Breeders’ Cup Belie: World Championships Without the World?

While the Breeders’ Cup is a magical annual event, the World Championships don’t always host the best talent from around the globe.

Updated: Oct. 23, 2018 • 2:00 PM ET

The Breeders' Cup is one of horse racing's greatest events.

It would seem entirely logical to the casual horse racing fan that if you have a two-day meet called the Breeders’ Cup World Championships (November 2 and 3), it must bring all the best horses on the planet to race against one another.

Theoretically, Japanese-bred horses would meet American-based foals, while Irish stables would battle French ones, and so on and so forth. This would create a veritable World Cup/Olympics-style event that you wouldn’t have to wait years for. And, on top that, a ton of cash would be at stake up front; no hiding that under the table, because everyone knows that amateurs are just that. But, just like a horse race, it never turns out as it should seem.

Since the mid-1980s the dream of the Breeders’ Cup has been to host a yearly card of races that attract the best of the best, a worthy goal to be sure. To their credit, the organizational structure has done everything humanly possibly to accomplish this mission.

They’ve chucked purse-money out there, developed a rating structure, parlayed with different international organizations to foster interest, labored over which American venues can serve as hosts and even put up the entry fees and plane tickets for the would-be entrants — no coach fares here folks — we’re talking all first class.

This isn’t an argument that the Breeders’ Cup has been disappointing or even remotely a failure in this regard. Yet, the Breeders’ Cup Committee still needs to do more to entice, cajole and dare we say press to attract the very best in the world. Otherwise, drop this charade that the two-day event in early November can be considered a “World Championship.”

This past week, the horse racing world received some great news when it was confirmed that Enable, the John Gosden-trained winner of the recent Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in Paris, is coming to Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. to compete in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. This particular race has been traditionally dominated by Euro invaders since it is contested on the surface, which at distance favors their style of racing.

I was over the moon. Enable at Churchill? The Queen might as well be coming! Hot browns and bourbon for all!

But, before we roll out the red carpet and get Alfred to polish the Rolls, let’s consider this difficult question: who is not coming? For starters, different countries race on tracks that are fundamentally different than American ones.

For the most part in Britain, they run clockwise around a track, and there’s more of an emphasis on turf than dirt. In Japan, tracks that have dirt are dusty, and the field sizes are massive. In the Middle East, the climate can be incredibly hot, which can affect runners that aren’t accustomed to it. Point being, some trainers and owners might be hesitant to “ship” their charges to the New World.

A case in point is the Australian Champion sprinter Winx. She has become the gold standard for horses around the globe, winning 24 straight races to become a legend. I sort of think of Winx like I would about Bruce Lee; everyone dreams of taking a crack at trying to land a punch.

As of yet, Winx’s trainer, Chris Waller, has been adamant concerning his prize speedster traveling overseas; not going to happen. If global sprinters want Winx, they’ll have to head to Australia.

And, maybe that’s the way it goes for a global sport like horse racing. If the best we can do is have events like the Breeders’ Cup or the United Arab Emirates-based Dubai World Cup at Meydan, then we should relish it.

If Winx will not travel, so be it. But as fans of the sport, we want the match race; we covet the toe-to-toe challenge and anytime we can have some Seabiscuit-esque drama. And, away we go!

I’d temper some of these points though. After all, let’s not call something a world championship, while the best horses are still in their stalls back home.

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