Texas, but these were George Lazenby-type instances. Although in these instances, they weren’t major draws for fans, but they were still good for the local economies and racing in general.
Of all the tracks in the U.S., Laurel Park near Baltimore should get a shot. It’s being considered for future Preakness cards, since Pimlico has difficulty keeping the water on during the second leg of the Triple Crown. To top it all off, it has been a beautiful course near major Gotham-like metropoles with access to international airports.
Whatever the future holds for the Breeders’ Cup, the horse racing cadre can count on a weekend filled with a host of salubrious activities. This year will be the first to have a full card on Friday that will be devoted to juvenile horses (two-year olds). Dubbed the “future stars,” it’s a nice marketing move and hopefully one that will become a lovely tradition.
As for the Breeders’ Cup Committee, keep expanding your vision, folks. Let the purple reign!
Future Breeders’ Cup sites:
2019 - Santa Anita Racetrack, California
2020 - Keeneland Racecourse, Kentucky
2021 - Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, California
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