40 Years 40 Winners

Breeders' Cup 40: From Accelerate to Zenyatta

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...

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Catching Up with Breeders' Cup's 2008 Ladies' Classic and 2009 Classic Winner Zenyatta

Thousands upon thousands--likely hundreds of thousands--of words have been written about the legendary Zenyatta, who captured the heart and soul of racing during her time on the racetrack and remains just as beloved today, 13 years after her retirement. Winter Quarter Farm's Don Robinson, who foaled her, was kind enough to share his memories of her formative years with TDN. "Zenyatta was the ultimate," said Robinson. "I can't say enough superlatives about her. I could speak endlessly about her. "The real satisfaction is I delivered her mother, too. I had...

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Catching Up with 2015 Breeders' Cup Classic Winner American Pharoah

The sport's first Triple Crown winner since 1978, American Pharoah famously went through Fasig-Tipton's Select Saratoga Yearling Sale in 2013 only to be bought back by his breeder to race as a homebred. He spent eight months at Taylor Made Farm before the sale; Mark Taylor, who has had his hands on a lot of nice horses, distinctly remembers him. "It's kind of a microcosm of this industry: when you think you have it figured out, you don't have it figured out. He was born at Vinery, then went to...

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Catching Up with 2010 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic Winner Unrivaled Belle

A homebred for Gary Seidler and Peter Vegso, Unrivaled Belle's Breeders' Cup win came at the expense of the following year's Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, who finished third. The two mares would eventually share common ownership, both being purchased by Mandy Pope's Whisper Hill Farm, and live together at Timber Town before Havre de Grace's passing earlier this year. The crown jewel among Unrivaled Belle's foals to date is two-time champion Unique Bella. Unrivaled Belle has a 2-year-old full-sister to Unique Bella named Tap My Belle, as...

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From Lahudood to Malathaat, Shadwell Blends the Old with the New

Celebrating 40 Years of the Breeders' Cup When Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum passed away early in 2021 after decades of prominence in Thoroughbred racing and breeding, it was unclear in the sport what would happen to his vast bloodstock and farm holdings. Racing needn't have worried. His daughter, Sheikha Hissa, catapulted into the public eye as the head of Shadwell right at the same time the racing stable was seeing a resurgence. The bedrock laid over decades of success by Sheikh Hamdan was the perfect foundation for stunning...

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Wise Dan and Main Sequence, Two Glorious Geldings and the Breeders' Cup

Celebrating 40 Years of the Breeders' Cup John Henry famously didn't make it to the Breeders' Cup. Da Hoss famously did, after a two-year layoff with a mere allowance prep. In this industry, where geldings at the elite levels are the exception and not the norm, those geldings tend to become beloved fan favorites. Perhaps it's because they often have longer race careers than their compatriots whose breeding careers must be considered. Right up there in the lexicon of the special 31 geldings to have won a Breeders' Cup are...

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Catching Up with 2007-08 Breeders' Cup Sprint Winner Midnight Lute

Midnight Lute gave a masterclass in devastating closing speed in his back-to-back Breeders' Cup Sprint wins, with his 4 3/4-length score in 2007 an eye-popping performance visually and his 1:07.08 time in 2008 still holding the Sprint record. Veteran yearling-to-juvenile reseller Eddie Woods broke the champion, who was a $290,000 RNA at OBS March in 2005 as a 2-year-old. "He was a wonderfully big, good-looking black horse," said Woods. "Tom McGreevy bought him to pinhook him to OBS. It's shameful to say for a champion sprinter, but he didn't work...

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Catching Up with 2020 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Winner Essential Quality

As the wide-reaching Godolphin operation has used the names of different arms throughout the years--for example, 2001 Juvenile Fillies winner Tempera (A.P. Indy) was bred by Darley Stud Management, LLC but raced for Godolphin, LLC--it may be a surprise to learn Essential Quality was the first official Godolphin homebred to win the Breeders' Cup. Remarkably, in the two renewals since his win, another seven Godolphin homebreds have added to that number. Undefeated at two, Essential Quality was a Belmont and Travers winner at three. His first foals were born this...

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Catching Up with 2016 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Winner Classic Empire

Dual Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse was coming off his first two Breeders' Cup wins just the year before when he entered Classic Empire in the Juvenile. Second choice on the board, Classic Empire made back-to-back Grade Is look easy following a powerful victory in the GI Claiborne Breeders' Futurity. Casse indicated looks can be deceiving. "Any hair I had left, he made sure it was gone," said Casse recently with a laugh. "He was a pistol. A lot of people didn't know this, but six days before the...

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Catching Up with 2006 Breeders' Cup Distaff Winner Round Pond

John Ferguson acquired Round Pond on behalf of Darley for $5.75 million at Fasig-Tipton's fall sale in 2007. The elegant bay produced two stakes winners for the Darley/Godolphin banner--MSW & GISP Long River (A.P. Indy) and SW & GSP Lake Lucerne (Dubawi {Ire})--while an unraced daughter produced 2022 GI Carter H. winner Speaker's Corner. The latter, a Godolphin homebred by home stallion Street Sense, stood his first season in the Darley stud barn alongside his sire this year. "Round Pond is a sweet girl," said Darley's Gainsborough division farm manager...

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Catching Up with 2004 Breeders' Cup Distaff Winner Ashado

Ashado's Breeders' Cup win in 2004 was sandwiched by placings both the year prior and the year after. The grand mare's 11 black-type wins included seven Grade Is, ranging from the Spinaway at two to the Kentucky Oaks at three and the Ogden Phipps at four. No wonder John Ferguson went to $9 million--then a world record--for her at the 2005 Keeneland November sale on behalf of Darley. Her final foal, a Bernardini yearling, is a full-brother to her stakes winner Westwood. "She is the dominant mare in her retired...

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Catching Up with 2017 Breeders' Cup Classic Winner Gun Runner

Surely there's not much that hasn't been said about the inimitable Gun Runner. A top 3-year-old--Grade I winner who placed in the Kentucky Derby, Travers, and Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile--he was nearly perfect at four. After a runner-up finish behind Arrogate halfway across the world in the Dubai World Cup, he never lost again, reeling off a string of Grade I scores which included the Breeders' Cup Classic. He hasn't broken stride at stud either, currently and remarkably ranked second on the U.S. general sires list with only his third...

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