Breeders' Cup 40: From Accelerate to Zenyatta

Sarah Andrew

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The Breeders' Cup 40 project began as a special tribute looking back at 40 individual winners in the 40 days leading up to the 40th anniversary of racing's championship day, but it grew into more than that. Of course, it's beyond wonderful to reawaken the excitement of those championship wins and revisit these amazing horses today through brand-new photos. We thought we would simply catch up with these Breeders' Cup horses through some gorgeous images, but it really ended up as a celebration of how these living champions have impacted the lives of the people who care for them.

(To see all of the photos and stories as they appeared in the TDN, click here.)

What we have learned is that although each race each year has just one winner–except for that dead heat in the 2003 Turf–so many people go along for the ride.

It's impossible to count how many people each individual horse touches, whether it's someone like Vicky Van Camp at Darley who sneaks Midshipman apple slices or Price Bell at Mill Ridge who shared how much a winner inspired a tour guest from his childhood cancer hospital bed or Larry McGinnis at WinStar whose affection for Tiznow is palpable or Veronica Reed at Three Chimneys who so eloquently said Gun Runner “reminds us that this industry is about the horse.”

What became clear throughout this project is it's not just the public faces associated with these horses when they win the Breeders' Cup who are impacted. It's all the people ever associated with a Breeders' Cup winner, from the foaling person who helps pull them out of their dam to the exercise rider on the racetrack to the grooms and handlers and watchmen and administrative staff who care for them today and even their fans.

Breeders' Cup: Celebrating 40 Years of the Breeders' Cup from Thoroughbred Daily News on Vimeo.

Often we have fixed images in our minds of these horses during their racing days, when they're at peak fitness, in racing shape, and young and fiery. But as the years pass, the stallions fill out, the broodmares get permanent bellies, the grays become white, and quiet time on the farm often mellows even the fiercest of competitors. Knowing nothing but a lifetime of top care, these horses positively glow with good health, the assurance of having every need met, and the confidence they are champions.

What struck us as we saw each horse and spoke with their connections is the love and adoration each one has inspired. It is often said that 'a rising tide lifts all boats.' That's what these Breeders' Cup-winning horses are, an unstoppable swell that elevates everyone around them. This 40 years and 40 days of Breeders' Cup winners project may have started as a way to celebrate Breeders' Cup horses, but it's also about how the lives of all the people connected with a Breeders' Cup winner are impacted by these remarkable horses. We've seen that in the memories connections have shared with us that we've published alongside their photos and we can see that in the pride their handlers take when presenting them for photos.

We're thrilled we were able to showcase more than 40 former Breeders' Cup winners in the TDN in the 40 days leading up to this year's event. It was through the lens of photographer Sarah Andrew that we all got the privilege of seeing this tremendous collection of Breeders' Cup winners as they appear today. We hope you've enjoyed seeing them as much as we've enjoyed sharing them.

More Breeders' Cup winners will be added to racing's annals this year. In the meantime, as we appreciate these magnificent athletes, may they also remind us of the hard-working people behind them and how lucky we all are to love these horses and this sport.

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