LOOKING BACK ON THE INAUGURAL BREEDERS’ CUP

As we approach the 39th running of the Breeders’ Cup, I retrieved my copy of the program from the first edition in 1984 and looked through it.  The very thin front cover of the program had the word Inaugural printed in black fifteen times from top to bottom with the only lettering being Breeders’ Cup in gold and Hollywood Park, November 10, 1984, also in gold lettering.  The outside of the back cover was a cigarette ad that said “Come to Marlboro Country” and pictured a cowboy and horse.  One of the placing judges listed in the program was Hall of Fame jockey William Hartack; he and Eddie Arcaro are tied with the most Kentucky Derby wins with five each.

Five of the seven Breeders’ Cup races had sponsors: Chrysler, DeBeers, First Jersey Securities, Michelob, and Mobil Oil.  The seven Breeders’ Cup races were all Grade I and had total purses of $10 million, as compared to the $28 million that will be paid out over 14 Breeders’ Cup races in 2022.  Both cards had a couple of additional graded stakes races.

The seven Breeders’ Cup races were:

  • BC Juvenile
  • BC Juvenile Fillies
  • BC Sprint
  • BC Mile
  • BC Distaff
  • BC Turf
  • BC Classic

The first five races had purses of $1 million each, with the BC Turf at $2 million and the BC Classic at $3 million. 

The 1985 Kentucky Derby winner Spend A Buck finished third in the BC Juvenile behind Chief’s Crown and Tank’s Prospect.  The 1982 Kentucky Derby winner Gato Del Sol was eighth in the BC Turf.  The first BC Classic was won by Wild Again and trained by Vincent Timphony.

The list of owners, trainers, and jockeys in the program included many of the truly greats of both American and European racing.  A sampling:

  • owners Leslie Combs, Robert Sangster, the Aga Khan, Frank Stronach, Starvos Niarchos, Fred Hooper, Eugene Klein, and Allen Paulson
  • trainers Robert Frankel, John Gosden, John Nerud, Jack Van Berg, Francois Boutin, Carl Natzger, Charles Whittingham, and D. Wayne Lukas
  • jockeys Pat Day, Lafit Pincay Jr., Craig Perret, William Shoemaker, Angel Cordero Jr., Eddie Maple, Chris McCarron, and Eddie Delahoussaye. 

Many of the participants in the 2022 Breeders’ Cup were yet to be born in 1984.  They are following in the shoes of racing giants. A few of those giants will be competing in Breeders’ Cup number 39 at Keeneland.

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