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Photo from Keeneland.com

Each year the best thoroughbred horses from all over the world compete in the Breeders’ Cup, a multimillion-dollar event that takes place over two days offering spectators opportunities to watch a lot of horses they may not see often compete together in a thrilling display of speed, power, and beauty. This year’s race, unlike the three triple crown races, actually took place at its usual time of year, November. The 2020 venue was the famous Kentucky track at Keeneland, home to fall and spring meets and the famous Keeneland sales, where breeders, trainers, owners, and dreamers look for future prospects of glory. 

There are six major races with huge purses that invite the top horses of the year to come to race. A few highlights will give an idea of what an exciting day of racing Breeders’ Cup presents. 

The first big race was the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, a short race for speed horses. All thoroughbreds are fast, but the sprinters are the horses who like a short, fast race. They had a great day as the track favored speed that day. Whitmore, a 7-year-old known for his speed, won by five lengths in Uan exciting display of athleticism. The horses, lean and powerful, seemed to fly like Pegasus, making them seem larger than life, almost magical. 

The second big race, the Breeders’ Cup mile was perhaps the most dramatic for a few reasons. Uni, defending champion and a mare (my readers know that I love to see a mare defeat the boys in a competitive race), went off as the favorite. Ivar, another strong contender, wanted to be the first Brazilian bred horse to win the race. But, there was a huge upset! Order of Australia who went off at 73-1 odds won the race with a replacement jockey as his usual one has Covid-19. That horse had been on a waiting list to get into the race and had the lowest winnings by far of any of his competitors, but beloved trainer, Aidan O’Brian, got him ready and was able to get on the racing card at the last minute. That’s horse racing! Anything can happen. 

The Breeder’s Cup Classic, a 6 million dollar race, is always the final race of the day as it is the most competitive. It was quite spectacular to watch the horses run against a setting sun that provided a background of oranges and yellows that made the equine stars shine even more. Many outstanding horses participated including the favorite Tiz the Law who won the Belmont Stakes and ran the race of a lifetime at Saratoga in the Travers. Tom’s d’Etat, another favorite, ran his last race as a 7-year-old with plans to go to Winstar farm to stand stud. What a great way to end a career! Authentic, winner of the Kentucky Derby and trained by celebrity trainer Bob

Baffert made the race competitive and closely matched. In the end, Authentic got the race he liked with an early lead that he maintained throughout the race to thrill us all with a spectacular finish. He will be the horse of the year! 

On a big racing day like the Breeders’ Cup, I always feel inspired by the horses, their speed, agility, and fortune to avoid injury and make it so far. The people of the racing world with the lilt of an Irish brogue, the elegance of a French accent, or the musicality of a Spanish one all share the common language of horses, their experiences with them from breeding to racing, awe of the extraordinary equine stars that grace their stables. Keeneland is my favorite track for it’s Lexington, Kentucky location where foals are born and young horses trained, older ones bred, where farms seem to go on forever like nowhere else in this world. It seems a place of great beauty, hope, hard work, and love where anything seems possible and where people an international crown convenes for one reason: horses. The season has ended, but the horses will be back for another year of thrilling races.

Katharine MacCornack
Published on 2020-11-16