Breeders’ Cup memories

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They say you always remember your first.

Your first Breeders’ Cup, that is.

What was your first?

Did you trek to California that first year, watch Chief’s Crown get things started in the Juvenile and jeer the stewards and applaud Pat Day when he got to the winner’s circle on longshot Wild Again in the Classic?

How about 1988; the first time the event made it to Kentucky, where it oh so desperately needs to be on a regular rotation? You might have gotten snow on your overcoat that year, but you were blessed with performance after performance. Gulch, Open Mind, Miesque and of course Alysheba and Personal Ensign. Oh baby, Personal Ensign. I can’t type the words without the chills.

Maybe you made it to Gulfstream, desperate to see the epic battle between Sunday Silence and Easy Goer. I watched on TV, but I remember the call, “…Sunday Silence braces for the oncoming power of Easy Goer.” We all know how it ends, and yes, we all know the score, 3-1. Game over.

My first was 1990, one that was memorable but also one we’d all like to forget.

The day got off to a rough start, Mr. Nickerson and Shaker Knit never making it back to their stalls that afternoon after tragedy in the Sprint. Tears were shed two races later in the Distaff when Go For Wand broke down in the midst of a slugfest with the great Bayakoa.

My friends and I still remember how we felt, how we asked each other, “Do you guys just want to go home?”

I’d never felt that way at the racetrack and can count the number of times since, Barbaro in 2006, George Washington in 2007 come to mind.

We stayed, watched Unbridled do what Tiznow did years later, “win it for America,” in the Classic, running down European Ibn Bay and hold off Thirty Six Red. Unbridled, Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic in the same year. No Horse of the Year though, and still no Hall of Fame.

The goal after that was to make it any and perhaps all.

I’ve come pretty close, being on hand from 1995 at Belmont and 1996 at Woodbine, missing Hollywood Park in 1997 and then not missing from 1998 at Churchill to 2011, also at Churchill.

The event being at Santa Anita in California in 2012, 2013 and 2014, and again this year, makes for a tough trip for a small publishing company but we’ve had a presence every year. Sean on hand in 2012, 2013 and 2014 and Joe this year. Plus, when it’s been to the same place six times since 2008 it can’t help but feel like they all blend together. 

Sean and I both made it to Keeneland last year, how could we miss that show and thank goodness we made the trip.

Hopefully you’ve made the journey to Arcadia and can wake up with the San Gabriel Mountains in your view, the horses look spectacular in that natural morning light and even better in the afternoon. It’ll be an unbelievable show no doubt and if it’s your first you’ll never forget it.