With Kentucky Derby champion Authentic, standout filly Gamine, and Knicks Go all winning Breeders’ Cup races in record time – and without general public tickets available – the Breeders’ Cup World Championships managed its sixth-highest all-sources handle since 2007.
That was the year the Breeders’ Cup expanded to two days. This year’s all-sources handle checked in at $160,472,894 — an 8% dip from 2019’s record $174,000,574 at Santa Anita. At the same time, it marked a 7% increase from the 2015 Breeders’ Cup – also held at Keeneland. Saturday’s pool handle came in at $110,186,908 – a 6% drop from last year.
That, however, didn’t detract from a memorable Breeders’ Cup that offered excitement for horseplayers and racing fans alike. That excitement included Authentic’s gate-to-wire victory in the flagship $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. The 3-year-old Kentucky Derby winner won his third Grade 1 race since July in record fashion, romping the 1 ¼ miles in 1:59.19. That broke American Pharoah’s 2:00.07 time from his 2015 Breeders’ Cup victory.
Authentic’s 2 ¼-length victory over stablemate and race favorite Improbable gave Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his fourth Classic victory. It also marked the first time a single trainer fielded the Classic’s first two finishers. All of Baffert’s Classic winners have been 3-year-olds: Bayern (2014), American Pharoah, and Arrogate (2016).
‘A Great Horse’
“That Authentic is serious. He’s a great horse,” Baffert said Sunday. “What he did yesterday – that was a great field – and he just ran away from that field. Improbable is a really good horse. Turning for home, I thought that Improbable was going to kick in there and that Authentic caught another gear and he was gone.”
En route to beating an all-star field, Authentic paid $10.40, $5.40, and $4.20, boosting his career earnings north of $6.3 million. Baffert said afterward he didn’t know if Authentic would follow his stablemates Improbable and Maximum Security into retirement. Maximum Security finished fifth in his last race.
“I was proud of the way they ran,” Baffert said. “They were training well. Down deep, I knew I was going to win it with one of them. I wasn’t sure (which one). When you come in loaded like that … It would have been nice to run 1-2-3 and it would have been horrible not to win with the three. I was thinking about that all the time.”
Global Campaign finished third, beating Tacitus by two lengths. Following them in order were Maximum Security, Tiz the Law, Title Ready, By My Standards, Tom’s d’Etat, and Higher Power.
Favorites Did Fairly Well, Set Two Track Records
Going off at 4/1, Authentic wasn’t the Classic favorite, but the favorites did well at Keeneland during this Breeders’ Cup. Led by Gamine’s record-setting romp in the Filly & Mare Sprint, where she blew past pace-setting Serengeti Empress for a 6 ½-length victory, favorites won five of the 14 Breeders’ Cup races. Gamine’s seven-furlong clocking of 1:20.20 destroyed the track record of 1:21.32 set by Taris in 2014.
The other winning favorites were Golden Pal (Juvenile Turf Sprint), Aunt Pearl (Juvenile Fillies Turf), Knicks Go (Dirt Mile), and Monomoy Girl (Distaff). Knicks Go seized an early lead in the Dirt Mile and rolled to a 3 ½-length victory over Jesus’ Team. His 1:33.85 time broke Liam’s Map’s 2015 time by three-fourths of a second.
Knicks Go’s victory gave trainer Brad Cox one of his four wins. He became only the second trainer in the Breeders’ Cup’s 37-year history to train four winners in a single Breeders’ Cup. Richard Mandella at Santa Anita in 2003 was the other.
Cox won with Aunt Pearl, with Essential Quality – who upset Jackie’s Warrior in the Juvenile – and with Monomoy Girl. The latter won her second Distaff in three years, heading to retirement with 13 victories – including six Grade 1s – and more than $4.4 million in earnings. Her chief rival in the Distaff, Swiss Skydiver, stumbled coming out of the gate and finished seventh.
An ‘Also-Entered’ Becomes a 73/1 Champion
Even with favorites winning nearly 36% of the races, better than the standard 33%, there were big upsets. None bigger than Order of Australia winning the Mile at 73/1. The Irish-bred horse, who paid $148.40 on a $2 win bet, got into the field only after One Master scratched.
When Order of Australia took the lead at the sixteenth pole and turned away Circus Maximus by a neck, it gave trainer Aidan O’Brien his 13th Breeders’ Cup victory and first since 2017. O’Brien trained not only Order of Australia and Circus Maximus, but third-place finisher Lope Y Fernandez, making it an all-Irish 1-2-3 finish.
The other tote board detonation came from one of the feel-good stories of this Breeders’ Cup. That was 7-year-old Whitmore’s 3 ¼-length victory in the Sprint. The 18/1 shot paid $38.80, $13.80, and $7.60 finally winning the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in his fourth try. Whitmore finished third at Santa Anita last year, second at Churchill Downs in 2018, and eighth at Del Mar in 2017.
Irad Ortiz Jr. rode Whitmore to that victory, one of his two to go with a second and a third. That earned the jockey the Bill Shoemaker Award as the most outstanding jockey in the Breeders’ Cup. He piloted Golden Pal to victory in the Juvenile Turf Sprint, along with Improbable to second in the Classic and Sharp Samurai to third in the Dirt Mile.