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Partner Breeders' Cup Memories

October 31, 2011 · By Erin Birkenhauer · Share

Many thanks to Partners who submitted "Breeders' Cup Memories" to us. The world championship weekend is only a few days away and the excitement is building. Let's take a trip down memory lane:


A chance encounter several months ago caused me to think about the greatness of horse racing. In this day of multi-million dollar athletes and police blotter like articles in the sports sections (online and in the paper!) the athletes and their human handlers remain commonly accessible.  My chance encounter was with John Sheriffs in the CHRB shed at Hollywood Park, a weathered tin trailer on a deserted back stretch. It was just before noon on a sunny  California weekday. Me, him, and the clerk, we nodded and went about our business. I wouldn't have been able to stand that close to Albert Pujols or Tom Brady. But here I was saying good morning to the trainer of one of the greatest athletes I have ever seen.

Horses by their very nature are unusual, they can see behind them, the are fragile and they are tough, they trick you and then they try their hardest. Their caretakers, entrusted with millions of dollars worth of purpose bred animals, often can be seen hitching up their jeans and knocking dirt clods off their shoes. We, as participants and fans can watch their charges pour into the home stretch, and if we are lucky enough to be part of the team, start carrying on as if this is the greatest thing that ever happened in the whole history of mankind.  

But once in a while, an individual disrupts the normal flow of heart break and exuberance that encapsulates horse racing.

The mighty Zenyatta is such an individual and I got to see two of her best, the Breeders Cup Races she won at Santa Anita in 2008 and 2009. In both she swept up on the outside, launching like a rocket past the grandstand, the pink and teal Moss silks of Mike Smith flashing past, as a crescendo rose, leaving goose bumps all over my arms. The first year it was stirring, the next year, with one of my horses, Awesome Gem running, it was devastatingly spectacular. After, my disappointment over Gems losing began to lose it's sharp pain, the realization that I had really really seen greatness became overwhelming. The outpouring of adulation for this superb athlete was awe inspiring. Her long pawing dance from the paddock to our hearts will always be my greatest Breeders Cup memory. And tomorrow morning I might bump into John Sheriffs again.

-Bill C.

My father has been going to the track since he was a child growing up with his dad.  I took him out to Santa Anita in 2009 for our first cup.  On fillies day, it seemed every race five horses were neck and neck to the wire.  That night in the hotel he said “that was the greatest day of racing I have ever seen”. Well that was just the warm up for the next day as Goldikova and Zenyatta beat the boys, both with amazing stretch runs!!!  

At that point I decided as long as he could physically do it, we would go to every Breeder’s cup thereafter. 2010 was another two days of great racing, including a little win bet yours truly made on Dakota Phone in the dirt mile that paid for our weekend. We got to see two amazing two-year-olds in Uncle Mo and Awesome Feather live up to expectations.  Goldikova battle Gio Ponti to win again. Two jockeys start a boxing match after the Marathon. Blind Luck and Havre de Grace go head to head in the Ladies Classic.

We saw the greatest event in the history of live racing as a loaded Classic field took to the track under the lights at Churchill Downs. Zenyatta came out to the paddock with her usual dance for the crowd.  There was more excitement in the air than I have ever felt at a sporting event. I can still see the race in my head as the frontrunner's ran themselves out and Lookin at Lucky and Blame took the lead through the stretch.  As they passed me I saw Zenyatta flying by and thought for sure she would be able to catch Blame.  Blame held on like a true champion and while most of the crowd was sad, my whole group went and cashed our winning tickets!!  Nothing against the great lady of racing!!!  My dad is old and doesn’t get around like he used to, but the Breeders Cup is special to him and puts a true bounce in his step. We count the days every year to our next adventure to see the best horses in the world on the first weekend in November! It has brought us closer and given us so many special memories of his later years.

-Kevin M.

When Breeders Cup approaches each year it stirs memories of how much enjoyment it has brought to my family.

My parents were more than casual fans of horse racing,they were students of the game and the fall championships was their final exam. From the first Breeders Cup at Hollywood Park until my mother's death in 2006. I am almost certain that she and my father participated in watching and wagering on "The Cup" every year. Be it traveling to a nearby track, venturing to Las Vegas for BC weekend, or attending the races live all of these trips yielded tons of memories.

There is no doubt that my love of horse racing is largely due to my parent's enthusiasm for Breeders Cup. I fondly remember many stellar performances by great equine athletes and a few memorable wagers.

I grin from ear to ear thinking about the time I saw my Mother go completely insane cheering home Arcangues in the 1993 Classic. One of her favorite betting angles was to bet any horse ridden by Jerry Bailey.  She was undeterred by the 99-1 odds posted on the tote board as she placed her $2 win wager. Her faith in Jerry would soon be rewarded with a $269.20 mutual for the $2 win wager. I can recall my mother re-telling that story countless times much to the chagrin of my father who had a more sizable wager  on the second place horse Bertrando.

My dad got his time to shine nine years later when he was treated to a pari-mutual windfall thanks to Volponi's shocking upset in the 2002 Classic. Volponi winning at odds of 44-1 made the superfecta ticket my dad was holding worth close to $30000.  That put some pep in our step and made for a lasting memory.

Perhaps the most memorable BC adventure was in 2009.  I asked my dad to travel with me to Santa Anita to watch the two day event live. Although his health was failing my dad agreed to make the trip. We were treated to two days of fabulous racing.  We will never forget the roar of the standing room only crowd cheering for Zenyatta as she began to mow  'em down in the stretch.  Trevor Denham summarized it best "this is unbelievable !  "

I am so glad we made that trip because that was the last time my dad was healthy enough to travel. We have many wonderful memories of time shared together, as a family, enjoying the Breeders Cup.

-Eric C.